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Facebook: The Politics of Defriending

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FACEBOOK
Alamy

"I'm going to have a massive friend purge on Facebook once I have graduated," said my friend, trying her best to hide the cathartic rage flickering in her eyes, previously only seen in Tarantino films before someone fires a couple of hundred rounds into their sworn enemy.

As I near the end of my undergraduate degree, I have 515 friends on Facebook, but I feel like I only have a handful of real friends. Almost everyone left in my social group has experienced the friendship that we thought would last a lifetime fizzling out, or being left for the fairer shores of better social circles. I won't go into the suspected reasons for my abandonment in detail here, but it is probably because I am a coarse, cackling hag, whose only social aspiration is to become a respected sloth wrangler with an unlimited supply of gin, but I digress. What I want to say is that although I sympathise with my vengeful comrade, I do think there is an etiquette that accompanies the Facebook friendship.

Very rarely have I actually deleted a contact on the website. I did go through a phase of defriending people who I had not spoken to in years, but I was overcome by paralysing guilt, fretting about how hurt the poor souls might feel if they ever realised what I had done.

The other reason that I do not delete people is a selfish act of survival. What if I walk into an interview in five years' time (at the sloth sanctuary, of course), and sitting opposite me is someone with a petty grudge against me, yet to get over the fact I axed them from my Facebook during university? Keeping online relations congenial seems to be the best option in the long term.

Congeniality brings me to my next point. At a recent party, someone who had deleted me from their friend list submitted to the very British desire to be polite and engaged me in a ten minute conversation about how I was doing, what my plans were for next year, etcetera. Pleasantries were flying like Tarantino bullets, even though my acquaintance was probably dying of boredom inside almost as much as I was.

Facebook may orchestrate our lives but it simultaneously fails to have any real impact on the everyday social conventions that we feel compelled to perform, other than adding yet another layer of awkwardness to young adult life. Perhaps we should remember that before we give into the temptation to cull our erstwhile friends from our digital lives.

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