To Unfriend or not to Unfriend?


Photo by Max B.

I took the leap and unfriended someone on Facebook this week.  That has gotten me to thinking about what it means to use Facebook responsibly, and here I’m not just applying this to my former Facebook friend.  I’m applying it to myself as well.  Was I wrong to unfriend him?  Was he wrong to email me and insult me for having done so?  Here are some guidelines that seem appropriate to me.

1. It’s easier not to friend someone than to unfriend them later.  Be careful about who you allow to be your friend.

2. Once you have accepted someone as a friend, you are free to unfriend them just like you are free to stop being friends with your real friends.  But just like in real life, there may be a consequence when you unfriend someone on Facebook.  Remember rule #1.

3. You are responsible for your Facebook page.  It belongs to you.  You do not have to deal with people who bother, harass, or constantly prod you.  You do not even have to deal with people you simply wish to not deal with.

4. Before you unfriend someone, decide what you want.  You could keep them as a friend and delete their posts.  You could tolerate their posts and not respond.  You can continue being drawn into discussions with them.  Or you can unfriend them.

5. Show some grace.  If you unfriend a person, your goal is probably to sever the relationship entirely (though sometimes it may simply be an issue of setting appropriate boundaries).  You don’t owe them an explanation, but if they contact you and protest, show some grace if you choose to respond.  If you were in their shoes, you might have a difficult time too.

6. Basic manners still apply.  Most people talk not to “win,” but simply in order to relate – to share themselves with the world.  If you are a person who feels the need to debate and challenge a lot, find a group of friends who enjoy doing this with you, but do not expect everyone to enjoy that, especially people on Facebook who don’t know you.

7. If you get unfriended, let it go.  Unless the person who did it was a very close friend in real life, what have you lost?  I was unfriended once by someone.  To be honest, it bothered me.  It doesn’t feel good.  But I didn’t know her well and let it go.  In less than an hour I was over it.

Any other  rules you’d suggest?  Some I’ve put here that you would delete or modify?  Have you had any negative experiences with friends on Facebook?

Here’s a good post on circumstances where you might choose to unfriend someone.

[Michael Hyatt has written what I think is an outstanding Comments Policy, some of which could apply to a Facebook page.  Since he has given permission to copy it, I will probably adopt it myself on this blog.]

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

16 thoughts on “To Unfriend or not to Unfriend?

  1. A couple of days ago, I realized that someone who I truly have not been engaged with in a real conversation in YEARS, unfriended me. It made me giggle… The dude did what he wanted, and you have to respect that.

    Something I’m not fathoming though is that someone who has been removed would respond by sending a nasty gram about the person’s decision to remove them? To me, that kind of resounds with “well done” about their decision to remove that person.

    I agree though about how helpful it is to utilize tools in there to hide people’s blah blah blah, in an effort to avoid hurting their feelings. Truly, I didn’t need to know their emotional timbre or overall state of mind while they were in the drive through at Mc Donald’s, but thanks…


  2. Would love some feedback on my situation. I’m a Christian, and last summer one of my fb “friends” who I’ve been in church with for several yrs unfriended me. We also had in common, her husband and I were patients at the same cancer hospital. As I improved, my husband and I visited them there twice. After a long struggle, her husband died. It hurt me that she unfriended me. I tried to think of anything I did or said that could have upset her, and come up with either I forgot to send a written thanks for a gift they sent me when I was sick (I verbally thanked them profusely)or that maybe in some way she doesn’t want to associate with me b/c I still go to this hospital for checkups, still have the cancer. Maybe she doesn’t want the reminder of cancer after losing her husband to it.. I did ask her by message if we could talk, so I could make things right if I upset her in some way. Her response, “Maybe after school starts.” That was 6 mos. ago, and when she sees me she looks away.Thanks for any ideas.

    • That is maddening isn’t it? I’m sorry to hear of this hurtful situation. It’s hard to accept the fact that ultimately all we can do is ask people to care about us and be in our lives and sometimes they may choose not to for reasons we will never know. Sounds like you have made it clear to this person that you’d like to talk. The only thing I’d suggest is that, since she said, “Maybe after school” you could follow up with her. Sounds like you’re waiting for her to follow up, but seems she at least opened the door, so I’d follow up and then, if no response, leave it at that. And mourn for what you have lost. Peace to you and thanks for reading.

  3. Recently I was “unfriended” by my son-in-law’s mother, brother, and the brother’s fiance (apparently his sister has yet to get the memo because she’s still on my list). I’m not really sure why this happened, and I’d just as soon keep things as cordial in real life as possible. The question I cannot get the answer to anywhere I looked is this. Now that they have unfriended me can they add me back onto their list without asking me to be their friend again? In other words is the power all in the hands of the person who decides to unfriend or block or does the person who gets unfriended have to be asked to get included back in a friend list again?

    I had been sorely tempted for various reasons to unfriend two of these people months ago because I got sick of seeing negative comments on my FB feed. However, I didn’t do so because I felt it would be a really hostile action on my part. Consequently, all I did was put them in the hide feed category. Now that they’ve chosen to take themselves off the list I’d sort of prefer that they stay off. So do I have to agree to give them access again, or can they just decide to take it?

