Facebook Defriending Syndrome Takes A Ridiculous Twist

by Bill Brenner on November 7, 2011

People see Facebook as an online place to hide from the real world. But for a growing number of unstable minds, Facebook IS part of the real world.

Mood music:

A woman in Iowa was arrested and charged with setting fire to the home of someone who “unfriended” her on Facebook. Here’s the story from Internet Broadcasting (as run on the WMUR website):

Jennifer Christine Harris, an elementary school teaching associate in Des Moines, was charged with first-degree arson and was being held in the Polk County Jail on $100,000 bond, the Des Moines Register reported.

The fire broke out at around 1 a.m. on Oct. 27. People were asleep inside, but everyone was able to escape. The home was damaged and a detached garage destroyed in the blaze. According to the Register, Harris had been close friends with one of the inhabitants, Nikki Rasumssen, until they began fighting over comments Harris allegedly made about Rasmussen on Facebook. Rasmussen responded by unfriending and blocking Harris on Facebook.

I’ve touched on my own obsessions concerning my Facebook friend count in the past. In August 2010 I wrote:

My current Facebook friend count is 1,169. That may seem like a freakishly high number, but it makes sense when you consider that those connections are a broad mix of family, friends, associates in the security industry and people who “friended” me simply because they read this blog. Here’s the stupid part, though: It was 1,174 a few days ago. So now I’m worrying about who I might have offended. But I have so many connections that it’s pretty much impossible to go through the entire list to see who’s missing.

Most of us have integrated Facebook into our realities so deeply that we would take these things personally. In my case, the result is obsessing over how I might have offended people because in the end I just want to be liked.

In the case of the woman in the news item above, the thirst for revenge took over.

On some level, I understand how a person could do such a thing. If my own challenges with mental illness have taught me anything, it’s that a lack of sanity can make us do just about anything. Those of us lucky enough to maintain a sense of right vs. wrong would never light someone’s house on fire over this or any other reason. But for some people, the wiring in the brain gets far too twisted to know good from bad.

As for my own situation, the paranoia over unfriending has diminished considerably since I wrote that initial post. One reason is that I’ve made peace with the fact that I can only be myself and if someone doesn’t like it they should leave. I know of several people who have defriended me over the volume or nature of things I’ve written about. So be it. No hard feelings.

I’ve also decided that if several of my Facebook friends can constantly complain about work or significant others, or get all mushy and lovey-dovey with their significant others, or post reams of political tirades full of bad spelling and grammar, or make self-evident statements, well…

I’m going to write what I feel and post it as often as I want. Fair is fair. Once I made my peace, I braced for the exodus of my online friends.

As of Nov. 7, 2011, my friend count was 1,805 — well over 600 more connections than last year. Go figure.

Either enough people find value in what I’m doing or they’ve just learned to tune out my noise.

Whatever the case, if you decide to unfriend me, have no fear. I’m not the type of guy that will torch your house over it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

tracifoust November 8, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Hey There Bill,

I’ve recently began following your blog. THANK YOU! For such courage and punchiness. Simon and Schuster published my book NOWHERE NEAR NORMAL a Memoir of OCD in April of 2011. I hope you get a chance to read it. I get just as much hate mail as I do fan mail for writing a book in the..hmmm.. what was it that weird Canadian guy wrote on my blog–“vonnegut meets Larry Doyle but without the cool zombies”?–ah well, I’m finding that the OCd community of readers doesn’t think it’s funny that I poke fun of myself. Why this is? I have no idea. Anyway, happy to now follow your blog. Please keep up the awesomeness.

–“Remember, no matter how fast you think you can run, Michael Meyers can always walk faster.”

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