The Act of “Defriending”

by Kelly Ann

Facebook has revolutionized “friendship”.  I have 640 “friends” plus or minus a few.  When I see the number decrease, I don’t usually know off hand who has “defriended” me.  Sometimes it only becomes apparent when Facebook suggests I add them as a friend in the “Friend Finder.”

I realize different people have different guidelines they use in their Facebook or other online interactions.  I am pretty liberal in that I am connected to people from elementary school, high school, college, wards, my mission, various online groups like the Exponent, a couple clubs, work, past and current roommates, family, and actual friends.  I am selective in that I can tell you something specific about each individual.  I like the ability to reconnect regularly or just have the option of getting in touch if someone is in town.

I have never “defriended” anyone.  I will admit that I filter my news feed to include only updates of people that I would like to follow.  However, I have very few filters set on my own profile as I am generally careful in what I post (whether my boss or an ex might read it).  I generally try to be friendly with everyone in general and this is reflected in my online etiquette.  I find the idea of terminating a connection without telling a given person directly odd.

As mentioned above, I have been defriended.  It is usually by someone who I haven’t seen in years and suspect is tightening their facebook standards and I don’t really think about it.  However, I was recently defriended by a particular individual twice.  The roommate of my ex-boyfriend defriended me when we broke up, refriended me when we got back together, and then defriended me when we definitely stopped dating (even though I remained friends on Facebook and real life with my ex and saw both him and his roommate on occasion there-after).  I realize I didn’t know the roommate well but I still found it odd and it kind of stung.

So I am curious, what experiences have you had with defriending?  How do your Facebook interactions affect your friendships?  How have all your online interactions including blogging changed your friendships in general?

You may also like...

43 Responses

  1. Lorraine says:

    As an early member of the facebook community (I was a Freshman in college in FB first came out) I used to be extremely liberal in who I added. In recent months as I started seriously dating someone and eventually married, I become much more particular about who I kept, and much more careful about how I spoke and presented myself online (my in-laws added me!)

    Living in a world where wedding pictures were posted for all the world to see, I found I was much more particular about who I wanted seeing these tender moments, and chose to more or less delete anyone that I wouldn’t have invited to the wedding. Did my liberal mass-deleting taint my online presence I wonder?

  2. annie says:

    I wrote about an experience I had with being de-friended here.
    http://tryingtohealover.blogspot.com/2011/01/de-friended.html

    Sometimes I notice that I have been defriended. Other times, I have no idea nor do I care.

  3. CatherineWO says:

    I am fairly new to FB (within the past year or two) and joined mainly to keep track of what my adult children are doing. I love their posts and have added many of their friends to my list, young adults who, as teenagers, spent much time in my home. I also find it a fun way to stay in touch with extended family members (especially nieces and nephews) and some people from past places we’ve lived. I’m pretty careful about what I post and quite protective of my and my family’s privacy, but I do post links to some of my favorite organizations (like Exponent and some environmental and feminist groups). So far I’ve only defriended one person, and that was by mutual agreement. But now I am thinking of doing it again. One of my recently acquired “friends” regularly posts comments that I think are racist and sexist. I’m not sure what the proper online etiquette is for responding to these things, so I’ve tried to just ignore them, but that’s getting increasingly hard to do. “Defriending” sounds so harsh, and obviously can be hurtful. Judging by the responses she gets to her posts, most of her friends are like her. I’m just not sure what the unwritten social rules are.

    • Fran McGee says:

      I think if someone on your friend list regularly speaks or behaves in a manner you find offensive, or at least very contrary to your beliefs, there is nothing wrong with “de-friending” them. You wouldn’t be their friend in person, and their posts are bothering your peace. You might drop them a line saying you have decided to have fewer friends on facebook. If it’s someone you don’t know personally, they may not even notice, or care. I guess it would be whatever makes you comfortable. It’s not quite the same as when you stop subscribing to a podcast or following a blog I guess.

