Today's the 10th anniversary of Facebook's bloody, screaming birth, and as such, it's a time of solemn reflection on the behemoth social network and how it's chanced how we live, and how we socialize. Specifically, it's time to talk about how to dance through the virtual land mine field of girl-on-girl unfriendings.
Mass unfriendings are to Facebook what dental cleanings are to your poor inflamed gums: easy to put off because it's an unpleasant pain in the ass that's somewhere , but you always feel better afterward (or, in the case of my teeth, ice cream hurts afterward. This isn't a strict one-to-one analogy). They're a little risky because they're impossible to pull off without knowing that the person you unfriend knows you unfriended them — any of your connections could be utilizing one of those self esteem-destroying programs that notifies users who unfriends them. And they're especially risky because, according to new research from Pew, women and men tend to use Facebook differently. Women are much more likely than men to say they use it to see photos and videos, socialize with many people at once, and receive support from their friends. That's why a girl-girl unfriending can especially sting — regardless of the unfriender's intention, it just feels more personal.
It's also often not worth the hurt feelings it could cause. Facebook allows users to block people from appearing on their timeline or prevent them from commenting on posts, seeing photos or life details, and interacting in any way, shape, or form. In many cases, you can save yourself from a whole big shitstorm of awkwardness if you just block. It's passive aggressive, but it's win-win: you are free from their prying eyes and Tea Party macros, they don't know that you're not paying attention to their incoherent e-shouting.
Then again, sometimes you've ran out of fucks to give about other people's feelings and just want to clean house. With a blowtorch. So, without further ado, here are the women you need to unfriend, yesterday.
Your bitter ex's family and female friends
After an acrimonious breakup, there are very few compelling reasons to continue to receive updates from your ex's Republican mom, or smug married sister, or overgrown toddler of a snotty teen niece. Unfriend the cousins, the aunts. Unfriend the ex's mom's friend who was at Thanksgiving.
And especially, especially unfriend his female friends who haven't been integrated into your group of friends. They are not on your team. They are his friends. They're going to be there for him in the way he needs for them to be, which may involve screen grabs of any sad-sounding Facebook messages, spy reports on your post-breakup weight gain, and possibly provide information on any new men (or women) who enter your romantic life. Making your life inaccessible to a person who made you very angry can feel empowering. Just make sure none of these unfriendings occur with people with whom you have a positive relationship independent of your relationship with your ex.
There, doesn't that feel better? Let's keep going.
Women you met at a party or bar once, like five years ago, and haven't seen since
People you bonded with over a bathroom sink or in a bathroom stall won't care. And you never really did.
A good rule of thumb for unfriending single serving party girl friends is: if you saw them on a train, would you say hello? Would they recognize you? Do they know anything besides the fact that you are their Friend who once gave them a bump of cocaine off a key in a club with a name that's a double entendre?
Women who may be dudes who just friend strange women on Facebook because they're weirdos.
Because I work on the web, I sometimes receive friend requests from people I've only interacted with virtually. And that's fine. But over the years, I've become pretty wary about accepting requests from people with whom I have very few friends in common, or from men, unless I've met them personally. (Sorry, dudes. It's just that I'm statistically much more likely to be physically harmed by one of you than I am to be harmed by another woman.)
But every once in awhile, I'll notice that a woman who ostensibly knows me from the web will have a fishy history or web presence. Unfriend. She might be a real person, or she may be a person who is mad at me for writing something they didn't like one time and have already forgotten about and is oddly fixated on hatefollowing. Not worth the risk.
How does this apply to people who don't have the weirdest job in the world? Unfriend anyone who misrepresents who they are. It's easy enough.
Toxic female friends
Someone who makes you feel bad about yourself all the time doesn't warrant your virtual consideration of their feelings, especially if they're a person from your past who you never see, anyway. And double especially if they're someone to whom you want to send a message.
Your old boss who is terrible
Once you've moved on, professionally, there's no reason to keep your awful boss up to speed on what you're doing, who you're being photographed with, and where you're eating dinner on Thursday or whatever. Unfollow. It's like your chance to fire her, but on the internet.
DOESN'T THIS FEEL GREAT?
While it may be tempting to just unfriend everyone and start at Facebook Moment Zero, there are people who make Facebook a hive of rueful schadenfreude. For example, never unfriend the woman whose status updates are so unfunny and bad that they come back around to funny and awesome again. Don't unfriend anyone who is truly, amusingly ridiculous, even if you hate them a little. Don't unfriend Sarah Palin (she's not-on-purpose hilarious). Don't unfriend your childhood friends. Don't unfriend someone just because they're happy they had a baby and like posting pictures of it (just block, dude). And don't unfriend a woman without unfriending her boyfriend or partner. That's shady enough to garner a collateral unfriending from him.
Image by Sam Woolley.