by Brett Harrison
Warning: The following piece requires the reader to have a working knowledge of Facebook and an understanding of the term “Unfriending.”
The following story is true. Just the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Mainly me.
Several years ago I joined Facebook on the advice of an old school chum. It wasn’t really advice. It was more like, “If you don’t join Facebook, you’re an idiot.” OK, he didn’t really say that either, but he was quite persuasive.
I would have contacted this old friend, who also became a Facebook Friend, to mention I was going to do this piece. But, you see, there is a small problem. He is no longer my friend.
I don’t mean that in a real sense. We were friends briefly in high school, and I lost touch with him years ago. But after he recommended that I join Facebook, he became my very first Facebook Friend. Then, I unfriended him.
I mentioned several paragraphs ago that this article requires prior knowledge of Facebook, but I will fill in you novices (in other words, old folks) a little bit:
Facebook is a social media site that allows people to keep in touch with people of many different backgrounds. When you first join, it gives you an option of contacting people in hopes of becoming their Facebook Friend. You can contact family members, current friends, old friends, old schoolmates, people you have something in common with or just people you want something from for career purposes.
Once you “Friend” someone, you show up on their Friends’ list, and they show up on yours. Unless you go into your “preferences” and make the list private, anybody can see who your friends are.
People use Facebook for networking, hooking up, posting their political opinions, posting pictures of their pets, or just sharing what went on during their day. The possibilities are limitless.
Facebook also provides another option, one used often by Facebook members: You get to unfriend people.
Without getting too technical, when someone posts something that offends you or just doesn’t return a personal message in a timely manner or at all, you can click the Friends’ button on their page, scroll down to “Unfriend,” click that, and voila, it’s as if they never existed.
I am the Michael Jordan of Unfrienders.
When I first joined Facebook, I enjoyed the novelty. I set about searching for old classmates, family members, old friends and even people I met when I did standup comedy years ago.
For the first year it was a lot of fun. I felt like I was a kid again, hanging out with all my old friends. It was like going to a high school reunion and reconnecting with your old clique. But after the novelty wore off, I remembered why I’ve lost touch with these people. I don’t like many of them.
For example, I would go out of my way to post a funny remark, and the same schmucks who gave me a hard time when I was doing comedy started posting snarky comments to my posts. And they weren’t even funny. They were basically saying, “I’m popular, and you’re not.”
The first unfriending is the hardest. We all want to be liked, so I didn’t unfriend anybody for a long time because I was afraid it was taboo and would brand me as “difficult.” Then someone posted something really offensive, and I tried to engage that individual, but he/she was snotty and arrogant.
Click. Done. Since then it has become remarkably easy. In the last two years I have unfriended two siblings, several cousins, many old friends and schoolmates and many more people I’ve never met in person.
I even unfriended an attorney who was there for me during a difficult time in my life. Nice guy, but I didn’t care for his views on Israel. Oddly, he’s flying through Philly in a couple of weeks and has offered to buy me a corned beef sandwich. I wonder if he even knows I unfriended him.
Some people have offended me with their postings; others have made snide comments directed towards me, and still others didn’t respond to my messages in a timely matter or at all. One person who writes about the craft of writing called President Obama a word that one would expect from a 9-year-old child.
If it sounds like I have an itchy trigger finger, so be it. I find unfriending empowering and akin to ending friendships with toxic people, something else I have gotten pretty darn good at.
But I have been mellowing. Recently I was going to unfriend a woman I knew from my comedy days, but then I realized she had actually made some very helpful suggestions when I asked her for advice. So I let it go.
You see my name on my byline. You’re welcome to send me a friend request with a note that you have read my article. I will accept it. Just don’t piss me off. You never know when I’ll press the unfriend button.