Growing up, we were taught, at the very least, the most basic social etiquette wait for everyone to be served dinner before you begin eating; when you receive a gift, write a thank-you note within 30 days; Arrive on time and don’t overstay your welcome; no picking your nose and hold the door open for others. But we now live in the year 2013 and judging from many of my friend’s children, good manners, like the fine art of letter writing, are a thing of the past. Now we have to learn an entirely different type of etiquette – Social Media etiquette, and those waters are murky at best. Do we have to accept the friend request from our grandmother’s best friend? How do I tell someone to stop asking me to join them in Bubble Bunny & Bingo Rider (and is it just me, or do those sound like stripper names?) And what about the person who spends all day posting every detail of his/her life along with every argument they have ever had with their spouse? And then there is ‘unfriending’. Personally, I think it’s better to just ‘unfollow’ someone than to ‘unfriend’ them. I have a handful of Facebook friends who spew nothing but their religious and political beliefs 24/7 and occasionally, I do like to read their point of view. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as it is an informed opinion. Sadly, that is rarely the case these days. But to ‘unfriend’ them just because our views sometimes differ seems rather harsh, so I simply set up my Facebook page in a way that their rants, political or otherwise, do not show up on my timeline. I am now free from their ill-researched views and they are none the wiser.
I’m not sure the term ‘unfriend’ was around before February 4, 2004. That was the day Facebook was launched and with it would follow social media mayhem. Thanks to Mr. Zuckerberg, we now have friend requests, the ability to see 285 photos of our third cousins step daughter’s baby’s first tooth and we can play ridiculous games such as Diamond Dash & Farmville. Oh, and let’s not forget the thousands of unattractive ‘fish face’ photos teenage girls post of themselves daily. It does beg the question, somewhere in the deep blue sea, are there fish making ‘human faces’?
But I digress. Unfriending someone on Facebook can be a rather sensitive matter. Not only can it lead to hurt feelings, it can spill over into your ‘real-world’ relationships should the “Unfriender” live in close proximity to the ‘Unfriended’. Let’s take this a step further – what if the “Unfriender” is related to the “Unfriended”. And just for shits and giggles, let’s assume that those two are mother and daughter? Ooooh, now we are entering the stuff that Lifetime movies are made of….
Suppose for a moment that this mother and daughter had an emotional discussion one morning. The daughter was feeling sad and alone and expressed to her mom how much she missed the way she used to be, before she began ignoring her family, now spending all her time with her iPad – addicted to the ridiculous games on Facebook and ‘liking’ just about everything that her Facebook friends posted. She no longer participated in family discussions or even took time to call her daughter. She had even been caught running to her iPad upon returning home one day to give her Facebook friends ‘lives’ so they could continue playing “Diamond Dash’ – that came first now. Members of the family wondered if they would ever catch a glimpse of the woman she used to be, before the trappings of all things Facebook now consumed her waking moments. When the daughter returned home, she was so disgusted with Facebook and the effect it was having on her mom, that she deactivated her account, she wanted nothing to do with any social media site ever again.
The next day, the daughter went about her morning routine but her thoughts kept drifting to her mom. She found a cute photo that she wanted to share with her mom and thought this might be the olive branch that they both needed. Immediately, the daughter reactivated her Facebook account and logged in. However, when she tried to go to her mom’s Facebook page, her heart sunk. Her mom had ‘unfriended’ her. “This had to be a mistake”, she thought to herself. How could she ‘unfriend’ the person that spent countless hours teaching her how to use her iPad, how to maneuver her way around Facebook and even took her 6:00 a.m. phone call when she had to know the correct procedure for ‘tagging’ someone in a photo. She must have accidentally hit the wrong key. The daughter called her mom but there was no answer. By the day’s end, she knew that the ‘unfriending’ was not an accident.
What the mom didn’t know, despite her granddaughter trying to explain it to her numerous times, is that when a person deactivates their account, its as if they never had a Facebook account. None of their friends can ‘find’ them until the account is reactivated. This does not mean that the person went and ‘unfriended’ each of their friends. What I find extremely comical is that in response to her thinking that her daughter ‘unfriended’ her, the mom then went and ‘unfriended’ her. This is impossible to do. If I were to ‘unfriend’ my mom, then that’s it, we are no longer friends on Facebook. She does not then have the option to ‘unfriend’ me as well, as I’ve already terminated the friendship. It’s like having the last word in an argument, the person who ‘unfriends’ first is basically getting the last word. However, this was not the case, as all that was done was a deactivating of the account.
All of this is bordering on ludicrous. But it does show that our behavior, or lack there of, when dealing with social media, can affect our real life relationships – and not always in a positive light. Writing this tonight brought to memory something I said to my daughter when she was less than thrilled that I sent her a ‘friend request’ on Facebook a few years ago. I told her, “look kid, I carried you for nine very long months, the last three during the summer time. You broke my tailbone trying to get into this world, I cooked for you, spent hundreds of dollars on Barbie dolls that ended up naked in less than a week and stopped my car in rush hour traffic to search for your stuffed rabbit after you tossed her out the window, onto the highway – that you ‘friend’ me on Facebook is a pretty small thing to ask in return.”
Personally, I would like to go back to when blackberries and apples were just fruits and if we were lucky, homemade pies. We didn’t have Facebook, we had scrapbooks and we only shared them with family and close friends. And a tweet was the sweet little sound a bird made.