If Archimedes were alive today, he’d likely devote substantial time and mental resources to the question of unfriending people on Facebook (when not denying watching porn or killing it on Candy Crush). This is a complex issue because we all have more friends on Facebook than we do in offline life (formerly: “real life”). It’s not always easy to know who to keep and who to drop.
Moreover, unfriending is an unpleasant reality. But, much like a drunken hookup, it’s sometimes as necessary as it is ugly. Certainly both can come with equal measures of regret, embarrassment and, if you’re unlucky, a surprise visit from the producers of “Cheaters.”
The fact that you find it necessary to unfriend someone implies some variation of the following:
- You’re unsure why you friended them in the first place. Remember the Facebook maxim: “Friend in haste, repent at Starbucks.” This is less true if you live above a Starbucks and regularly steal its Wi-Fi.
- You’re tired of getting invites to their improv shows,* most of which take place at 11:30 on a Tuesday night in a neighborhood in which you’re likely to get towed, shot, or embroiled in a street-level offshore securities fraud.
- General dislike. Never forget that many of life’s big questions come down to simple explanations. (I’ll ask you to ignore this later).
With old-school friendships, unfriending someone is a comparatively private affair. Overt public action is rarely required. You simply disregard texts; don’t return calls; stop asking them to return the “Glee” DVDs you lent them. (Come on – how much did they really cost?) Usually the target will get the hint, although sometimes a change of number or, in extreme cases, identity is necessary. Again, conventional friendships are easy to end discreetly. But when you unfriend someone on Facebook, it happens in a way that is subject to copious public scrutiny.
It’s a painless and simple process, seemingly. A few clicks and the forsaken friend is banished from your life (take that!). That’s why it happens so frequently and with such heedless abandon. It doesn’t help that it often satisfies a deep-felt craving for justice when you feel that you’ve been wronged, socially. But remember: you’re sowing the seeds of consequence and such seeds never fail to bear fruit. Not everyone likes fruit.
Once you’ve unfriended someone, the likelihood of running into him or her increases exponentially. Waiting in line for a show? They’ll be there, immediately in front of you and emboldened by drink, more often than not. Hit a parked car? It’ll be theirs. Testing a complex Constitutional issue in the highest court in the land? Guess who two-thirds of the justices will be.
Clearly, post-unfriending interactions can be awkward, if for no other reason than you don’t know if your erstwhile friend is even aware that you’re no longer friends. Do you call it out? That’s a lot like asking for a plea bargain before being charged with a crime. But there is hope. The equation below will make your decision to unfriend infinitely easier; almost effortless. Through the “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics, you can achieve on-and-offline peace of mind. Or at least be prepared with a plausible defense when you inevitably run into your former friend.
Facebook Unfriending (FU): An Equation** (where U = the confidence with which you can unfriend, confidence increasing as you approach 1).
Easy, right? Then again, it may be simpler just to keep them as a friend. Not everyone likes math.
*There are two kinds of friends on Facebook:
1. Friends that would love to see you; and
2. Friends that would love to see you… at their show. These represent strong unfriending candidates but use the equation above, nonetheless.
**Now accepting donations via Indiegogo (search by entering the FU formula) to fund development. Goal = $2M. Donors at the $50 level get one unfriend from me. Donors at the $1000 level will be blocked permanently.
*** As foretold, I’m now asking you to ignore what I said earlier about “simple explanations.”