Across Twitter and Facebook the issue of “defriending” is a hot topic right now. When do you do it, how you should do it and should you do it at all?
The first issue is the term “friend”. There’s a level of intimacy implied in the use of that term. You share your life’s details with a friend. Friends know the your secrets. A friend is someone whom you trust. There’s that old gag: a friend will help you move; a real friend will help you move the body.
Are the people you’ve met and interacted with exclusively online actually your friends? Geography aside, would you call any of them to come fetch you at 3 in the morning if your car broke down, invite any of them to your birthday, trust them with your life?
Until you’ve reached that level of intimacy with someone, they’re not “friends”. They’re acquaintances or at best, connections. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Call it what it is and acknowledge that your relationship isn’t that intimate with them.
Some people say, if you don’t know someone, don’t friend her. Perhaps this should be amended to if you’re not planning on getting to know her, don’t friend her. Prevention is better than cure.
Some people say you shouldn’t defriend at all. That’s nonsense. If the value exchange is parasitic, then you need to cut off the link. You need to disconnect. You wouldn’t tolerate someone coming into your home and eating all you food without contributing to your grocery bill so why should you tolerate parasitic behaviour online? The value consumable is yours to decide. And you know your value food chain.
The best way to disconnect is to just do it. Don’t waste time explaining to parasites why you’re breaking the link. They know why you’re breaking the link. If you find yourself getting flamed for it, then stand up for yourself – once. One response is all you need. Don’t wrestle with pigs: you get dirty and they get happy.
Perhaps the very first step is to define the relationship explicitly from the beginning. If it purely business, then it’s a numbers game and you can connect and disconnect at will. If it’s more personal than that, then perhaps you should lay out somewhere what you expect from the relationship. Don’t be scared. Don’t be precious about the connections. Honesty is the best policy. Social media is not a closed ecosystem. It’s a world within a world. You’ll always make more connections.
And that is a comforting thought since I expect I’ll probably lose connections as a result of this post. Lol.