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The Book of the Face

I lied the other day when I said I was out of letters.  I have at least four in my inbox that go like this:

Backstory, backstory, backstory, backstory, backstory, backstory….So, then I “unfriended” (my cousin, old high school friend, coworker, ex) from Facebook, and he/she wrote me a giant sad email and/or called everyone we know in common crying and throwing a big stink.  Was I wrong to “unfriend”/should I add this person back/what do I do now?

My answer is fairly simple:

1) You were not wrong to “unfriend.”

2) Under no very few circumstances should you add this person back into your e-life.

3) What you should say now is some variation of “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but I was not enjoying our online interactions very much and would prefer to just catch up with you at parties/at the holidays/at work/whenever I run into you.  Take care.

Nobody has figured out how to use social media perfectly without any problems or conflict, ever because nobody has figured out how to have any human interaction without any problems or conflict.  So I don’t have rules for what you should do, but I do have some (sometimes radical) suggestions for how to make the whole thing enjoyable for you.  In no particular order:

  1. “I like you” does not always mean “I want to interact with you constantly online.”
  2. You can refuse any “friend” request for any reason, without giving a reason.  Someone who hounds you about this just proves that you didn’t want to be “friends” with them.
  3. Anyone can refuse a “friend” request from you for any reason, without giving a reason.  If you find this painful and confusing, re-read the Geek Social Fallacies.  Move on.  If the person is really your friend, you won’t need Facebook to tell you.
  4. Sometimes people have parties and they don’t invite you.  It’s not 2nd grade where every kid in the class gets a Valentine.  If you see that you weren’t invited to something, and you ask the hosts “Why wasn’t I invited?” the fact that you asked that question is your answer.  You are the kind of person who would ask that question.
  5. Employers Google you.  Potential dating partners Google you. Your mom Googles you. Lawyers in legal cases you may be involved in Google you.  I just Googled you.  Use common sense about what information you make public and make sure you clearly understand the privacy settings of the services you use.
  6. That said, I don’t think you have to be a completely sterile, Stepford-version of yourself online.  If you aren’t going to be authentic about your personality and opinions, why even bother?
  7. Some of your family members get that you are a grown-up person who is separate from them, and they are interested in interacting with the person you are now.  Go ahead and “friend” if you want to.
  8. Some of your family members are way too invested in your business and giving them access to you online will be a never-ending headache and source of drama and intrusion because they called your mom to tell her about the time you said “fuck” on the Internet. These people, blood relatives though they be, can’t hang. “Unfriend” at will.
  9. I’m trying to figure out how to explain this one to the old folks.  People, especially young people, use social media to interact with many different audiences.  It’s weird to think of a conversation that’s happening in such a public space that you can eavesdrop on as being not your business, but not everything you read on Facebook or Twitter, even public posts, are your business.  If you don’t get the joke, assume it’s not directed at you.  If you see questionable behavior or things you don’t approve of, and the person involved is a free adult and not a minor under your control, you’ll be happier if you just assume it’s not your business.
  10. Facebook is not the right medium for deeply emotional interactions. Keep it light, and when it’s not light, pick up the phone.
  11. If you’re posting photos of your friends, cull the unflattering ones!  It’s just considerate.
  12. If Facebook is causing you constant anxiety and unhappiness, log the fuck off and find other ways of interacting with people.  If you are constantly monitoring who has “friended” and “unfriended” you and keeping score and worrying about this, you are doing it wrong. If it’s not fun for you, don’t use it.

Anything to add?  Questions?  Thoughts?  Tales of terrible Facebook drama that bleeds over into real life? (Confidential to D.:  The code word is “Mango.”)  I tend to have a thicker skin about this stuff, so I’m especially interested in hearing alternate viewpoints from the Highly Sensitive People among us.

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About JenniferP

Chicago filmmaker, teacher, and blogger.

6 comments on “The Book of the Face

  1. I prefer to go the ignore/filter route. I ignore annoying or boring people, then if they’re drama-causers, I filter them out of seeing all/most of my status updates. This way, I don’t have to deal with the drama of my mother-in-law, who does not understand Facebook, or my cousin, who is hopelessly boring and needy, having meltdowns about my defriending them. When there’s just no point to being more direct (ie, defriending), why start the drama?

    • Good call – I should have expanded under the “know your privacy settings and use them.” Hiding is a good solution when it’s too late – you don’t want to “unfriend” but you don’t want to interact that much, but I’m always going to make the argument that you’re under no obligation to accept the request of people you don’t really & genuinely want that interaction with in the first place.

  2. 11. I wish I could convince my one friend to adopt MY version of “flattering” instead of his more-lenient version of “flattering” when it comes to photos.

  3. Random notes from a 52-yo who only very reluctantly joined FB to help out a friend who needed major surgery:

    (1) I have a policy of accepting friend requests only from people that I’ve met in real life; the only exception I have is if I’ve had good and respectful interactions with another person in less chatty online spaces, such as blogs. Since my social circle is quite small, I’ve not friended many people.

    (2) Similarly, I don’t permit “friends of friends” to see my wall or any details of my profile.

    (3) If there’s suddenly “radio silence” from someone that I was previously interacting with, I definitely DO NOT push it. They probably have their reasons; it could be that I said something hurtful and they just don’t want to deal with me anymore, or they might just be in a place in their lives where they need to cut back on their online interactions.

    Sometimes I sit and stew about it, which is all the more reason for me to follow a very firm “don’t push it” rule for myself. Basically, if a person defriends you or otherwise stops contact, pushing it is rude and continuing to push it after receiving “hey, back off!” signals borders on stalking.

    (4) I don’t fully “get” social media. I use it, but it’s not a part of my being like it is for people who grew up with it. Hence, I’m very cautious and limited in how I use it (for example, I’ve not linked my Twitter feed to my FB page).

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