Monday, January 04, 2010

Unfriended, But Not Friendless

I Was Unfriended On Facebook
I Don’t Know Why and I’m
Embarrassed It Hurt My Feelings

I admit it and I’m not ashamed: I really enjoy Facebook. I like looking at friend’s photos, knowing what they’re doing and, especially, playing Scramble and Pathwords.

The name I use on Facebook is a combination of my actual name and the affectionate nickname my husband has always called me. You won't find me by searching my “known” name, and certainly not the one I was called in any school. Which means, I’m the one who has to do the “friend-ing." In the request, or message, I reference the name they might know me by.

This was a big reunion year for my high school graduating class, and combined with the explosive popularity of Facebook, it became an ideal time to reconnect, with people we hadn’t seen or even talked to in decades.

I wasn’t necessarily thrilled or excited about these potentially renewed acquaintances, but I was perfectly happy to do so.

In high school, I was friends with the two of the popular and pretty Callahans* -- Rachel* and Jordana* - the middle two of a quartet of sisters. Each sister is separated by two years, but united in their innate sweetness, great hair and strong Catholicism. They were also all cheerleaders.

Jordana and I were on a cheerleading squad together, throughout high school. Rachel helped me throughout the initial tryout process.

We were solid friends, as their teenage-tinged emotional dedications in yearbooks and school photos attest. But we were not intimate friends, and I saw each sister a couple of times since (and that includes two class reunions).

At any rate, I first “friended” Jordana*, and via her friend list, found out Rachel’s* married name and “friended” her, too.

About six months later (I’m actually not entirely sure when I was ousted, since I don't monitor my list), I realized that neither sister was on my friend list. Odd, that.

This had happened once before, with another entirely unrelated acquaintance, without explanation (resulting in a “refriending”).

But I began to wonder if I had actually been “unfriended”? That is, removed from their Friends list, the "x" clicked on, erasing my name and access to my FB page.

Eventually, I realized the only way to find out if this was intentional or not, was to send a message, which I did (paraphrasing, it said: “Hi, You’re not on my friend list anymore, and I wasn’t sure if that was accidental/clerical or on purpose.”)
I figured, if I didn’t hear back, I had my answer: it was on purpose.

And, I didn’t hear back from either sis. I have no reason why. You may ask why I would care? I sure would if someone else was telling this story.

But -- cringingly admitting -- I did. And frankly, I’m totally embarrassed that it bothered me. I just couldn’t figure out why. I was rejected without reason.

There is no precedence etiquette-wise. The whole social network phenomena will eventually result in newly fashioned lists of socially acceptable online behavior.

I will only say this: you don’t need to tell someone that you’re taking them off your list, but if they inquire why, why not just tell them the truth?

If you’re worried about offending, phrase it as though you decided to keep your list to family and closest friends -- and really, isn't that the truth? It's a much nicer way of saying, I don't want you on my list, to see my photos and to read my status updates.

Eventually, of course, I let it go (but obviously, not enough to not write about it here). I could only come up with one reason that seemed even remotely feasible: what I used as quotes in my “About Me." Perhaps, someone faith-based might be offended.

I might never find out the reason. It’s totally speculative. We don’t have mutual friends and I’d never involve acquaintances in an effort to find out why (I'm embarrassed enough already, for chrissakes).

I admit that the exorbitant price of our high school reunion this year was primarily responsible for my absence, but honestly, my embarrassment, at feeling weird and kinda bad about the whole “unfriending” thing was unquestionably a factor to skip the high school reunion (or a convenient excuse to avoid awkward quick conversations recounting the last three decades in 100 words or less).

Without Facebook, I probably wouldn’t have consciously re-connected with these very long ago friends.

In the many intervening years, my curiosity about the sisters was extremely fleeting. I honestly wouldn’t have given them much thought and my memories of them would be fond, vague and explained breezily as “we didn’t keep in touch.”

Now, with this blatant, unexplained “unfriending,” it’s put a taint on those (admittedly) rather neutral memories of my teen years.

Yes, I know. It’s one (sort of two) friends (and don’t I have 320 other Facebook friends, anyway?).

It matters not a whit in the scheme of things, but it adds an element to the fragile confidence in our memories, in the way we remember ourselves, in the way we want to be remembered and the way we want to be thought of, even now.

(*not their real names. Duh.)