Facebook ‘Friend’ status is a funny thing. Because it’s so black and white – either you have friend status, or you don’t, it can’t accurately reflect the nuances of a relationship between two people.
For example, ‘I’m a little annoyed at Suzy, I think I’ll spend less time with her for while’ can’t be accurately captured by a simple Friends/Not-Friends on Facebook.
On the face of it, moving from Friends, to Not-Friends on Facebook (ie. Unfriending someone) – can be taken to mean ‘I don’t want to be [real life] friends with you at all’, or otherwise cause great offense.
I argue this response draws too much meaning from what’s a very limited interaction on social media.
But the fear of causing offense does exist, and I think it can prevent people from unfriending people they are otherwise sick of, for fear of permanently burning a bridge.
I think it’s good to take a break from people on social media, for one’s own mental health – and that shouldn’t cause great offense.
The rise of social media means that in our social interactions have more, very clear, data points, Friend status on Facebook, whether they like your posts on Instagram, how soon they reply to your messages, etc. We use these additional data points to assess the feelings people have for each other. Perhaps we can make the argument that social relationships are simply more complex and nuanced than they used to be, or if not more nuanced, then at least more explicitly nuanced.
Someone unfriending you does suggest that they’ve made a conscious decision to do so – so it is an insight into something they’re thinking – and perhaps it’s just one social signal we can use to calibrate our social interactions. An unfriend could be an as simple signal as ‘We haven’t talked in a while, so next time we do talk, we’ll have to make an effort if we want to be friends.’.
I would encourage unfriending – in line with my philosophy of quit-what’s-bothering-you – unfriending actually allows us to be a bit more communicative about our relationships, so long as an unfriend isn’t taken to mean ‘I don’t want to have anything do with you ever.’.