There was one girl that I hung out with for a few weeks. Our nights were pretty somber. I’d pick her up and she’d say hi, I’d ask how was your day and she’d sigh, acquiescing, it seemed, to something beyond her, and she’d mumble, “it was okay.” I’d tell her some stories and jokes, and generally she’d laugh, but still, there was something inherently sullen about our time spent together. I didn’t get to know her too well. She was reticent to the point of awkward. Inhibited to the point of brooding. And it dawned on me the fourth or fifth time we hung out that every time I’d drop her off to end our night, I found myself in a worse mood than I was before picking her up. I never asked her to hang again, and she, being passive in most aspects, never reached out, either. The whole accord ended there in a cloudy state.
Just recently, I found myself reminiscing about this one month relationship, and thought I’d casually check in via Facebook. What ensued shocked me: I had access to nothing on her profile. And suddently, it dawned on me that I had just broken my ‘de-friend v-card’.
First, you’re hurt: ‘what the hell?’ But then, you’re flattered. Somebody cared enough to take time out of their day to let you know that they couldn’t stand seeing your face or writing any more. It also embarrassingly pleased me to know that after years of being the victim-guy, I could victimize, too. A little nod to my starving ego, maybe. Probably not something to boast about, but keeping it in the back of my mind as a confidence builder felt like fair game.
Experiencing this plethora of emotions now, I reflected back to my first encounter with the de-friend dilemma. In college, one of my good friends had a girlfriend for about a year and a half. For the final months of it, my friend grew curious about being single in an environment where he could literally crush it every night. He finally ended it. “She’s a cool girl,” he explained, “but I have to move on.” I supported him, some of it out of obligation, and some of it because it had nothing to do with me. Nights after breaking up, I saw him at a party, arms around two girls, in his own planet, laughing and kissing my face when he saw me.
“Any trouble?” I asked him, in reference to the break-up.
“No, not really. I’ll always love her, but we weren’t going to get married. So I think it’s for the best.”
A few days later in class, sitting by each other in the back, he learned that his ex was seeing someone new. He was a little perturbed, but mostly okay: that this was to be expected. However, two days later in the same class, he wasn’t the same, a serious frown on his face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“She de-friended me. What the hell?”
“So what?” I asked.
“Don’t ‘so what’ me! I just got de-friended!” I’d never seen him so riled up from a girl, let alone anything in general.
“Alright, calm down,” my other friend said, with whom we made a sturdy trio. The two discussed the implications and ramifications of this aggressive de-friendship, and watching them converse so animately, in a way I’d never seen before, I acknowledged there was something grave about the de-friendship that I didn’t understand. At the end of class, they decided that my friend should give his ex a call. So he did, and they ended up getting back together for a couple more weeks. I memorized this set of actions so that if a girl I liked broke up with me, I’d keep in mind how I could get her back for a few final weeks by de-friending. They broke up again shortly after, this time for good, but to this day, I’d never seen my nearly imperturbable friend as shaken as he was the day he learned of his de-friendship.
What I suppose is so personal about it is that to de-friend somebody on Facebook is to call them dead from your life, to dismiss them from your circle of relevance. It’s a way to ensure that if you two are ever to see each other again, it’ll be sheerly due to chance—a run-in at the supermarket or a stumble at Starbucks. Anything that would imply a friendly connection—birthday greetings, an innocent ‘like’ on a status—ends hitherto. It’s an effective and quick method of signing a person away. A write-off.
I remember one time I was hanging out with a girl, and the appropriate moment came for our past-relationship summary. Her last relationship ended badly, she said. They fought, he cheated, he lied, and, “we even de-friended each other on Facebook,” this last bit somehow more crucial than the cheating or lying.
“Woah,” I responded. “Who de-friended who?”
It seemed like it was mutual.
Sometimes it’s done for convenience, or to keep things on an even keel. My roommate in college once reconnected with a girl he knew from high school. A few nights later, she came over and when the night ended he took her to his room and locked the door. This dynamic continued for a few months, until my friend discovered she had a boyfriend and she said she couldn’t see him anymore. Weeks passed that she didn’t come over, and my friend looked a little down.
“What’s the move?” I asked him. “Have you called her or anything recently?”
“Nothing to do,” he said, matter-of-fact.
“I thought you liked her, though.”
“I did like her.”
“So is it the boyfriend? Come on. Just ‘cus there’s a goalie, doesn’t mean you can’t—wait, how does that one saying go?”
“She de-friended me,” he snapped. I opened my mouth for the next generic, unfelt motivational quote, but rescinded at realizing I couldn’t really find anything to dispute with. “That’s the end of it,” he added, and something about the way he said it rendered it absolutely true.
Nowadays it’s a preached practice that whenever you’re having a hard time getting over somebody, a de-friend on Facebook, as well as other social media forms, is congruous with breaking up. Maybe this isn’t anything new. In one perspective, Facebook de-friendships have been going on for thousands of years — it’s one person’s final act, the last move to sting the other. Maybe in the caveman days, a person would steal their mate’s veggies before they called it quits for good.
All taken into consideration, though, it’s a little petty or passive. What’s to guarantee that the ‘de-friended’ even notices? Facebook doesn’t give you that notification, I’ve learned. To de-friend, You go online, sign in, make some clicks, and that’s it. There are no broken plates, dishes. No fights in showers with clothes on. No shouting bouts at fancy restaurants, no slaps onto a man’s freshly shaven cheek. I’m not advocating for violent revenge, either, but something more than a few digital clicks, I think, sounds appropriate.