Un-Friending With Mindfulness


Have you ever unfriended anyone?  Has anyone ever unfriended YOU?  What did it feel like?  Did you press that virtual “unfriend” button in a fit of rage and despair over a relationship broken beyond repair, or did you just do it as a matter of fact?  Did you contemplate what you were about to do, and why you were doing it?

Using the internet mindfully is one of my biggest challenges.  Technology often stands in my way of leading a productive existence.  I numb my stress at the end of the day with television, and my hand forever reaches out for my iphone to check “notifications.”

Of course sometimes tech is handy.  Texting my husband to let him know I am late, or texting my BFF to vent can be convenient and comfortable.

But there are so many other times when I click that button solely by force of habit, and scroll. . .

What could I be doing with the minutes and hours I log while logging on?

I have a love/not love relationship with Facebook.  I like checking in with friends and catching up with people from my past.  I was a shy loner in high school and had lost touch with friends from college as well, so when I first joined Facebook five years ago, it felt healing to reconnect with people, to see how far we have come, and to bind old wounds.

Initially, I wanted to “friend” as many people as I could.  It felt like a popularity contest.  I looked at other profiles that had hundreds of “friends,” and felt stabs of envy and wonder.

As time passed, Facebook morphed into a stream of memes and advertisements for other products and pages.  I find myself less engaged with my friends and more of a techno zombie, scrolling down through statuses and political commentary in which I am not really interested.

When I stop to check myself, I realize I’m bored and wonder why I allow social media to suck up my precious time.

The whole issue of privacy is also a curious conundrum.  On one hand I hold privacy sacred, but on the other hand, I put my private thoughts and pictures out there for nearly 200 “friends” to view (and I realize that is a relatively smallish friend list).

Or maybe I “like” a status or page that is controversial to someone and causes drama or harsh feelings.  Not everyone shares my intense feelings about breastfeeding and saving the orcas.

Have we all done it?  Scrolled down and witnessed someone’s hideous new tattoo or very public meltdown and either cringed inwardly or licked our lips in satisfaction?  I can’t speak for you, but I’ve done it.  It makes me feel judgey wudgey.  When I tune into the thoughts, I don’t like the negativity which leads to insecure anxiety–  what if people I consider friends are looking at my statuses, or pictures of my children. and thinking, “Oh wow, I feel sorry for her and her sad life.”

Or worse.

I admit to feeling supreme satisfaction when I post a photo and it instantly gets 20 likes, or when I write a status and people comment like crazy.  It feels good to be liked.  That’s only natural, right?

What is that all about?  What kind of validation are we seeking with all our selfies and photos of food?  It feels like on one hand we want to be seen and realized, yet on the other hand we only want to be seen behind this literal and figurative screen.  We crave closeness but tech is keeping us farther away from people in the physical world.

It gives me pause.

As I evolve with Facebook, I find I don’t want more “friends.”  I want less.

I’ve contemplated whittling down my friend list.  But how?  “Un-friending” seems such a harsh term.  Would people’s feelings be hurt?  Should I send a message letting people know it was nothing personal, but I was just trying to reduce my digital footprint?  Or would the people even notice?

I’m sure I’ve been unfriended plenty of times.  I only noticed or was hurt by it once.  When I first got on Facebook, I reconnected with my high school boyfriend.  We had not talked in over 15 years and it was cool sharing our life stories.  He married the woman he dated after me and had two children.  We chatted for a few weeks, and then I noticed he was gone.  Confused, I messaged him to ask if I had done something to offend him.  He let me know he wished me well, and I had done nothing wrong, but his wife was creeped out by our “friendship.”  I was incredulous, and it stung.

I pondered these issues, and in the end, I decided to just do it.  I found 25 people to delete:

  • That mom I met on the playground (four years ago) and was going to have a play date with but never did.
  • The guy I knew for five minutes in high school who became a big shot makeup artist and posts really snarky, narcissistic stuff.
  • Parents who had kids in my son’s daycare that I haven’t seen in two years.
  • The people I added from high school I never really knew.
  • A lady I worked with eight years ago who left the agency and we never talked again.
  • Someone who routinely posts negative and passive-aggressive comments.
  • That guy I dated 20 years ago.  Oh wait, that was my husband.  He can stay…

It felt uncomfortable for  a moment or two.  I was anxious I would offend someone, or that I would miss out on some important information.  The discomfort passed and I got on with my life.  My Facebook experience is already more concise and pleasant.  In a few more weeks, I may go back and delete a bit more. . .

At the end of the day, I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt.  But I also don’t want to read all the exercise and diet-shake posts from that personal trainer.  They make me edgy.  I can’t tell you why; they just do.  I also want to be sharing with a more exclusive, intimate, and real group of friends.

How about you?  What size is your digital footprint?  Do you have any feelings/opinions about unfriending?  


3 responses »

  1. So far, I think I’ve gotten around the unfriending discomfort by messing with the settings on my data feed. The best example is that one friend from high school kept posting either negative things, or whining about diets and weight loss (or lack thereof) and instead of unfriending her, I just blocked her posts from my feed. Now I don’t see them, and having that negativity gone makes me feel a bit better.

  2. I don’t unfriend on Facebook – but I also don’t accept friend requests from anyone I wouldn’t want seeing all my photos, knowing what I post online. Basically, I “know” all my Facebook friends. So, with that, my “friend count” has been pretty stable for the past three years or so (given there is only so many people out there who really need to see dozens of photos of my kids).

    I’m not really offended by unfriending – given I appreciate that I’m not “really” friends with over half of my Grade 3 class, or everyone I did Toastmasters with 5 years ago, but I don’t see the harm in keeping in casual contact either.

  3. Charlotte, we share very similar sentiments about Facebook/social media. Right down to our habit of checking our phones for notifications. I often feel horrified at my impulse to check, whenever I am procrastinating/bored/waiting/nursing Evie, etc…It’s horrible and sometimes I wish I had it in me to delete it all together. Lord knows I could use the hours I spend on there to do something more productive, or even just read a damn book.

    I do my fair share of unfriending on Facebook. I have a ‘rule’ that if we haven’t spoken in a year (either online or in person), I delete them. A former coworker noticed and sent me a very hurt message. So, I apologized and refriended her. Months later, SHE deleted ME. Was it an ego thing for her? Who knows.

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