You’ve had it happen to you. You’re walking, going about your business, when suddenly you see a familiar face in the distance. You have no issue offering a friendly smile, maybe even saying hello, however there’s a disgusting amount of tension, and instead of making eye contact, one of you looks straight ahead or hides behind your phone in an effort to avoid the other.
And all of this because you deleted them from Facebook. To this I say:
When Facebook first became popular it was of social protocol to immediately add someone you had just met, anyone you had met. Saw them across the room at a high school party? Add them! Bumped into them that one super fun time at that really awesome place? Add them! The friend count was an endless list of people you didn’t care about, but you wanted them there anyway. Seven years onward we experience the exact opposite – we put thought into who we add on Facebook and pride ourselves on limiting access to our profile. How many status updates have you seen recently that read something to this effect: “Just did a Facebook cleanse and deleted 200 friends! You made the cut!” Oh happy day.
The act of deleting a friend is ambiguous. To one person it’s a passive-aggressive technique to provoke a reaction; to another it’s a way to protect their privacy; and then there are those brilliant people who only add their actual friends (what a foreign concept). To me it’s usually as simple as this: if Facebook didn’t exist, would you have that much access to my life? If not: goodbye.
I don’t mean, oh-hey-nice-knowing-you-I-hope-I-never-see-you-ever-again goodbye. I mean an online goodbye. Deleting someone from Facebook doesn’t have to mean deleting them from your life. Just your online life. Many say that if they wouldn’t stop and say hi to someone they have on Facebook then that person is a perfect candidate to be deleted. I’d like to propose the opposite for consideration. There should be no reason you can’t publicly acknowledge a friend of Facebook-past (unless the delete was malicious and deliberate).
Allow me to preface this brief anecdote by acknowledging that there are obvious differences between deleting an old flame and an old friend, but hear me out. This past summer while at a bar in Toronto, I bumped into a first-year fling. After the obligatory hug and awkward small-talk, he said ten words that made me wish I had another round of Früli beer on the way, “I couldn’t help but notice you deleted me from Facebook.” Yes. Yes I did. For one, he no longer goes to Western. Secondly, we hadn’t spoken in almost two years. That was reason enough for me to conclude the lackluster story of our online friendship. I suppose he assumed that I held some sort of animosity toward him because I removed his access to my profile, and because when it comes to deleting a past flame it’s usually a bitter cry for attention. This wasn’t the case at all. It was as simple as me not thinking it was important for him to have access to the pictures from my birthday extravaganza, my family outings, or the posts from my friends.
If you’re never going to write on their wall, if they’re never going to write on yours, if it would be awkward to like a photo that they’ve recently uploaded; how can one honestly be offended by being deleted?
This is where we get into confusion about deleting friends from Facebook: people take it way too seriously. Facebook is not, I repeat not, real life.
And yet the Facebook delete is made to be much more complicated than that.
When did we start validating our real life friendships by our online friendships? It’s as though if it doesn’t happen on Facebook, it never really did. “It’s not official until it’s Facebook official,” reads a large amount of birthday wishes. That’s a scary thought. When we feel like we need to add someone as a friend or maintain their access on Facebook in order to substantiate our interactions in reality, haven’t we reversed the natural process?
There are certain Facebook friends people want to keep. Maybe it’s for networking purposes (although, that’s sort of the point of LinkedIn), or that the person is fun to creep (you should probably take up knitting or something), or it’s just too awkward at this point in time (I look forward to the day after Commencement just as much as you). All I’m saying is that you can still have a real-life relationship with someone without having an online friendship, and it’s rather frightening that we need a reminder of this. Our generation is the first to experience awkward social moments as a result of social media, and agreeing upon the trivialized nature of the Facebook delete would just make life so much easier.