Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard someone say, “They unfriended me (you).” Even if you don’t have Facebook, the origin of the phrase, you’ve probably still heard it. Even as I typed the word “unfriend” spell check tells me it’s not a word. Others say it is.
Have you unfriended anyone? Have you been unfriended? I answer “Yes” and “Yes.” I’m not writing to debate should you or shouldn’t you. I’m wondering how we got to the point that unfriending someone on a social site is anywhere indicative that an end has come to our real, life friendships. Admittedly, I’ve unfriended others for reasons of either safety or just stagnant accounts (no activity), but to live in a world where “I unfriend you on Facebook” is easier than going to tell someone that you have a problem with them…not an option. In fact, I would call it a cop out. Even functioning within the social website itself has become evidence that we, as grown adults, do not know how to communicate. We take a great tool for keeping in touch and turn it into a place to vent (haven’t we all done that?), a place to write who we are associated with (“I just had a great dinner with ______”), or give an inaccurate picture of our real life (how many times do we post only the good parts of our lives?). Now, let me stop here and say that I do not think that you are an awful person if you’ve ever done any of these. I write those things from my viewpoint…one that has come to me through experience of having done the very same things. I have been thinking a lot lately about how we can hide behind social media and begin functioning very similarly in our everyday lives. We hide people on Facebook…we hide having to confront them in real life. We read a status about people hanging out together and we somehow think they’ve excluded us. We read statuses about our virtual friends having a bad day and we judge them for posting negativity instead of reaching out to make sure they are OK. OR how about the times we ourselves have reached out to another through messages or encouraging wall posts to only be ignored. How easy is it to just cut off the care of others in the virtual world, only to have it show up in our lives in the real world.
I joined Facebook with the purpose of connecting with many people with whom I attended High School in Venezuela. As my friend lists grew, so did my inability to handle the drama, the feelings of being left out, and even fear when I received friend requests from people that somehow knew me, but I didn’t know them. It became a lot for me to handle. My point is, however, that I had to learn to handle it. The hide button has become a favorite feature of mine. For those times where some of my virtual friends post constant negativity, or better yet, flood my wall with virtual games, I often click “hide”. This, to me, doesn’t mean I hide them all together from my life…especially if we live in real, life community. I go back and check in with them from time to time to see how they are doing…for the very reason I wrote about above. That person that constantly posts hurtful stuff very well may be hurting inside (“Hurt people hurt people”). I’ve blocked people that I may feel a threat to the safety of my family. There are reasons behind that due to stories I’ve heard of pastor’s families being targeted on Facebook. Call me anal if you want, but learning to navigate a virtual world that can get your real life messy is something I want to take every precaution to guard. Where virtual world becomes hard sometimes is being on the receiving end of “the unfriending” by those in whom you have sought to invest. It leaves me feeling baffled. Why? When you have a problem with someone, you go to them (Matthew 18).
Let’s not forget we are living in a real world with real problems as we navigate through the virtual. In my mind I say, “Do I want my kids to read that?” “Am I being an encouragement to others?” “Am I showing vulnerability and humility?” “Have I excluded others from my life through the things I post?” Most of all, let me encourage you to face your problems and insecurities head on. Waiting on a day when your unfriended one wises up and realizes you’ve cut them off from your virtual life isn’t gonna cut it. Unfriending in the virtual world often leaves you being the bitter one, when the unfriended is none the wiser to your efforts to remove them from your life. Is that what we are doing? Removing others from our lives when we remove them from our “friend lists”? My husband posted a great quote yesterday that I believe sums it up…”We attack in others what we fear the most about ourselves.”(author Anonymous) Find that fine line… Are you handling your virtual world appropriately, or is it sucking the life from you? It always goes back to this…to have friends, you must be one. Friendships must be tended to. Use the gift of the virtual world to enhance, not destroy real life relationship…least, in the end you find yourself unfriended all together.