The Social Unfollowing

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When you were at primary school, you found out that someone didn’t like you when they told you – to your face – that you weren’t their ‘best friend any more’. At half ten break. It happened to me. I imagine I did it to people. It probably happened to you. And the thing is I don’t remember being bothered. In fact, I probably just walked away and made a new best friend. But today. Oh today is different. I think I’d be annoyed today.

Imagine your mate, who you’ve been friends with for years, coming up to you and saying they’ve decided they ‘don’t like you’ and won’t be seeing you anymore. It doesn’t seem likely does it? You’ve held their hair back when they were throwing up, their mum and dad are basically your second parents, you’ve endured the break ups and the get-back-togethers, the should-I-marry-him-though conversation, you’ve ugly cried in front of them, you wee together, and they’re one of the people you actually like spending time with. You like them so much that you’re honest with them. About everything. They’re not an acquaintance, they’re your friend. You’d be bothered if that happened. But it’s not going to happen. If they’re going to do it, they’ll do it on the quiet.

Today, ‘social media’ means that it’s even easier to get rid of your friend if you want to – or for them to get rid of you. You don’t have to do it face off style – and they might not even realise until a few days later. It’s not just them either, you can stealthily get rid of anyone; your next door neighbour; your colleague from three years ago that you only added to find out the office gossip; your cousin you never speak to; the list goes on. But you can do it a bit more sneakily. It’s like the 21st century version of – ‘you’re not my best friend any more, Katy is now. Bye’.  A few clicks and TA DAH, you never have to see what they had for tea; their baby; their night out photos; their holidays to Australia that have given you a stomach ulcer out of jealousy.

Myself, I love reading about all of the above – and more – but I also used to get immensely offended when I spotted my friend count diminish by one. What was I doing that annoyed people so much? Maybe it was that update about someone stealing my car aerial. WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME!!!!! That lead me to retaliate in the only way you really can online; deleting people on a whim. I soon regretted it though, cos they were the exciting ones and my feed ended up being dead quiet.

In short, I was being a child but then I got a grip. I started to enjoy Facebook for what it was – what it is. And there are some bloomin’ funny people out there. Intentionally and unintentionally. I love you all. Over time, most of the people I got rid of re-added me, I re-added them – again I got a grip.

Ah those were the days. When all you had to deal with was Facebook and maybe even My Space (cringe), but now there are a whole new breed of social networks which offer a whole manner of things and ways to keep up to date with your friends’ goings on. There’s one for everyone! Want to read about news as it breaks or slag off a company and actually get a reply? Twitter. Want to see relationship breakdowns as they happen or funny cat videos? Facebook. Need to find out who you’re working with before you start a new job? Linked In. Want to see the one good photo that someone took from their holiday or a nice photo of a burger? Instagram. Fancy seeing where all your friends work and when they go on their dinner? Find Friends. Want people to screenshot your photos and send them to their friends? Tinder. Want to be on your own on a social network with no one else? Google Plus. Nah, just kidding, there are a couple of people on there I suppose. Otherwise, who are the people that keep inviting me to it and going on about circles.

The thing I’m trying to say is, everything about everyone is online now. You can have friends that live hundreds of miles away, and still feel like you’re up to date with what they’re up to. It’s easy, it’s almost lazy, but you get used to it. Every morning there’s the same routine – check Twitter, check Instagram, check Facebook, check Find Friends – so much so that when you get cut off from all these links to someone and their life, you notice. It somehow feels more personal than just getting booted off their Facebook. It’s like they’re saying – erm, no, you can’t see any aspect of my life anymore. That’s it. There’s no face to face discussion, it’s all over with a few clicks. Or is it?

It is, unless you’ve forgotten about real life. Unless you’re living on the other side of the world from someone who’s deleted you – or someone you’ve deleted – you’re going to bump into each other. The one person you don’t want to see is going to be right where you are at some point – it’s just going to happen. Christmas is usually the time for this, when everyone migrates back home again and the pub on Christmas Eve is like a massive, unofficial Class of 2003 reunion. And then what happens when you see them? Do you take the proverbial high road or bear that grudge like a badge of honour forever?

My advice is simple. Give them a smile and a wave – and not a sarcastic one – whether you got deleted or you deleted them. Social media isn’t real life. Try to forget about it. They could be dreading seeing you, or could have been having a particularly hard day when they got rid of you and now regret that decision. People make mistakes. I’m not saying go up to them as if nothing happened and ask how they are, just smile from afar. And definitely don’t storm up to them and demand to know what their problem is. And if you can’t get on board with that yet, and just think they’re a massive cow, a smile and a wave is still my advice. That will bother them more. And if you don’t get a smile back? You can always delete them right back… that’ll show ‘em.

XOXO

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