Though women generally cut off friendships so that it’s not so obvious, a new finding has emerged in the world of Facebook. Defriending is trending.
Pew found that 67 percent of women set their profiles so that only their “friends’’ can see it. Only 48 percent of men did the same. More women are also untagging themselves, unsubscribing and restricting their profiles.
When I first joined Facebook I was skeptical of the friendships, so much so that I reluctantly accepted friend requests, questioning their motivation. “Why would you become friends with someone you haven’t seen in 20 years that you didn’t speak to, ever? Why do they want to be friends now?” I asked my husband.
Call me paranoid. But it was the word “friend” that threw me. Friendship is a reciprocal relationship. One that includes sharing personal information — not sharing with 337 of your “closest” buddies.
But my husband schooled me on the Facebook etiqutte. Facebook friends weren’t real friends. They were “hello, nice to see you, I remember your name, I remember you from high school, from some random town, from that bathroom (uh, yeah,) now goodbye, kind of friends.” They were friends with “quotes.”
Okay, fine, so I accepted this premise–but chose to decline a friend request from a childhood frenemy who I didn’t want to have a fake, or real, relationship with. The frenemy requested my “friendship” again and so I gave in–the idea of shunning someone on Facebook seemed so immature and I was now a grown up! I didn’t need to revert back to those days when I felt the need to give someone the silent treatment–or did I?
Since then, I’ve heard from many friends–and by this, I mean face to face friends–about their Facebook angst. Multiple studies point in this direction: women are either made jealous, insecure, angry or depressed by Facebook. A 2011 study found a whopping 85 percent of women are secretly annoyed by Facebook friends’ bragging. More research showed that women posted more on Facebook to boost their self-image.
A real-life friend spoke of the same issue. Flipped through the endless array of happy family photos on Facebook caused her to feel down about her own life. “Why aren’t I taking these exciting trips with my family?” she said. “Why aren’t my kids perfectly smiling in every picture?”
My advice to her: take a Facebook break. So she did. And this helped alleviate some of her own feelings. Of course everyone’s life looks fantastic on Facebook, I told her. Though there are some men and women use it to moan about spouses, body weight, or their kids, most use it to illustrate the better side of life. I rarely see a sink full of dishes, if you know what I mean?
I also told her about unsubscribe. Unsubscribe is a win-win situation. No one’s offended. No one’s hurt. Facebook friends don’t know their updates are void from your daily experience–and in return, you’ve been given a pass from focusing on the timeline of their life.
Though unsubscribing is certainly one of the trends this Pew study discusses, the research is also saying something else about our behavior. By straight-up defriending, women are tossing their losses into Twilight Zone of Facebook. To the world of an unfriend.
Why now? My guess is because women have grown tired of Facebook friendships that don’t add to their lives. Why worry about insulting a friend who isn’t really a friend? Right?
Me, I’ve taken a different route on Facebook since I first joined. Now, I love scanning all the photos, the updates, the successes and the failures. I’m also trying something new with Facebook friends. I’m friending a few people a week who are not only NOT my friend, but who will never be my friend. I’m friending authors, feminist writers, bloggers and political pundits. And though I’ll probably never be friends with them in real life (though maybe one day Elissa Schappell will real-life notice me?)–if I become offended or irritated by their posts, I can delete these “friends” guilt-free. No hurt feelings. No unanswered questions. No weird emails (i.e., Did you mean to delete me?).
Now that’s the kind of friendship I like.