As I addressed my Christmas cards this year, I realized I didn’t have an updated address for a friend of mine. I logged onto Facebook to say hello and ask for her new address.

Then I realized we weren’t friends.

There she was, and right next to her profile was the little “add friend” icon.

I had been unfriended.

My first thought was that there must be some mistake. This “friend” is one of my oldest childhood friends, and yes, we haven’t talked in years, but I lived on one side of the world and she lived on the other side of the world, and people get busy, and people have kids, and people deal with the pressures of relationships, work, and family, and they might not always have time to be the “friend” they want to be.

I immediately tried to think of what I had done to deserve it. Perhaps I posted too frequently, or maybe it was the status updates, or the check-ins, or the many, many “likes” of Jiffpom photos. Maybe it was all of the above? Maybe it was none of the above? Maybe it was me?

Either way, she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore, and it stung. A lot. More than I care to admit.

Over the years I have occasionally done a pruning of my Facebook friends. I might “unfriend” an old hairdresser, or neighbor, or someone I took a First Aid course with seven years ago. My rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t recognize you on the street, we probably don’t need to be Facebook friends.

Unfriending online is easy – just one click — but I never thought about the repercussions. I never thought that someone might feel the pang of hurt when they notice we’re no longer friends, the very same pang that I felt when I saw that I had been unfriended. If you’ve been unfriended, you may have felt that hurt, or perhaps you were surprised, or maybe even relieved.

My friend Becky recently shared an “unfriending” experience with me. A friend of hers sent her a Facebook friend request, but Becky was sure that they were already friends. Becky later received a message from the friend stating that she had unfriended Becky a few months back because she was jealous of her “perfect life.” Becky replied that her life is far from perfect, and that social media is not an accurate depiction of it; her life also includes kids with fevers, cats puking up hairballs, spilled milk, and fractured relationships.

There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to prune their social media network, but there’s something very important to keep in mind: It might have nothing to do with you.

It might be due to social media insecurities, or jealousy, or their dislike of adorable Pomeranians, or maybe it’s just as simple as they wouldn’t recognize you on the street?

Whatever it is, don’t take it on.

Your social media profile is not an accurate representation of who you are. You are much more than your likes, favorites, and photos. Don’t let one person’s click or the complicated world of social media determine your worth as a “friend.” Take the opportunity to share and connect with your real friends and enjoy the real world around you.

I may never know why my childhood friend chose to unfriend me, but life is too short and too precious to dwell on the things that I can’t change. I know that I am a great friend to my real friends, and I’d rather spend my time and energy nurturing those real relationships.

Have you had an unfriend-ing experience?

Image via Auste Skrupskyte



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22 comments

  1. This girl from high unfriended me one year later. I got on with her and when I saw here at a track meet I didn’t know she unfriended me, but she said hi and asked how I was doing and kept on saying high whenever we were at the same meet. It was kind of weird.

  2. I unfriend people when (a) they do something online or offline that would be offensive offline, and (b) they have have shown strong signs that what they did that’s offensive is a part of their personality will never change. Case in point:

    I unfriended a recent new friend, her husband, and her female friend all in one fell swoop yesterday. The reasons:

    Her – because IRL she was needy, pushy and controlling, and ignored me three times in a row when I said a polite no three times in a row to something she was demanding I give her.

    Her husband and her friend – because I knew she would recruit them as her flying monkeys to spy on my page, contact me through, and make me miserable. I unfriended both of them at the same time as her, to avoid further static.

    The above is one reason why I unfriend people. I gave this person three chances. She rudely blew them all in the space of 24 hours. YMMV.

  3. Just found this article – I recently realised that I had not seen many posts from one of my Facebook friends who also happens to be a relative (!) and then found out that she had unfriended me without warning – we only reconnected a couple of years ago (at her request) after losing touch for many years. I have messaged her without getting a response. I suppose it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things but I was still a bit upset that she had done this and I still don’t know why.

  4. I usually clean up my friends list regularly. Or when I feel the need to hide my posts to more than X amount of people. Worse, I unfriend on their birthday! Because A, chances are I don’t even have them on my newsfeed and I forgot we were friends. B, they won’t notice on such a day.

    One time I unfriended a girl, she messaged me shortly after asking why have I done it. I don’t usually lie so I told her that we barely talk in real life, what’s the point in being online friends. It just seemed a little bit fake, plus it was spring cleaning time for my friends list. She replied with a smiley and ‘same for me’.
    So many things I still can’t understand about that girl.

    Barbs

    1. Thanks for your comment Barbs! When we first all started on Facebook we wanted to connect with every single person we’d ever met, but then many of us realized that our privacy is more important, and with that – our “friends” list gets pared down to people we actually want to connect with. It’s been so interesting to hear other perspectives!

  5. This was great to read-I can relate! I had an experience with a friends of over 20 years. Sure, the last 7 years or so, we didn’t talk much just the odd comment here and there. One day, I got a fb message from her saying, “hey. Just a warning, I’m deleting you as I’m cleaning out my Facebook, if you want to contact me, here is my email address.” I would’ve much preferred a simple unfriend with no message, so awkward.

    1. Hi Samantha, I’m glad you could relate. It’s so interesting to hear people’s stories about how they navigate the complicated world of social media. Thanks for your comment!

