My friend Dave made a status update on Facebook that said, "Sorry if I deleted you. If I don't talk to you, then what's the point?" It's not an uncommon type of status update to make. I've seen ones like this before, the message being, "If you read this, you're in," leaving the reader with a warm, fuzzy feeling of inclusion, like you should be honoured the Status Updater has chosen you to continue being a part of their digital life.
I made a comment on Dave's status update that said, "Glad to have made the cut!" It was tongue and cheek, made to parlay that I made his cut and that we both made the cut for the soccer team. I thought it was brilliant. He has an arts degree. I assumed he would get it.
A few weeks later at practice my comment to his status update came up; he said he deleted me after reading it. The fact he deleted me after I commented on his "great cull" made it feel like I was a surface he'd missed while cleaning the kitchen. "Oops, missed a spot!"
What concerns me is how one is supposed to act around people who are supposedly a real-time friend but have chosen to no longer be a friend online. Do you strike up a conversation with them and pretend nothing has happened, ignoring the undercurrent vibe? In the old days, if you didn't like someone you avoided them, or made it clear to their face with words or violence.
In order to come to an understanding of Facebook Friend Erasure I've consulted the etiquette guru of the twentieth century, Emily Post, and her book "Etiquette." I've decided to focus on the section entitled Dissolving a Relationship. From it I've provided a selection of comments from the subsection called Divorce.
1. "The divorced couple's friends, and if possible their families, should extend their sympathetic support- never criticism or censure- but at the same time respect their privacy and avoid prying or questioning the reasons for or the mechanics of the divorce, unless their advice is asked for."
I became aware of my Facebook divorce after it had been finalized, not through discussion at the time of crisis. So I was unable to receive sympathy and support from my family and (remaining) friends. These are important steps in dealing with loss: the ability to seek advice, for someone to tell you "everything is going to be alright." To not be afforded this opportunity has been detrimental to my recovery and it is a failure on the part of Dave to withhold reasoning or a sense of closure.
2. "The dissolving of the relationship requires sensitivity and consideration."
Dave was cold and brash in manner, his actions, when mentioned to my father, were described as the actions of a "Shit punk asshole with no testicles."
3. "When the couple separates, it is never publicly announced, although the news generally spreads quickly."
The soccer team was informed of the split when Dave inadvertently hit "reply all" to an email I sent regarding who had the balls and cones. Some players sided with me, others with Dave. Moral was subsequently damaged and we lost the first four games of the season. All this was compounded by the fact Dave wears my spare jersey. Now it's a custody battle, the both of us sporting the number twenty-two. The on-field confusion it creates is crippling to the future of Fernwood United.
4. "Even when a couple no longer care about one another, cannot find anything to agree about, or have no interests in common, they may still want to preserve their marriage. They may and should look for outside help. It is no admission or failure to seek the help of a marriage counselor, an experienced therapist, or a clergyman."
The manager of the soccer team is a spiritual life coach by trade. He invited Dave and I over for an "awakening." Nothing was resolved and we left clutching pamphlets for an upcoming New Age gathering in Hawaii. You'd think we'd have found some common ground in the hilarity, but that wasn't the case. If anything, it's created a further divide as Dave thought the retreat was worth checking out.
5. "Letting people know: tell those to whom it makes a difference. But a divorce is a failure and there is little reason to be proud of a failure."
I'm fine with acknowledging that divorce is a failure. I'm actually divorced from a real person I was legally married to. But that's another issue and was dealt with by two civilized people who'd decided they didn't like each other anymore. Because we followed the rules of etiquette as described by Emily Post, we've been able to tolerate each other as Facebook friends.
Dave's inability to engage me in dialogue regarding any potential relationship traumas were indications of his complete disregard for human life, what Emily Post would consider a deficiency in "the science of living."
So how should one deal with an unwanted Facebook relationship? While it might be extreme to seek the help of a marriage counselor, experienced therapist, or clergyman, I recommend a Mediator. The one that comes to mind is Vince Ready. He's worked with such institutions as Numerous School Boards, Certain Organizations, The Occasional Union, and Multiple Levels of Government. He is top-rate, in both skill-set and fee, and a consultation with him might be the logical road to go down.
If no reconciliation or compromise can be found from mediation, or you are unwilling to put forth such an expense, then the option of Deleting Your Facebook Account could be of use to you. We live in over-sensitive times. People's feelings are hurt far too easily. That whole thing over in Egypt started because of Facebook. So why contribute to the problem by removing friends when you can take the highroad and remove yourself?
Deleting Your Facebook Account could solve any foreseeable problems. Personal relationships on "real-world" terms could ensue without any awkwardness, defaulting to such time-tested and effective methods of avoidance as the in-passing, "Hey, how you doing?" and "I'm just leaving, good to see you!" or the simple raise of a glass from across the room to acknowledge someone's presence, which may or may not translate into "we may or may not have a brief conversation later."
These days little consideration is given to being a gracious, considerate individual. It is doubtful our generation has read Emily Post, or plans to, and the likelihood that any of this will be applied to dissolving a Facebook relationship is minute. In that case, a quote from one of Emily Post's contemporaries might just do the trick. It's by Judith Martin, from her book "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour," the section entitled A Rule of Thumb:
Dear Miss Manners,
Do you have any guidelines that will help me to feel correct in all situations?
Yes, two, both of which were given to Miss Manners by her Uncle Henry when she was a mere slip of a girl. They have served her well in all vicissitudes of life ever since. They are:
2. Be sure not to forget to.