A recent Mashable article reported about the real-life consequences of being unfriended on Facebook. A related survey showed “the effects of being ostracized on social media, citing respondents who reported reduced self-esteem, feelings of not belonging and a loss of control after being unfriended. Respondents also say they had a worse mood after a social media breakup.” Of course Mashable has also posted numerous articles about how you can find out if you have been unfriended. I followed their instructions; I have not.
Real life is a different story. I was heading into Boston on the subway for a meeting this week; I would be close to the office of a dear friend. As I thought about the last time I spoke with her, it hit me that when we last spoke, she told me she would be in touch as soon as she got back from vacation. That was at least two years ago. And even that conversation came about only because I had tracked her down and called her at a new position. A sensation of cold spread over me as I knew that I had been dumped. It may seem like I am completely dense that I am only coming to this conclusion after years of no communication, and you may have a point. But I always thought, “that’s not it,” and made sort of “oh, no” noises in my head. “Oh, no, she’s so busy.” “Oh, no, she’s not on Facebook.” Oh. No.
I recognized the truth because I had the exact same feeling when, as I was walking towards a local supermarket entrance recently, I recognized an old friend–just as he turned away. I am certain he did, so as not to have to talk to me. I felt ashamed. Like I had done something wrong. And I was terribly, terribly wounded.
I have never understood the need to just lop people off as if they were a gangrenous limb, although I know it happens. I had an old boss who cut former friends out of her life with regularity, usually because they had ceased to be useful to her. I was one of them. There was the neighbor who, as my dear friend put it, “dropped me like a hot potato,” for reasons that I can only guess at, but I am sure are not legitimate.
None of this is to say that I cannot imagine why everyone in the world is not friends with me. Quite the contrary. I am loud, opinionated, and insecure–not the best combination, particularly when there are cocktails involved. But these were my real-life friends. Some closer than others. One closer than all, at least for a time. And I am hurt.