  6. I really enjoyed reading this. I am pretty ruthless when it comes to my friend lists, though I do sometimes keep old acquaintances on the list, just out of curiosity. Two rules: 1) If I wouldn’t say hi to them if I ran into them in line at Starbucks, they’re off the list. 2) If their posts regularly make me feel unhappy or uncomfortable, they’re off the list. No time for negativity in my life!

  7. I am so glad you wrote about this! I feel like this is something many people don’t talk about because they feel like this is something that shouldn’t bother them. Unfriending someone online is much less dramatic than having a talk about ending a friendship in person, so maybe people feel like their hurt isn’t justified or they may be overreacting when someone “unfriends” them. But this has happened to me, and it does hurt! Thank you for letting us know that it isn’t silly to feel offended when this happens, and that whenever someone does unfriend us, they likely did not do it intending to hurt us.

    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, being unfriended does hurt, and it’s okay to admit it. My hope is that in the future we won’t take it so personally.

  8. I really enjoyed this article — your writing style was to the point yet very thoughtful and impactful. I find these situations difficult because I tend to be somewhat ruthless with my “friends” or “followers”. I no longer have Facebook (for other reasons), so that helps with a large portion of the problem. However, I constantly go through my Instagram to decide who to unfollow to prevent repetitive or unwanted feed. If I’m being totally honest, I have to admit that sometimes I even unfollow regularly so that I can look like I have a bigger amount of followers than people I follow. What a prideful attitude! I gotta keep an eye on that.

    I once had a friend text me because I had unfollowed her on Instagram. It was very awkward, and I don’t feel like I need to be overly serious about my “online relationships”, but from now on I do want to be more mindful of how I might be making someone feel. Maybe the next time I choose to unfriend someone I still see, I can be more intentional with the real friendship.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Claire. Social media is a difficult thing to navigate, and it has certainly changed our idea of what friendship is. I’m glad my article has made people think about how they navigate this complicated landscape. 🙂

  9. I’ve been unfriended; however, more often than not it was from boys (half of whom I had dated). They were the ones who chose to finalize the end to a friendship. It stung and left me feeling confused. This, in turn, led me to actually realize what a great step this was for them to make. Whatever their reason being, I forced myself to not care about it because as their choice forced the realization upon me that they don’t care. They don’t care about my life any further than they already know and their sly honesty made me realize that I also cannot continue to care for everyone as well. I don’t intend to go about de-friending people on facebook. I’m just refusing to give my positive energy to anyone who can’t even remain “socially” friends with me through the internet (let alone in person).

    1. Thank you for your comment Sarah! It’s always interesting to have another take on “unfriending.” Sometimes it is a good idea to make a clean break, in order to really move on in our lives. Good luck!

    2. … Well that makes sense. If you are not together anymore and you move on with your life, even if it hurts, the best is to have a clean cut of any kind of contact.

      However, and I believe this is the million dollar question: What if nothing was said, he/ she simply stops talking with you. Doesn’t break up with you (even though he said he would when things turn bad) and doesn’t block you from any kind of social network??? You can still see if he’s online or not – but simply doesn’t talk. Can it be called ghosting? Can it be called childish behaviour? That’s why I get so well the unfriend/ block from ex’s. This kind of thing is the one I don’t get. And I’m sorry to say but at 31 years old I really don’t get it at all!

  10. I never had an unfriend-ing experience, but I was once removed from the ‘family’ list. I have this friend who adds her closest friends as sisters. We grew apart (let’s not play the blame game), so it makes sense. With that point in mind, you’re right about how life is too short and too precious to dwell on the things that we can’t change!

    1. Thanks for your comment Priscilla! I guess that’s the big takeaway – life is short, and social media is no substitute for real, tangible friendships! 🙂

  11. I love this. I think it’s super easy for me to “prune” my facebook or deny requests from people I barely know – but it’s harder to be on the other side of it. It’s hard not to take it personally, sometimes! Great point of view.

    http://www.kelseymarie.co

  12. … Truth to be said: either way in nowadays kind of relationships (and I was born in ’84) being “unfriended” in a social network is hard to take in specially if you know the person for centuries.

    The question that I’ve been asking myself lately is: what can we think when you break up with someone and they don’t unfriend/ block/ undo anything with or against you? Is it normal to keep continuing “friend” with someone you obviously don’t even want to talk with? Not my case – I’m not even the type of girl who acts like a teenager, but it is strange when it’s over but not entirely over. (Same type of answer here: maybe we just don’t give a damn about it. Maybe the other person does not use or care about social networks so there’s no point blocking or unfriend someone – and we can imagine that after the storm is over, we might be able to sit a take a cup of coffee somewhere).. Still, social networks are gaining more and more control of our private and personal life – and when we used to talk to each other by phone or managing to create time to be/ see each other more often, nowadays once we get together there’s really nothing to talk about – it’s all been said in chats and shared in blogs. Our persona must try to avoid those kind of limitations though it’s getting harder to manage these new lifestyles.

    1. Thank you for your comment Claudia! I definitely agree that it’s getting very hard to manage social media and the etiquette that comes with it!

      I’m trying very hard to wean myself off social media in order to have more meaningful interpersonal relationships. I don’t want a status update to replace a phone call, coffee date, or a hug!

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