I Unfriended You

Here’s Why.

“I unfriended her,” says the young-ish woman with purple-flecked dreadlocks. Her voice is hushed in the tones of life’s big reveals.

“Wow,” says her bearded friend. “That’s massive.”

The woman nods. “Yes, it is. It is so sad and so fucking massive.”

The guy with the beard exhales, breath and tension released in a slow stream.

“Wow,” he says again. “There’s such a finality to it, ya know?”

“Yes. There is,” the woman agrees. “It’s an ending. Almost a death.”

This conversation is taking place over lunch in a restaurant in town. The dining tables are placed in close proximity and although I’m not a part of this conversation per se, I am well within auditory striking range. I hear their words and their sighs.

I feel the heaviness of loss.

I am reminded of that Woody Allen film Another Woman, where Gena Rowlands accidentally overhears Mia Farrow’s private psychotherapy sessions, the latter’s secrets traveling through their offices’ shared heating vents.

I relate.

I, too, recently unfriended someone. Someone I once considered one of my closest friends, in fact. We’ve grown apart. My perspective? I’ve been relegated to second or maybe third tier. I’m not a mommy. I live with my dog and I am not in a relationship. It probably feels to her that we have nothing in common. Maybe she pities my choices, I don’t know. She is a good person; she has been careless with our friendship.

I did the unfriending without fanfare. No big chewing out, no long, detailed email with a forensic review of who did what and how that made me feel. No, it was an act performed without heat, though not without sadness. I clicked the Facebook Unfriend button and let it and her — the friendship and the friend — go. And that was it.

Will my friend ever discover that we are no longer connected? I dunno. And that’s a condition of the unfriending decision: it is a one-sided action. If you’re hoping to provoke, unfriending will only serve to make you feel more pissed off than you do now.

Unfriending is the digital RSVP to the future of the friendship: sorry, can’t make it.

I have three things to say about why we unfriend.

  1. We unfriend because we are able to admit to ourselves that we not getting what we need and we never will. Unfriending is not about anger. It’s about nostalgia. We remember what used to be. Or what we used to believe was possible. We use the past tense for our friendship. No future plans.
  2. We unfriend because we have let go. We do not need to have another conversation that makes one of us seem needy and the other seem selfish.
  3. We unfriend because the relationship was important. We don’t waste time unfriending the former boyfriend of the former work colleague. Unfriending means we had skin in the game.

We live in an age of an unprecedented number of opportunities for connection and interaction. Social networks tie us to friends and friends of friends and people who share our passion for Jewish genealogy or our love of French bulldogs. And that’s wonderful. But all of these chances do not, in fact, make genuine connection easier to attain nor, critically, any less painful to sever.

The fallacy here is that in a time-pressed, busy, noisy, clutter-filled world, meaningful relationships can be re-engineered to take less energy and less commitment.

They can’t.

So, when we unfriend, we reject this downsized and diluted version of the relationship. We say, No, I’m sorry, a few likes on Facebook do not constitute genuine connection. I choose not to be an update on your news feed, thanks. Or, rather, I choose not to be solely an update on your news feed. That is not enough for me.

The radical act of unfriending someone who was once an important and integral part of my life has made me commit, yet again, to E.M. Forster’s “Only connect…”

And let go.

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