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.]