October 28, 2012

Unfriending People On The Internet

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What is the issue?

Having graduated high school right when Facebook was made available to non-college students, I have the burden of never knowing what it would be like to naturally lose contact with people. At one point in history, relationships between people were fluid. We would lose touch with that girl who sat in front of us in AP english junior year. She might live on in our thoughts as she existed when we last saw her; happy and naive. She exists just as much as a projection of what we remembered about her as she actually existed in reality. Over time our memory would fail us. Was her name even Jennifer? Was she blonde? Was it junior or senior AP English?

We would eventually forget about her. That would be that.

We stay tethered to those people through Facebook. They don’t exist in an abstract concept. And while we don’t engage with them, they remind us of our own past. They’re not a memory. They are real. They are human. They are obnoxious.

Jennifer: “Crisp fall mornings with a Pumpkin Spice Latte make for a very happy Jennifer. It’s finally sweater weather!”

Jennifer: “Obama is retarded!”

Jennifer: “Can’t wait for tonight’s ep of Glee!”

I cringe as my stomach turns in a visceral reaction to the juxtaposition of her statuses.
I took AP English with Jennifer junior year of high school and haven’t spoken to her since. But she’s still there in my life; reminding me through her statuses espousing the wonders of syrupy chain coffee and terrible network comedies of what I was surrounded by throughout high school. I’ll receive emails from Spotify to tell me that Jennifer is listening to the new Nicki Minaj single. I get photo albums of the boring looking bros Jennifer is now dating in my newsfeed. A stranger I haven’t talked to in seven years is making constant interjections into my daily life.

But it’s not just Jennifer from high school; It’s also Brian from my first job, it’s that weird second cousin that you’re not sure you’re related to from your trip out east.
I’m a captive audience to the poor taste and political views of every person I’ve ever friended.

I feel like I’m stuck in an episode of A&E’s ‘Hoarders.’ Except instead of being trapped in my own house, surrounded by cats and piles of newspapers and junk from years ago, I’m wading through ten-foot-high piles of meaningless people I’ve collected through social media and now feel artificially connected to. It’s having an effect on my mental health. I shuffle around, loathing pumpkin spice lattes and cursing Nicki Minaj.
I need an intervention.

Cue an unfriending binge.

Is it unfriending or defriending? I’m usually too afraid to ask because both sound equally antisocial and OCD. Anyway, once or twice a year I will go through my Facebook friend list and weed out people who, for some reason or another, I don’t think I’ll ever talk to again. It’s a truly gladiatorial event, thumbs up or thumbs down, live or die, sitting index finger on mouse while attempting to subjectively decide who to eliminate from my consciousness.

Reasons behind my judgement are usually random, but can range from anything as glib as an overly-enthusiastic post about crappy coffee to something actually offensive, like being a bigoted moron who is vocally against marriage equality. I become drunk and giddy with power, moaning in ecstasy as I watch my friends count decrease. The OCD kicks in when I get near an even number and I eventually hit a peak and cut myself off to lay in bed and have an after-purge smoke.

I am free. They are free. They can now exist as they were meant to, as memories of decent people, unfettered by the realities of their terrible taste and world views. Life goes on.

People ask why I don’t just delete my Facebook when I tell them about my unfriending habits. What do you think I am, crazy? TC Mark

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