Ah, the culling of Facebook friends. An unfriending.

Never before, it seems, has an innocuous almost imperceptible physical action been bestowed such power. A single mouse-click causing immeasurable furore. And a pertinent reminder of how our communities have changed due to the technology around us. In this, our virtual world.

If you try an image search like ‘being unfriended’ online, you’ll see an array of cliched quotes (most far from witty or with any sense of emotional intelligence) extolling the virtues of being the unfriendee; the glib comments about how one doesn’t give a damn, or the droll sarcastic retort about ‘the trash taking itself out’. And interestingly, the accusation that the act of unfriending, is a passive-aggressive move. Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of imagery to serve as a reminder that it’s ok to remove people from your online world if you wish. There are very few eposters citing clever mottos for those in need, or rallying support from Someecard sayings.

I have recently culled a number of people from my virtual friend hub. It’s a frequent, regular process for me. To be my ‘friend’ on Facebook, you need to be my friend. It’s pretty simple. It only gets complex if I mistakenly assume your friendship and you are not. That’s another story.

It is of course organic. There are always new people in my life. People I want to know better, nurture a relationship with, allow access to my virtual life so that they may also know me better in return. Essentially, of the 250 ‘friends’ I am linked with via Facebook, most are good people whom I love and / or respect. As a kiwi living abroad and missing her friends as I do, Facebook provides a tiny and imperfect connection with my friend-family in far parts of the world. A reciprocal window that helps stay close and participate in the journey of their lives. What I’m saying is, I’m not a people collector. Those that have the privilege of access to my online world are gifted it because we have shared, or are sharing, an active part in each other’s life.

If we find a disconnect, disinterest, or dislike… I will remove you. Easy. Not because you disagree with me when we debate politics in a thread, or because your grammar is appalling (though this tests my resolve) but because your presence adds no value. Once your behaviour, comments, or presence, in my space brings disharmony or distress to myself or others, you are removed. By this stage it is likely you have already been removed from my real world. Don’t get me wrong. I will think about the impact on myself and those around me. Will consider the repercussions of action versus status quo.

But if you troll or throw out comments to cause harm, or you reveal yourself to be a malicious creature enjoying cruelness, you are removed. If you prove yourself to be untrustworthy or bigoted, you are removed. It isn’t an act of passive-aggression, merely the least required investment of energy to eliminate toxicity. I don’t need to advise you, ask your permission, engage in communications about it. I don’t need to publish a status. I will wish to manage the situation with minimal effort and utmost social harmony, by the leanest means and least public display. With discretion and respect.

I will generally be bewildered at your righteous indignation in response. Perhaps feel a little flattered that it mattered. But mostly I will not care one way or another at what you think or how you respond. Just like in real life, if you matter to me, I will let you know. If you are my friend you will have no doubt. Just like in real life, we are not all friends, we are not obliged to more than a polite welcome, and I may indeed revoke the invitation to join me in my home or my hub.


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