      • CatherineWO says:

        Thanks, Fran. I was defriended by someone this week and I didn’t even notice it until she refriended me (because she was establishing a new FB page), so maybe I’m thinking it’s a bigger deal than it really is. If I defriend someone with whom I have little contact, she probably isn’t even going to notice.

  4. Sijbrich says:

    A few months ago I defriended a guy that lived next door to me for a few years in college. I wouldn’t say we were friends, and I suppose I just initially added him as a FB friend because I was friends with several of his roommates (in real life and on FB). We never commented on each others’ statuses (is that a word?) and he mainly posted about professional sports that I don’t care about, so I figured, he probably wouldn’t miss my “friendship.” However, a few weeks ago, he requested to be friends again. I think he just didn’t realize that we had been friends in the first place. I’m just ignoring the request. I have nothing against him, I just want to be a little more particular about who is reading about me.

    It’s funny amongst the women in my ward, too. For a while I was being pretty liberal and adding any woman from my ward, whether or not I considered her a friend. Now I’m more particular. One woman requested my friendship several months ago and I’ve just ignored it. I figure I talk to her maybe once a year and it’s a passing “hello” and a smile. We were VT companions when I first moved into the ward but I would say we didn’t really bond, so I’m doubting she’s waiting at her computer hoping I’ll accept her “friendship.”
    What has everyone else been doing with their ward members? Do you all accept anyone that you recognize from Sunday at church, or do you limit your friendships? I’m curious…

    • spunky says:

      Maybe your former VT comp was extending an arm of friendship to get to know you better since you had difficulty in bonding?

    • Olive says:

      I’ve found that its much easier to get to know others that I see often, but don’t really get a chance to stop and talk to. Especially people at church! I’m so busy with my calling and my kids that I don’t get to talk very much to anyone. And unless they go to playdates during the week, then I don’t see them anywhere else. Being able to “chat” on facebook has helped me a ton to get to know these women better and be more involved in their lives. And it makes it much less daunting to start a quick convo in the hall at church when I’ve got some tidbit to bring up “how’s your cat doing after its surgery?” lol or whatever.

  5. Janell says:

    Every person on my Facebook friends group meets one of two standards: either I talk to that person at minimum on a monthly basis or that is a person with whom I am willing to do lunch. If neither criteria is met, then I figure that person has no need to know about my idle, passing thoughts or to see my vacation photos, nor do I wish to know the same about them. About twice I year I go through and “de-face”/”de-friend” anyone who does not meet this criteria.

    I do keep a few layers of group privacy settings: best friends, friends of friends, ward members, people who live in my city, coworkers, family. and everyone else. I try to keep a pretty tight ship on who can see what.

    I deface/defriend people as one part protecting my privacy and one part I prefer to keep Facebook an accurate reflection of my actual social circle. I am by nature a very private person and honestly am astounded that I have “100 friends [and family].” (When I started with Facebook years ago I didn’t foresee that it’d ever go beyond 30 friends.)

  6. Anita says:

    I have enjoyed using Facebook for genealogical purposes, finding distant relatives, and so forth–but now find myself with all kinds of “friends” that I don’t really know (if I ran into them at the grocery store I wouldn’t recognize them), but can’t defriend after pushing the family facebook group at the last reunion. Kind of tricky with relatives!

  7. z says:

    I do a periodic defriend of everyone I can’t remember having met. But I also feel very, very free to defriend anyone who posts inappropriate or unprofessional things. Nobody’s ever asked me why, but I would just mention that I like to keep a professional-looking page because my co-workers use Facebook, and if they want to create a separate “professional” account I would be happy to re-friend them. Nobody’s ever taken me up on that offer but I feel like it’s a reasonable position.

    I also de-friend anyone who pesters me with commercial solicitations or messages I deem inappropriate (e.g., messages about how they wish they could date my Mom). And I’m completely comfortable with that.

