More communication less community
With the prevalence of social networks, our teens live more publicly than ever before – certainly more so than we did when we were teens. They establish robust public profiles and broad personal friendships. They easily share what we would consider very personal thoughts and images. A level of knowledge is created among friends, some of whom barely meet the definition of acquaintance. We’ve developed a sort of over-sharing culture.
The need to unfriend
Sometimes teens need to “unfriend” someone who’s become obnoxious, threatening or less important in their lives. How do you do it?
The proper process for unfriending is a bit unclear. An article in The New York Times a while back quoted Michael Pilla, a marketing director. “In real life, friendships die a natural death: you simply stop seeing someone until both of you barely remember you were friends in the first place. On Facebook, that person you barely know or no longer can put up with is there, all the time, taking up space on your home page, filling you in on all the mindless minutiae.”
In the old days you could avoid an encounter or ignore a phone call. If you didn’t write it down, it only existed in conversation. Today with ubiquitous email, cell calls, texting and social networks, and image apps galore, opinions take on a different context; thoughts and images exist in a much longer timeframe; unfriending someone becomes a complicated task.
Why do friends unfriend
Christopher Sibona, a grad student at the University of Colorado, surveyed 1,500 people on Facebook and Twitter and found that the top three reasons for unfriending a person are:
1) persistent, inane posts
2) posts about controversial topics like religion and politics, and
3) racist or vulgar posts.
To this we would add threats and offline relationship problems.
When and how to disengage
When online problems make teens uncomfortable or offline issues make an online relationship difficult, it may be time to call it quits. How to disengage? Perhaps we can offer some suggestions.
- Be purposeful is creating a profile. Know the reason for your identity in the social network world.
- Select individuals who can legitimately qualify. Focus attention on quality not quantity.
- Be vigilant in culling lists of friends. Don’t leave someone on forever if you had just one conversation very late in the evening.
- Be respectful of self and others in what is shared and what comments are made.
- Don’t share everything. What is shared will exist for a very long time under circumstances that can’t be predicted.
- Be careful whose invitations are accepted. Know who your friends are.
It’s always been a matter of quality, not quantity. It still is. It doesn’t matter if we write messages to one another on stone tablets or send them off into the realm of cyberspace. One real friend—one authentic friendship—is worth more than 10,000 faceless e-friends.