I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. More love than hate, might I add, which is why I am still on that platform, when Twitter is by far my platform of choice. I even prefer Pinterest for inspiration. A couple of days back, I was on a Facebook chat with a senior from my bachelor programme and we talked about being in touch with people we once knew and Facebook. This led to the natural progression of “unfriending” or blocking people on Facebook. Purging, I said. He said that was a strong word. I replied, if I was ending something via Facebook, it must have already “purged” long before. I was in dual mind whether I should get into what happens when you unfriend people on Facebook here on a “public” blog. I posted this in our Famous 4 group– should I share this, I asked. My baby cousin was very forthcoming in her support. I was still a bit unconvinced. I was already thinking about everyone I was going to be offending. And then today, on Twitter, I disagreed with something – and apologized for it. To this, Naina (who has famously gone off Facebook and finds her relationships on other digital networks more ‘real’ compared to Facebook) told me, I need not apologize, because that may mean that I’m invalidating my own feelings and that “we girls” tend to do that a lot more. This struck a chord with me, and so, I am not going to begin with an apology about unfriending and blocking people on Facebook. I would much rather share research and my opinion on it. You’re welcome to get offended. But if I blocked you a while back, perhaps you are over that already.
The psychology of unfriending or blocking people on Facebook
Recent research has focused on the following key questions-
Why do people unfriend people on Facebook?
According to research, people “unfriend” others for the following reasons: 1) Online disagreements over political and religious beliefs 2) Change in relationships 3) Real life behaviour /upsetting episode
Who gets unfriended the most?
The people being unfriended or blocked the most happen to be: 1) High school friends 2) Friend of a friend 3) Work colleagues 4) Common interest friends 5) Others
What do people feel after being unfriended?
Interestingly, unfriending occurs more often to people who were friends before as opposed to (harmless) acquaintances. The most common reactions to being “unfriended” are: 1) surprise 2) sadness 3) amusement 4) bother
Did I unfriend people on Facebook? When do I pull the digital plug?
I often go through periods of consolidation. This means, I choose who I talk / share with because I am not capable of maintaining so many contacts. It stresses me out. I feel I work very hard towards maintaining my relationships with people I connect with and who know me as a person in the now. I am not gregarious by nature, which means while I talk with people, generally my relationships are more one to one compared to hanging out with very large groups. This holds true for me even online. I am happy to share things over my blog, discuss over Twitter or even answer emails. But my rule of thumb for Facebook is simple: when I am sharing a photograph or an update and I feel I have to “think” about whether I should share it or not because of a certain person, that person is not going to be on my list for long.
Here’s Buzzfeed’s list of 10 people it’s time to unfriend on Facebook. While I do not think I have had personal experiences from all the categories mentioned, I do have a few special cases that I’ve definitely taken off my list and have no regrets about.
1) The friend who keeps inviting me to some pop show: I do not live in the US and would definitely not be flying in to attend random pop music shows and so constantly getting invites for it got a bit too much for my liking. There is an easier “unfollow” option on Facebook too. But just the behaviour was annoying enough for me to hit unfriend once and for all.
2) The passive aggressive BFF: They find a way to comment on every status photo update posting comments including “when did you visit so and so place and didn’t tell me”, or “when did you guys meet up” or anything and everything that’s unnecessary and cynical and takes the joy out of my update. Their key policy is to make you feel guilty about having a life.
3) The sly gossip corner: I don’t enjoy being the topic of someone else’s gossip. “Tera topic nikla” (your topic came about) is a very poor conversation starter. Usually it is followed a defensive rant like: “gossiping no longer happens. None of us speaks about boyfriends , careers and babies”. Such a dead giveaway. Sorry. When I am talking to a real friend of mine, I rarely talk about a third person unless it’s related to an event or a recent meeting. And we do not talk about whether that person is seeing someone, getting married, have his/her fourth child or considering sexual abstinence for a year. I wonder how grown up people tend to have no sense of personal boundaries. Unless you’re my best friend – which I will articulate or showcase clearly, you do not get to talk to me like that. You also do not get to snoop around my life sniffing like a hungry puppy.
4) The creepy relatives going through all my photographs and then judging me: I know that you go through my photographs to find clues on creating the latest family gossip and creating an issue and being judgmental. I just wanted to say, I do not care. Everyone has their own lives to handle and think about. And grown up people with kids should ideally focus on their own kids. That’s infinitely more helpful.
5) The fault finders: Facebook has the capability to help you unfollow or unfriend a person. However, commenting on updates just to tell me how I made a mistake is not going to tell the rest of the world that you have an IQ of 400. That’s you seeking validation. Cynicism does not make you bright. I dislike negativity in general.
What happens when you unfriend people on Facebook: Worst reactions to avoid
1) Get onto Whatsapp with an instant message saying “tu badal gayi hai” i.e. “you have changed”: Yes and unfortunately I felt we drifted apart.
2) Constant back to back Emails on why did you unfriend me: Because, I do not think I know you enough now. I really wish it were different. I also do not like being questioned continuously. You are not my mother and I am not answerable to you.
3) Talking to random others and asking them to check if they are still friends with me, worse still if they have new gossip about me: That’s the reason why you can’t find me on your Facebook search.
I have also been unfriended and have felt surprised or even not entirely thrilled with the event. But I try to maintain my self respect & composure about the whole thing. I get into self reflection and think about what may have led to it. Most times I know what it is and move on or fight to keep a friend- although so far, I have not had a fight to keep someone because of Facebook (thank God!). Relationships are mutual or they do not exist. What’s the point in mulling over someone who doesn’t care shit about you? And if that were not enough, here’s a Wikihow page on how to get over after being unfriended on Facebook.
And now I can go back to imagining if Facebook could launch a “who’s viewed your profile recently” insight box for all. Maybe I am old fashioned. But I’m going to believe that the key to real relationships is not amassing a bunch of followers, friends or fans, but having a few to post hand written letters to.