  8. Rachel says:

    I’m like Janell. Just checked now, and I have 77 friends. I liked it better when the number was smaller, like 40, and nobody from my ward friended me. I like more privacy than most, perhaps. I often laugh about people like you who have so many “friends”. I guess I could have that many but I would have to have so many more filters, and if I’m going to filter friends, then they’re associates or acquaintances or something. Politics/religion/work issues mean different conversations with different people. It seems like it’s just too much work.
    I just counted and 11 of my FB friends I have met purely through blogging, and have only met half of them face to face! That seems very strange to me.
    My typical thing for defriending people is this: if you friend me, but never ever comment on anything I have to say, and I have commented to you, I’ll probably get rid of you in a month or two, after you’ve had a chance to look at my pictures and see how fat I got after high school. 😉 Typically people who ‘friend’ but don’t comment are people with friends in the hundreds–and it makes sense–how could you keep up with all those folks?
    And, maybe it’s an age thing, too. I’m 42. Maybe if I were 20, I would live my life online/in the public view.

  9. Caroline says:

    Facebook is fun. I envy those who feel safe enough there to post links to their blog posts about feminism, etc. I don’t because I have extended family who are friends, and just don’t feel comfortable with them knowing about my Mormon feminist activities.

  10. Jessawhy says:

    Caroline, that surprises me only because you are essentially pursuing Mormon feminism for your career and you don’t want your extended family to know about it? I’d love for you to post more about this.

    For me, Facebook is a nice way to peek into the lives of people that I used to be close friends with. I just friended a girl from junior high and it made me smile to see pics of her little family.

    Right now I’m dealing with a potential de-friending issue. There is a person who was in my ward years ago who has been commenting on a lot of my posts. I didn’t really know her well or talk to her much when she was in the ward, let alone since then. Which is why I can’t figure out why she comments so often on my status updates. My guess is that I just happen to pop up in her news feed and she doesn’t know how to adjust it.
    My fear with de-friending her is that she won’t see me pop up and if she checks to find me I won’t be there.

    But, I guess the potential for her discomfort which I will probably never hear about is less than my discomfort over some of the things she says about my posts.

    • spunky says:

      She could be lonely, so comments on your status a lot from bordum or lonliness. And if she makes comments you don’t like– you can delete them so no one can see them– which might be a nice passive lesson for her in regard to what you do or do not appreciate.

  11. Kelly Ann says:

    Thanks everybody for your great comments! It is interesting to hear a variety of experiences and perspectives.

    Lorraine, I go through Facebook phases as well, although not per say with “defriending.” The frequency in which I post statuses, photos, links, or comments vary. I have taken hiatuses and blocked parts or my entire profile. It is very possible that someday I will decide to do a mass “defriending” (although not likely for now). I like the idea of a criteria being who you would invite to your wedding as that does capture some distant friends and family. Janell, I also really like your criteria of talking to them monthly or being willing to do lunch if given the chance. And Z, I also agree with the importance of professional posting. After a high school reunion in which I reconnected with classmates during the planning stages, while I didn’t defriend, I hid several people who posted things I didn’t want to know. And Rachel, I find merit to the idea of being an active commenter, although I know some people who are good friends but never comment (they like reading but never post or comment themselves in their privacy considerations).

    Rachel, I also kind of laugh at myself for having so many friends. 30 is probably more representative for my true friends. However, connecting with people including some whom I have met from blogging and divulge my full name to has helped me become better friends. Sijbrich, the question of whether or not to facebook friend with ward members is a huge one for me as well (although I have consciously decided not to add youth who I don’t really know, like some teachers who I know who won’t add students until they are adults). My mormon contacts are honestly the source of most of the people who I would “defriend” if I was to hold a stricter definition. In particular, probably about 200 of my facebook contacts are people I knew on my mission. I find that I’ll look at their profiles when they add me, maybe exchange a few comments, and then really don’t have a desire to stay in touch. However, it was nice when I went back to Chile last year to easily reconnect with people so maybe I can still fit them into Janell’s qualification of doing lunch if given the chance …

    A hundred of my other contacts are extended family (this happens when you have Mormonism and/ or divorce on almost every branch). Catherine, I think this is one of the major perks of Facebook. To see pictures of my cousin’s new baby was a lot of fun. However, it becomes more difficult if things turn sour. Annie, I am sorry to hear about your dramatic experience with your sister-n-law. Like Anita, I feel like I need to maintain those connections.

