Pretty much everyone is on Facebook now, and as the social networking service has leaked into other aspects of real life, so too have little etiquette conundrums that didn’t exist before Facebook was everywhere, all the time.
If you’ve been using it regularly for over a year, you’ve probably experienced some kind of friend-list bloat. It’s difficult to see who would be advantageous or interesting to add when you’re a new user of the service, and it takes a while to get used to sorting the interesting stuff on Facebook from the feed-clogging apps and games that turn many Facebook newbies off at the start. Facebook friends list purges are pretty common, and you’ve probably seen a few updates like “if you’ve seen this, you made the cut!” (And sometimes, even worse, “deleting another round tomorrow!”) It’s interesting to see how Facebook exposes internet-related etiquette tone-deafness, but I think “unfriending” is a step that might emerge as a a general social no-no in the near future.
Late night chat show host Jimmy Kimmel has called for a national day of unfriending on November 17th, but I think it’s a bad (and unnecessary and somewhat cruel) idea. (Clip below of Kimmel’s Facebook rant.) Like it or not, we’re stuck with this particular way of relating to people we know both online and off. And here’s the thing- if you delete me on Facebook, I will probably hate you forever. I can’t see wanting to make a meaningful connection with someone later in life be it work related, romantically, or generally in a social setting after they’ve essentially publicly ostracized me. It’s kind of rude, and definitely unnecessary given the way Facebook operates.
You may still need to have the odd Facebook 86ing from time to time, but you can take a few preventative steps to avoid burning internet bridges:
- Be selective: Don’t send friend requests indiscriminately, and try to verify people before you add them. It could just be a random internet contact- or a random person- but it could also be a future business associate you don’t want to rub the wrong way.
- Use the hide function liberally: As I recently compared browsing habits with my gentleman friend, he mentioned that people who chronically update about their kids, pets or chronic ailments were immediately quarantined to the “naughty step.” If you have real life friends or relatives who won’t shut the hell up about their boring, day to day problems, simply hiding their updates is far less awkward than being seated next to someone at Thanksgiving dinner after you’ve deleted them from your Facebook life.
- This goes for apps, too: You know you can hide the apps themselves, right?
- Privacy settings mean never having to say “I blocked you.” Lots of folks I know use the multiple friends’ lists setting so they can have their Uncle Huey and their swingers’ club contacts in segregated Facebook loops. I figure considering the number of Inquisitr posts that come up on a Google search using my name and any number of questionable topics I’ve posted about here, it’s kind of like closing the door after the horse has bolted. Bolted, loudly whinnying the word “penis.” But it might come in handy for you.
- Don’t unfriend in haste: My best friend and I recently had a minor political disagreement and I was shocked to realize he’d immediately unfriended me. He re-friended me less than 24 hours later, but even at my real grown-up age, it stung a lot.
- Don’t be a pain in the ass: To avoid potentially embarrassing Facebook related social traps, consider what you’re posting to Facebook, too. You can’t avoid every unfriending- some are arbitrary and not related to your content- but posting daily that you have a headache, you want, need or have coffee or continually sharing a random song lyric to a track that’s overplayed as it is (example: “…do you remember when we used to sing shala-la-la…”) is likely to get you hidden or blocked. (I was once deleted for professing my love for milkshakes.) Attention is the new currency, and you should think about how you’re spending it. Also, if you wouldn’t want to read it, don’t share it.
If you’re curious about unexplained friend count fluctuations, you can use an app like “Defriended” to see who gives you the axe and when. (Available in the iTunes App Store for $0.99.) Have you defriended, unfriended or been Facebook-ditched? Has this behavior come back to bite you in the ass? Would you hire, date or hang out with someone after they’ve given you the online heave-ho?