Monday, January 30, 2012

To Friend...Or To Unfriend? That Is the Question!

With great social networking freedom comes great responsibility...right?
Maybe not so much. :-)

A thought on social networking today, who's a friend...and who gets to stay one.

We're all told we need to Be In As Many Places As Possible nowadays. Only problem is, it doesn't really work that way. In truth, we can all only devote so many hours in a day to "networking" of various kinds. (Unless we are vampires and never sleep, in which case we already have our own glittery network, I'm thinkin'.) Anyhow, I'm already active on Facebook, this blog has been going for years, and for business purposes, I've kept an oar in LinkedIn as well. Long ago, however, I trashed my Twitter account, as well as cleaning out a whole raft of Facebook "friends."

Some people would say that by doing that, I'm being a fool. I think not.
But how do you decide if you might need to pull the plug? Who gets to stay...and who has to go?

Well, first things first. If someone's comments or general posts are making you nervous in any way, unfriend 'em. Doesn't matter if you've known them for 40 years; people can change. Mental states can alter. Emotional stuff can make people do weird things. You may have known this person years ago in grade school, but in grade school he or she may not have discovered alcohol yet. :-) If this person is receptive to a private message discussing this problem, and if you can bring the subject up without feeling threatened, by all means do it...but overall, it's probably best to drop them quietly, without fanfare, and don't look back.

Same thing goes for people who irritate you. Again, sometimes these are long-time or old-time friends who've just happened to change in ways that don't jive with you anymore.  Or they're people with whom you've got a couple of things in common, but overall--meh. You're on opposite ends of the political spectrum and they insist on posting stuff that makes your blood boil. Or you're diametrically opposed in your religious views, and they can't resist poking holes in things you hold sacred. If that happens, in reality, you're not "friends" anyway; you haven't got enough in common to enjoy each other's company without hitting upon some topic that gets one of you either defensive or disgusted. Let 'em go.

Yes, I know some people LIKE to have "different" types of friends on their rosters. They claim to like having people with whom they can vigorously, and sometimes acrimoniously, debate things, with the understanding that their friendship is still intact. Or at least they SAY it is. I personally have my doubts, however, as to whether you can continually clash with someone on basic, gut-wrenching issues and yet still consider yourselves "friends." Seems to me that beyond a certain point there become too many disagreements and/or someone gets hurt...which means the friendship doesn't survive anyway.  To me, it's better to step away from the "friendship" that's more a debating society before a painful break makes it unavoidable.

Besides, call me provincial or narrow...but I find there are already tons and tons of STRANGERS willing to attack you for any stand you take on line anyway. Why you want to court this from so-called "friends" in addition to the constant potential for ambush from people you don't even know...frankly, is beyond me. Give me people with whom I share more than a surface couple of commonalities and/or an occupation. Give me people with whom I share at least part of the heart, and to me, that's a much more fitting example of a "friend" I want to keep around.

Sometimes--way more often, I suspect--the people with whom you have this kind of push-pull going are relatives, and you may feel you have no "right" to unfriend a relative. Nonsense. Of course you have the "right" to unfriend them, if they're basically doing little for you but making you want to talk to your silent computer screen and/or gnash your teeth. Dental bills are expensive, and mental health care even more so. Cut 'em loose.

If they get mad? If your action causes some kind of Major Family Explosion? Chances are it'll be a lot of storm and fury, and then it'll blow over and they'll move on to other stuff. If not, and they declare you persona non grata...well, that's not all bad. Think of all the duty visits you won't have to make anymore!

Finally, there's that wonderful (and large) category--people you don't really know, but who know people YOU know and therefore get "suggested" to you as friends. Therein lies a lot--a LOT--of waste of time and space. Not to mention infinite potential for linking up with people who become one of the previously mentioned trouble spots. Even if they're perfectly sweet folks, if you live in two different worlds that never touch...if they're constantly making inside jokes with their real friends that you neither get nor appreciate...what are they doing in your social network? They don't know who you are; you don't really know who they are...and you're not likely to meet in this lifetime and find any of that out. So do they even really belong in your virtual address book?

I'd say no. Not until or unless they come upon you and get interested in you THEMSELVES, through some other legitimate means upon which you can build some common ground. But merely both knowing a third party doesn't constitute that common ground, and in the meantime, these people you neither know nor care about can easily become folks who a) irritate you, b) post stuff that drives you nuts, or even c) start to sound threatening and/or "crazy" in ways you don't want to mess with.  In this case, as Uncle Bobby used to say, "It's better to stay out than try to get out." If you've friended too many people whose real selves you have no clue about...start culling. They won't miss you. You won't miss them. And you really won't miss the clutter and/or guilt about "maybe I should reach out to these people and find out if we actually have anything in common..."

No, you shouldn't. Let 'em go. If an eventual connection is going to happen, it'll happen whether they're already on your "friend" list or not. And when it does happen, it'll be all the sweeter for them not having cluttered your life or said something you wanted to clobber them for earlier. :-)

Sounds harsh? Sounds too narrow? Too restrictive? 
It's not. It's self-care. It's mental health care. And it's choosing not to waste time at the computer arguing with people, trying to show them the error of their ways, or having them blast you for what they perceive as the errors of YOURS. I don't know about you, but the world jangles me enough already; I don't need to solicit more of it. 

Bottom line, I say this as one who's slammed with more than enough to keep her busy: Life's too short to waste a moment of it on third-party conversations that mean nothing, endless YouTube forwards from people who clearly need a life, or folks who consistently show themselves to be schmucks (or who think YOU are one!). I don't need to spend my time on schmucks, and neither do you. Don't let anyone guilt or fear or intimidate you into keeping them around "just in case."

"Just in case" is never gonna come with some of these people, and the kindest thing you can do--both for yourself AND for them--is to click that lovely little "unfriend" button.

You'll be the lighter, and the happier, for it.



Janka H. said...

glad to be IN :)

Donna Alice said...

Thank you. I am glad to know I'm not the only person in the galaxy to think that Twitter is a complete waste of time, energy and committment. Who has time to TWEET about anything just to promote oneself or one's book? And who has time to read TWEETS about the weather or a recipe or some joke just to make a 'friend' to make a possible sale? I'm proud not to be on Twitter and never to send a tweet in my life.

Janny said...

I did have a Twitter account for awhile, and every once in awhile I think that it might be nice to have one; then I go onto Twitter and read some of the useless stuff people put up, most of it either obscenity or profanity-laced, a lot of it suggestive and/or irreverent, and I think... "Nah. Right the first time."