    Overall, I just try to enjoy Facebook. I wasn’t really offended when I was defriended. It just makes me think about my online interactions and how the world has changed. To expose myself to more people (they may find out I am more liberal or conservative than they otherwise might think). It is also fun to see how many common “friends” I have with some people which happens by maintaining so many connections.

  12. Jessawhy says:

    I guess what I meant to say in my last comment was that I’m tempted to delete a “friend” that I’m not really friendly with but not for that reason.

    I want to delete her because she doesn’t agree with me and some of her comments embarrass me a little in front of my real friends.

    How shallow is that?

    • Ziff says:

      I think that’s totally understandable, Jess. I wouldn’t want that either. It’s frustrating that Facebook lumps everyone you know, at whatever level, together into one group. I’ve tried to manage this to some degree by making friend lists and hiding some status updates from people who would only say “Huh?” in response (for example, totally Mormon-y ones from people who have no connection to Mormonism. I guess this wouldn’t necessarily help you unless you make a friend list for this friend and hide stuff from that list; that would produce the same result as defriending her.

      • Petra says:

        Friend lists FTW! Ziff, if I get to be defensive, the product doesn’t treat all people you know equally (you’re given the opportunity, every time you add a friend, to add them to a list), it’s just that user education about friend lists is severely lacking. (I’m an employee and I barely use the feature.) Good lists could solve a lot of the problems being talked about here–target Mormon feminist links to your “Mormon feminist” list, or even your “everybody but conservative Mormons” list and you don’t have to worry about those pesky people in your ward getting offended.

    • Petra says:

      You can hide your updates from her specifically, you know, though I’m not sure whether that feels any more or less shallow than just defriending her:)

      • Jessawhy says:

        Okay, here’s where I’m irritated about FB settings.
        AFter I posted this, I did my homework and read about how to make lists.
        I went to manage friends and made groups. (which takes forever b/c I had to go through all my friends twice)
        Anyway, when I went back to my newsfeed page, I don’t have access to these groups anymore. It wants me to create new lists. (or something like that).
        I have no idea why there would be a place for me to manage my friends and not allow me to use that for the newsfeed selection.
        Any ideas?

      • Petra says:

        It won’t let me reply to your comment below, so I’ll just reply here. Were you making groups or friend lists? They’re different things, so my tech support-y answer would depend on which kind you were making. If you’re really interested in setting it up, you can email me (byupetra at gmail.com) and I can try to figure out what was going on.

  13. Kelly Ann says:

    What I meant to say in the incomplete sentence in the last paragraph of my comment is that it has usually been worthwhile to expose myself to more people although they may find out I am more liberal or conservative than they might think.

    However, seeing your comment now, Caroline, I too have to admit that I am chicken to post some Mormon feminism links. I’d be interested to hear more perspectives on this. And Jessawhy, I agree that ultimately the question is how much discomfort do you pose to yourself or to others?

  14. Kelly Ann says:

    Jess, I don’t think it is shallow per say. I have deleted comments from people that I have found inappropriate (sometimes even from immediate family members). I usually tell them why though.

  15. spunky says:

    Just an aside– I never post my guest post links in the bloggernacle, but for posts that rock my world, I share them on my profile and even email them to people I know. I see Mormon feminism about self empowerment, so why not invite everyone else in on that too? And sure, some posts here or on other LDS websites do not reflect my personal view (or they are things that do not apply to my life), but the posts that rock me, or ones that make me think of a conversation I had with someone and might help them, I have no issue with sharing and shouting. But this is always who I have been, so I don’t think anyone expects less of me.

    I also have a lot of non-LDS friends, and quite frankly, I think Exponent II posts are often a more valuable missionary tool than some cheesy LDS.org sentimental youtube shorts. ExII (et al) posts show that Mormons don’t have to be oppressed lemmings. I’ve never had an issue or complaint with sharing these posts, even from conservative LDS relatives. I even had one friend comment that she never knew of a Mormons feminist movement but wanted to learn more.