    • Hi, thanks for reading . Now that they are off your friend list, they cannot get you back on theirs, or get onto yours, without sending you another friend invitation. You have nothing to worry about and can put that toxic mess behind you.

  4. I recently joined FB in order to access some documents written by someone to whom I was introduced. Since that time I have received a few “let’s be friends” requests from persons I don’t know, knew/worked with in the past, relatives I might/not have seen in the past few years. I tend to not refuse a request from someone I know unless it’s been 10-20-30 years since I last heard from them. An exception is relatives. Sadly, it’s one of my haven’t-seen-you-in-a-lifetime relatives that is keeping me upto-date on the video-games he plays. Who cares.

  5. I have only “unfriended” a handful of people, and most were “friends” that I didn’t know personally, but instead were friends of friends or something of that nature.

    One guy was totally obnoxious about a sports rivalry, and felt that he could post rambling 5-6 paragraph statements about how much my team sucked, blah blah blah. I’m up for some back and forth bantering (as a guy who moved from Michigan to Ohio, I have had my share of lively debates!), but I no one has the right to hijack my FB wall.

    Also, I ocassionally review my list of friends. If there are people who haven’t posted in 6 months or people that I’ve friended but have never communicated with, I sometimes quietly unfriend them.

    I know I’ve been unfriended a few times, most recently because of my unflattering comments on Michael Jackson following his passing(that I posted as a status update and not on her wall). I had no problem with that; I think we should all have a minimal level of skin thickness, and if a person wants to defriend another over opinions on current events or pop culture happenings, let the defriendings commence!

  6. I have found an alternative to unfriending is to just block that person from my newsfeed so that I don’t see their updates, therefore limiting my opportunities to become irritated with what they have to say.

    Additionally, in your privacy settings you can limit what they can see on your wall, which in turn limits how much they can comment. Essentially you can maintain some sense of connectedness for their sake by allowing them to still see what others post on your wall, and perhaps some photographs, without having to seem downright unfriendly.

    There certainly are some circumstances in which unfriending is warranted, and I surely have not been above doing so myself a few times, but these are some other courses of action that have worked well for me when unfriending seemed too harsh.

    • More good alternatives, thank you! I think, though, that about 90% of Facebook users have no idea how to hide feeds or deal much with security settings. Not saying they shouldn’t, just that they don’t. In fact, people SHOULD take time to learn this stuff.

      Great post with some good ideas.

  7. I struggled with this too. I had an ex-classmate of mine posting things about politicians being terrorists or Muslims over and over again. I kept thinking, maybe my posts can be a positive thing for them. Maybe I need to tough it out for their benefit. That line of thinking didn’t last long. The resulting, often daily anger wasn’t worth it.

    If we have to love our neighbors as ourselves, I don’t think we’d be allowed to un-neighbor them.

    • I’m not so sure. I think where I was trying to go was that our Facebook neighbors/friends are neither neighbors nor friends. We don’t make a commitment to them of any kind.

      Glad to hear about the struggles of other people. BTW, what happened when you unfriended this person?

      • About six months later, she tried to “re-join” my list. I ignored the request. Perhaps sending an explanation would get some healing conversation going OR seal the deal between both parties.

        Today, Monday, reading some of the really cold posts about Haiti, I’m thinking about unfriending some more people. People are acting like “Haiti was so two weeks ago and they need to get over the whole friends and family dying thing.” To be blunt, that pisses me off.

        • I agree Brian. People use political arguments to hide their coldness over what has happened in Haiti, but it’s a pretty thin cover for what is obviously a total lack of compassion and basic decency.

          — Sent from my iPod touch

  8. Couldn’t they have come up with a different name for our Facebook “friends”. I mean, I think it can create a false sense of what your relationship with a person really is. I often follow people who I think have interesting things to say or friends of friends who I have never met.

    I remember unfriending a person back in my old LiveJournal days because I was constantly being forced to read posts that were filled with filth and smut. I decided I didn’t need to see that stuff all of the time and took the plunge. I got an e-mail from this person, who was also extremely offended, questioning our friendship. I think she missed the point that we weren’t really friends in the first place but felt more connected because we had both chosen to make our lives more public on the good ol’ inter-web.

    So anyway, I think your list is pretty solid. I’d maybe add a disclaimer that said something like “just because we are friends on facebook doesn’t mean we are really friends”. If we acted with our posts with that in mind, maybe we’d see social media as an opportunity to build relationships not just as permission to be obnoxious without leaving the house.

    Acquaintance? Enigma? Neighbor? I like that, Facebook Neighbor. When we love our neighbors as ourselves it’s probably easier to make friends than it is to make unfriends!

    • Great thoughts, Jason. I totally agree on not calling friends friends! Facebook Neighbors. I like that. We are in proximity to our neighbors, but know them to greater and lesser extents. I do not assume that just because I live next door to someone I have the right to use his swimming pool. Appropriate boundaries are in place. That’s what needs to happen on Facebook. Thanks for writing in.

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