Sometimes, Un-Friending Is The Right Thing

by Bill Brenner on March 15, 2011

A friend of mine is angry and hurt because another friend deleted him and me from his Facebook friends list. The hurt is understandable: We grew up in Revere with this guy, and we went through a lot together.

Mood music:

[spotify:track:3XGbYvyi3sW9L5fzWluoAv]

I sent our friend an e-mail asking why he un-friended us. His answer to me specifically was that this blog is dredging up too many painful memories from the past:

Bill your OCD diaries became to much for me. I felt the pain of the losses of Sean and Michael creeping back into the fabric of my life and some of the held secrets that still have not been spoken. Hence, I am not locking you out of my life, just out of Facebook. If I could filter THE OCD DIARIES out of Facebook and keep you I would do that in a minute. Please remember this is about me and my healing and is not meant to be offensive.

I’ve covered the Facebook un-friending subject before — specifically how my OCD had latched onto my Facebook friend count. Ridiculous, you say? Of course. But having OCD is all about worrying about ridiculous things. When I wrote the first post on it back in August, my friend count was 1,169. At last check this morning it was 1,451. Go figure.

Every time someone has un-friended me, I’ve worried about what I did to offend them. I keep my language mostly clean and I don’t whine about everything on my wall. But I push out a lot of my writing on Facebook, and for those with smaller friend counts, all my stuff can overwhelm their feed. But I also know some people un-friend me because this blog is just too much for them. One former colleague sent me this note a few weeks ago:

“Bill, I’ve grown to find your OCD posts too painful and am going to unfriend you. You realize you are an obsessive poster, I hope? I wish you luck, but I think you need help and compassion, not exposure. I have a daughter who’s mentally ill, so I am particularly sensitive to watching people flay themselves alive. I wish you all the best, really.”

It’s funny how attached we’ve all become to our Facebook friend lists. To be un-friended is to be slapped in the face and told to go away. That hurts.

But my thinking is starting to shift on this issue.

I still don’t like it when someone un-friends me because it still feels like a rejection. But I’m starting to see that sometimes it’s the right thing for a person to do.

For example, this blog covers a lot of heavy stuff. A lot of people have become daily readers and tell me my openness has inspired them to deal with their own issues. But for others, especially those with a lot of pain in their lives, every post is going to feel like a baseball bat to the head. And so it was with my old friend.

Facebook is still fairly new for a lot of people. We’re still learning how to deal with each other in this world of social networking. I doubt we’ll ever figure it out.

I’ll just have to  keep being me and hope for the best.

I suggest you all do the same.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Ritchie March 15, 2011 at 1:34 am

Bill, your friend’s suggestion of being able to keep you listed in Facebook without having OCD Diaries broadcast to him is possible. To make it a solid solution, you would have to reorganize how you promote your blog on your personal Facebook Wall. You use RSS Graffiti as a Facebook Application to broadcast the blog posts, and an application can be ignored by your friends. Therein you have the possibility of opt-in and opt-out solutions. For opt-out you only need to limit the OCD Diaries broadcasts to channels that other users (your friends) can choose to turn off. For opt-in you’d need to limit your broadcasts to channels that must be turned on, like the OCD Diaries Facebook Page.

Additionally, with the News Feed changes over the past year or so, I would wager that the bulk of your friends list is not seeing your posts. This is due to the default configuration of News Feed which now only displays activity for people, groups, and pages, which the user has recently interacted with. So in that way, although this isn’t a blame situation, your friend may have been unknowingly hurting himself by clicking your hyperlinks.

Ultimately this story seems to be an example of friendship where the friend might say, “I like you, but don’t want to know everything about you.” That’s OK, I suppose, but the sentiment has never sat well with me.

Then there’s this “obsessive poster”, whom, “needs help and compassion, not exposure”, bit. I really dislike that sentiment, in spite of the “means well” aspect of it, which is readily apparent. To me it also reads as an attempt to say, “I wish you would get some help with not being OCD about talking about your OCD.”

I think it would be a very special case for someone to be upset, much less traumatized, by the headline and first sentence of any of your OCD Diaries posts. That’s all anyone can see in your broadcasts, so if they click the hyperlink, read through to the truly upsetting part, and then complain? Feels like a disingenuous guilt trip to me. Isn’t it obsessive to consistently repeat a behavior known to cause pain? Perhaps the second friend needs some help in not obsessing over another person’s obsession with public discourse over their obsessions.

billbrenner1970 March 15, 2011 at 1:49 am

Great points, Daniel. I do think my friend has a lot of lingering issues about confronting the past, and that’s OK. I was in that place once, and like anything in life it’s a process. Someday, perhaps, he will be ready.

Mary March 18, 2011 at 5:52 am

The “un-Friend” thing is fine by me…

At least you got a “real” reason, Bill. Our Friend got: “I was spring cleaning contacts”. Come on where is the honesty!

Think of it this way: You hit a cord and infact made a connection. If you didn’t, there would be no reason to “unfriend” people from that time in his life.

It was a GREAT TIME! The laughs we had! And the adventures!

Yes I’m sad – and angry at times – that Sean is not here. But I would NEVER wish that I didn’t meet him or the People who he brought into my life!

billbrenner1970 March 18, 2011 at 10:41 am

I agree about the lack of honesty. I think his real problem is his inability to truly make peace with his past. He’s still running, and I feel sorry for him. And I feel for our friend who got hurt in this act of stupidity. But since he was the second person to be overwhelmed by the topics in my blog, I felt the need to write an it’s-ok-to-unfriend-me post.

Mary March 18, 2011 at 11:37 am

Well I LOVE reading your thoughts!
And you are right, it’s OK to un friend – that is part of accepting. But I NEVER will un friend you! — just may sign off FB while pix are loading!

Cheryl Snapp Conner March 20, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Hmmm. Then there’s always the (more graceful) option of simply temporarily hiding your posts, or possibly even just hiding your blog posts (not sure if that works – but it works like a charm on the FB application posts you don’t want to see), which maintains a friend connection while removing himself from the blog posts he finds it painful to see. I like the previous comments on how to do that.

And I agree the comment your friend made about OCD sufferers needing help and compassion, not exposure, was a little judgmental. To each his own. I, for one, find your posts helpful and insightful a good share of the time. Thanks for posting.

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