    • spunky says:

      sorry about the more than one extra “s”!

    • Sijbrich says:

      Your comment made me remember another thing that has often troubled me a bit about FB. I have LDS friends that will post scriptures from the Book of Mormon or the YouTube videos from LDS.org. I also have christian friends that will quote scriptures from the Bible or just comment on something about God or their faith. I haven’t been brave enough to do any of that. It sounds horrible to say that being a returned missionary and all, but I guess I am fearful of how non-religious friends may react. I have a few friends that have left the church, a few that are homosexual, and several friends that are agnostic or atheist, so I’ve just played it safe and avoided the controversial stuff like religion and politics, keeping it on the lighter side. However, I’m liking the idea of sharing links from The Exponent…there’s a lot of potential there, I think.

  16. alex w. says:

    I’ve defriended people for racist things. I defriended roommates for being difficult to live with. Well. One of them defriended me first. Hah. Other than that, I’ve been defriended because I didn’t talk to someone that much and they announced that they were weeding their facebook friends. On facebook. I don’t really pay that much attention, otherwise.

    Yesterday in one of my classes, a professor mentioned thinking about how you identify and present yourself on facebook. I had to laugh. I’m definitely careful about how I present myself. (For example, I don’t post anything political. Being a nonconservative among conservatives.)

  17. Stephanie2 says:

    I’m still not on Facebook – and haven’t really read or seen anything that would convince me otherwise.

    • spunky says:

      Fair enough, Stephanie… but when your kids get facebook pages, I do recommend you do it- if only to be a presence of protection.

      • Stephanie2 says:

        spunky, I’ve heard that there is a “donut” with Facebook. The most frequent users are the younger generation (teens and 20s?) and then older users keeping tabs on/communication with their younger kids. When my little brother was visiting (avid user, and so is my mom – to keep tabs on her kids), I used his account to search for old friends of mine. I couldn’t find too many. Those that I could find (high school friends) really didn’t seem to use it that often. I wonder if the donut theory is true? And, if so, when my kids get old enough to use social networking, will Facebook be it? Or will we have moved onto the next great thing? I don’t know. But, you’re right that I’ll do what I can to be involved with my kids’ lives.

      • Stephanie2 says:

        I just looked up Facebook user distributions. They don’t seem to support the “donut” theory. Maybe my friends and I just aren’t that cool. 🙂

  18. My teenage nephew defriended me when I called him out for saying “gay” when he means “stupid.” He’s still friends with my husband, though, which makes a nice filter (since my nephew sometimes updates his status in lieu of texting his friends, and the content-to-noise ratio is often very low).

  19. Dee says:

    I mainly joined Facebook to play Lexulous with family – good fun! I have less than 40 ‘friends’ and don’t usually invite others to be friends as I like to respect boundaries – especially with younger members of our extended family. If they invite me – that’s fine and I feel flattered. I did ‘hide’ a niece for a while when she kept dropping the f-bomb but have since un-hidden her. Despite the f-bombs her posts are always highly entertaining. I can’t fathom having friend lists that number in the hundreds and hundreds.

  20. Corktree says:

    I need to learn how to do lists. I’ve heard I can also filter my feed, but I never have enough time to devote to figuring it out. I really don’t want to hear sport updates or political drivel from high school acquaintances, but I don’t want to de-friend since it’s nice to have an easy way to contact people from the past.

    I have a love/hate relationship with FB, but I can finally see the value it hides. I’m sure grateful for my little timers though 😉

  21. Ahh, de-friending. Such a hot topic. =) I have a habit of going through my friends list periodically and weeding people out. The last time I did this, I decreased my number of friends by about 60%. I was a lot more aggressive that time and just de-friended anyone whose life didn’t interest me. This included a lot of middle school/high school acquaintances and extended family members whom I’ve never met or spoken with (mostly from my husband’s family).

