Are Facebook Friends Real Friends?
I don’t think I realized just how insecure I was until I joined Facebook two years ago. I thought the 12 or so years of therapy would have resulted in a more evolved woman. But here’s the truth: every time I lose a friend on Facebook I take it personally.
Yes, that is ridiculous. I know. But I still feel the blow.
I try not to remember the number of friends I have when I go to bed at night, but somehow it sticks—unlike every phone number I’ve tried to memorize. So, upon logging on to Facebook every morning, I immediately notice that I lost two friends overnight. While I was sleeping!
What especially irks me is when I lose three friends right after I post something. Now I know that it probably has nothing to do with the content of my post, but it’s the same punch in the gut that I feel when I read an unkind comment on one of my posts: “You are the most self-absorbed, clueless, bad writer I’ve ever come across…”
Maybe a stage-four people-pleaser who wants to be liked by everyone in this world should not live her life out loud for everyone to comment on or to vote as friend-worthy or not. Maybe I should become an accountant and live a secret life and stay away from all kinds of social network sites. However, I think the easier thing for me to do is to grow a thicker skin. Because I did attempt to change my career earlier this year and, while it was admittedly nice to be free from the public criticism, I felt as though I was missing out on the fun. I missed blogging. I missed Facebook. I even missed Twitter!
Clearly most people are more selective than I am when they friend folks on Facebook. A friend of mine won’t allow anyone from her high school, because she just doesn’t want to go back there. Others keep their circle of friends to only those people that they are still in touch with today, the same group that would receive a Christmas card.
I have John Paul II and Jesus among my friends!
A friend posted on my wall the other day, “Um… I noticed that you are friends with John Paul II. I just wanted to tell you that he is dead.”
I responded. “Thank you. I am aware of that. But, like Jesus, I try not to reject anyone — dead or alive.”
I have only ignored or rejected one person. I know that I should not judge anyone by his appearance, but frankly his photo scared the hell out of me. He was practically naked with tattoos all over, flexing his muscles. I don’t know… I just went with my gut there. And I have only de-friended one person. He is a relative, and I didn’t appreciate that he posted a message on my wall that he hates my blog, that I am over-dramatic and negative, and he can’t stand reading it. Call me crazy, but I expect a little more support from family, since I read enough of those hateful comments on my comboxes.
John Grohol recently wrote an insightful post regarding this issue, called “What Hurts Your Facebook Friends.” He included the research of a guy named Tokunaga, who explained that the term “friend” is where we run into trouble. Because what that word means to one person is certainly different than it means to another. For me, it does not mean that you have to be on my Christmas card mailing list. Per Tokunaga:
The confusion surrounding the definition of friends on SNSs complicates matters further in the friend negotiation and ranking processes. Because the equivocal term “friend” is used on SNSs, there are assumptions carried with the label, which may escape some users.
Individuals diverge in how they interpret the meaning of friends on SNSs; some use it to mean mere contacts, others only use friends to refer to people they have met offline, and there are those who apply the term to only close friends. The way in which people construe the notion of friends on SNSs determines their actions in friend negotiations and rankings.
Interpersonal strain may result when two people use and act on discrepant meanings of friends. For example, if Person A thinks all people should be accepted as friends on SNSs, while Person B thinks that friends should only apply to closest friends, interpersonal strain is expected when Person B declines a friend request from Person A because he or she is not considered a close offline friend.
So here’s just one more lesson for me in not taking things personally—a theme that I keep revisiting in my life. I shall not interpret the number of Facebook friends I have like a presidential poll to determine popularity.
In other words, I need to stop acting like I am in high school again, even though I have several high school classmates among my Facebook friends.
Have you ever been de-friended on Facebook?
How did that make you feel? Has it made you stop and think before you de-friended someone else?
Borchard, T. (2011). Are Facebook Friends Real Friends?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 9, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/04/05/are-facebook-friends-real-friends/