I have a friend. Let’s call her Jane.
She had a minor falling out with another friend. Let’s call him Dick.
Dick and Jane don’t see too much of each other these days. They are polite, but a little uncomfortable when they bump into one another, even though they share many interests, and have many friends in common.
Both Dick and Jane have Facebook accounts, and they have an even wider connection of friends and contacts there.
One day, Jane realized she hadn’t heard or seen much of Dick online or offline. She popped onto his Facebook feed to see what was up and discovered they were no longer ‘friends’.
See Jane flinch.
Dick and Jane’s story highlights a challenge of relationships in our social media age. You see, Jane’s feelings were hurt. Assuming she is relatively inoffensive, posting mainly about her family life, vacation pictures, and the ordinary happy/sad that is typically found on personal feeds, there is no real reason for Dick to unfriend her.
Unfriending is, well, unfriendly.
Generally, if you don’t want to see someone’s posts, you can simply unfollow them.
If a Facebook friend is not abusive, hostile, vulgar, toxic, spammy or otherwise obnoxious, unfriending can be interpreted as not only unfriendly, but also plain childish or mean.
It might sound like the politics of the schoolyard, but I think there is more to it.
Social media is, after all, social.
Just like at a party, if you don’t like the conversation you’re having, you can wander away and find another more convivial circle. Unless a party guest’s behavior gets truly out of hand, nobody gets tossed from the party.
Maple Ridge’s Cadi Jordan, a leading social media specialist, recommends using Facebook lists as a way to sort and manage newsfeeds.
“I started lists way back near the beginning so I have people segmented off,” Jordan said. “They can be ‘connected’ but not necessarily see ‘everything’ I like, share or post.”
There is excellent wisdom here.
I have several lists. In addition to the default Facebook settings, I have a ‘Close Friends’ list. What I post there is only seen by a small handful of intimate connections.
My ‘Trusted Colleagues and Advisors’ list is similarly circumspect. I have a ‘Community Politics’ list (that one is fun), and a ‘Family Only’ list.
So what’s up with Dick? Like many people, Dick, has forgotten that while the Internet is virtual, the relationships are real. Dick might also be a bit of a coward, avoiding Jane, rather than dealing with what might be a difficult face-to-face conversation.
See Dick hide.
In relationship work, we call difficult conversations ‘sitting in the fire’, because things can get hot and it can be damned uncomfortable.
Real relationship requires us to be uncomfortable sometimes, to risk vulnerability and to show up and tell the truth.
Dick and Jane need to talk to each other.
I fear that is a fast disappearing skill in an age when we can simply click a link to send a message.
Unfriending is uncool.
Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at vickimcleod.com.