    I once de-friended someone (an ex-boyfriend) because I had a dream that told me I should. Another time, I de-friended someone (a middle school classmate) when she said she hated a piece of literature which I happen to love (Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” if you wondered =). There have been other, equally frivolous reasons. I feel fine about doing things like this. Though the idea of friendship is involved in both, I see real-life friendship and Facebook friendship as fundamentally different, and I don’t see why I should follow the traditional rules and standards of friendship in this new medium that’s so utterly different. By and large, in my personal Facebooking experience, the point of FB is to update friends about your life/to make it easier to stay in touch. The point is NOT to form a new friendship, keep tabs on relatives, or add a name to your rolodex of people-you-might-need-a-favor-from-someday. So I keep my friends list pretty slim. (Note: I understand that there are approaches to and uses for social networking that differ from my own approach, which is fine by me – this is just an explanation of how I view this technological platform).

    I’m fascinated by the intricacies of making lists of friends and then sharing parts of yourself only with the appropriate lists. I haven’t utilized lists for myself (yet?) and have just been as open as possible with everyone on Facebook, but that has made for some awkward situations and exchanges. This has been particularly noticeable when posting politically liberal/religiously feminist content. I remember once being called to repentance (by an old high school acquaintance) for posting a video in opposition to Prop. 8 (at the time, I had no idea how heavily-involved the church was in this arena, or else I might have expected that negative response from someone). I’ve also been in the position of having two friends, who didn’t know each other, get really offended and upset with each other as part of a response to something I posted (so unintentional, this drama!). That creates whole new territory for trying to play the middle (wo)man and smooth things over, which people have always had to do, BUT NEVER BETWEEN TWO TOTAL STRANGERS! Facebook has sure changed the gameplay.

  22. jks says:

    I try to keep FB friends as people I would be happy to have come hang out in my living room. It includes almost all relatives (who all live far away so fb is a wonderful chance to feel closer) and casual friends of today.
    I have a handful of high school friends who I will never see again. I moved a lot and my history is like feathers in the wind. Having these precious few connections, even though I am not friends with them now, it is important to have that knowledge that something from my past is not lost forever.
    If I add too many people I know I will not feel free to be myself. I don’t post a lot, but it is great to be able to post pics for my family and see their posts. It means a lot when your family is spread out.
    I also love playing scrabble with family members. That is why I get on, and then maybe read the news feed.

  23. MB says:

    I use facebook to keep up on the lives of friends and extended family that I love who live far away and to encourage them and send my love when it it’s helpful. There’s no way I could write letters or emails to all of them nor expect them to individually write back. Of the 203 friends I have, only 4 live in the same state I do. My local friends and I keep in touch fine with the phone and in person.

    I’ve defriended once when I realized I didn’t really know the fellow, just my husband did. I suspect he didn’t notice. Since then I’ve figured out how to keep my posts so that they only show up on selected people’s news feed and how to hide news feed items that friends post when I want less chatter to read. So I don’t have to defriend to reduce interaction or visibility when that’s needful. And I rarely type anything into the “What’s on your mind?” box.

    I have ignored some friend requests (with a polite explanation). They are usually ones that I felt would not be helpful, old suitors that I haven’t been in contact with for decades, for example, or people who are simply curious business acquaintances whom I know only in passing. But at my stage of life most people who want to be “friends” are simply extending an expression of having enjoyed our friendship in the past and are now finding themselves too far away to keep it up in person. And since I enjoyed it too and wish to keep the connection going, I’m happy to add them.

  24. CatherineWO says:

    Okay, all the comments encouraged me to take a closer look at my FB friends list, and I just figured out how to “hide” comments from a friend. I’m going to try that with the one I would really like to defriend (but doing so would be awkward in this case).

  25. bookharlot says:

    I got a new visiting teacher who friended me, defriended me after 2 months, and never visited me the year she was my teacher. Her husband is now my home teacher (who doesn’t have a partner) and she has to come visit me with her husband. AWK-WARD!

Leave a Reply