"Instagram my life! #cousins #margaritas #girlsnight #hashtageverything #!!!!!
“Instagram my life! #cousins #margaritas #girlsnight #hashtageverything #!!!!!

What makes a “friend?” How do we stay in contact with them?

We live in an age with “followers” on instagram, twitter, tumblr, Pinterest, and social media that require absolutely no personal knowledge of or physical, live contact with another person.

We have “friends” on facebook by the hundreds upon hundreds, most of which we never even get beyond “liking” their inane pictures of what they ate for dinner, or their status update on being sick/working out/drinking with friends/celebrating a sports team.

Even the girls I would tell you are my best friends in the whole world I talk to mostly via text message, due to our time differences (NY, Chicago, SF).

I’ve been facing a crisis of trust lately that caused me to examine the differences between colleagues and friends, fellow church-goers and friends, high school/college classmates and friends, etc. In real time and in my social media world, I decided I need to better control what I say. And who I say things to. I so often spit thoughts into the neverland of the internet, without thinking of how they could be misinterpreted, or used against me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

When you type something into your laptop or iphone, it all feels so anonymous and safe. But it is without tone, without facial expressions, without hand motions that can really portray how you truly feel. To me, something sounds funny, but to you, it might be terribly offensive.

I realized I could stop using all social media, OR, I could control possible consequences, without limiting the cathartic experience unfriendof attempting to articulate how I feel about current situations in my life, by more strictly controlling the audience.

In other words, “unfriend.”

I felt mean in doing so. So I had some liquid courage and about half a pan of brownies, and then I spent an hour on my facebook account tonight, scrolling through and through, clicking, unclicking, deliberating. But in the end, I went from over 1500 “friends” to a more respectable 1216. And I have great plans to cut that down even more.

Here are some categories and qualifiers I used to guide my unfriending:

  • any former students of mine with siblings I still teach, and their parents = gone!
  • anyone that posted outrageous/racist/hateful/unhelpful political views of any kind
  • any “travel buddy” friends I wouldn’t contact for a free night’s stay if I was in their home country
  • anyone from college or high school who was ever mean to me in any way
  • all my friend’s exboyfriends
  • anyone who dated someone after I dated him
  • anyone who hates the gays
  • anyone who supports assault weapons
  • anyone who likes the LA Dodgers
  • friends of my siblings who i never really knew
  • any profile that has no picture (this means they deleted their profile OR unfriended ME! rude. :) )
  • anyone from high school I would hide from in a grocery store
  • anyone who I have to go to our mutual friends to figure out how we might even know each other.
  • people who I only have kept as “friends” to make fun of them.
  • “friends” that are really businesses
  • former coworkers I don’t think I’ll ever run into again

It was hard. Some moments are harder. For example, my uncle’s name came up. He died last March, and my cousins deactivated his facebook account. But for some reason I can’t bring myself to unfriend him. Or Carly Phillips. Or John Nunes. People I refuse to admit are dead.

I feel free with you. you're my "friend." here's what i wear at home.
I feel free with you. you’re my “friend.” here’s what i wear at home.

But in the end, I felt liberated. I felt clean. I felt more real. Why should I or you or anyone be “facebook friends” with someone I would pretend not to know if I ran into you at Safeway? Or if you were catty in high school or college? Or if I can’t even remember how we met? I don’t want to just “collect” friends on facebook, the way I see a lot of people operate. To see my pictures, my life moments passing via status update, and the check-ins I collect on date nights with my boyfriend or vacations with my sisters….nope. Those aren’t just for any old Joe. They’re just for real amigos.

Here’s to “friend” meaning something again.

But only on Facebook. Anyone in the freaking world can read my blog. I want the hits.