Published on January 31st, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria1
Are Unfriend Finder Apps Really ‘Toxic?’
The subject of deletion by friends on services like Facebook and Twitter has spawned countless hours of debate about new etiquette conventions, whether or not caring about such things means you’re too attached to your digital life, and how healthy it is to know when an acquaintance or friend decides you are persona non grata on such sites in the first place.
I’ll admit it, I use Facebook Unfriended. If you haven’t noticed, Facebook goes to great lengths to ensure awkwardness is minimized by making it difficult to determine who unfriends who and when, but many apps exist to track your friends’ list against future changes. (This is a key function- if you don’t have the app running, it won’t be able to tell you who has given you the Facebook elbow in the past because it’s not familiar with your friends list.)
Gawker is the latest to decree such apps “toxic,” a stance I disagree with- but I happen to be one of those people that finds Facebook unfriending to be one of the meanest things a person can do to another person online. (In fact, when I was recently required to unfriend a person, my first unfriending done under protest since I joined the site four years ago, I had to look up how to do it.) There are ways to block people from seeing certain things you post, and ways to block their updates from appearing in your feed, and as a practice, I don’t believe in doing it unless that person has boned your girlfriend or insulted your mother gravely.
But Gawker writer Ryan Tate opined that if you care about Facebook that much, you need to get a ‘real’ life, a stance with which I heartily disagree, as I will explain:
“…if you’ve been sucked into a social networking black hole, deep real-world relationships start to lose emotional ground to easily quantified but ultimately meaningless forms of online popularity, and you start to care about the answers to questions like “why are my numbers down?” and “why doesn’t this quite possibly insane stranger not like me any more?” If you’re a teenager, you may well grow out of this. If you’re an adult, it’s time for a nice long Facebook break, and to reconnect with things that actually matter IRL, like sports, alcohol, and/or trashy television.”
Perhaps it’s easy to replace “real” relationships with online ones- and as someone who has been working entirely online since 2009, there’s a possibility I’m guilty of this. But I think it’s very important to realize that online relationships are not only increasingly important for work, love and friendship, but that they’re also increasingly extensions of our “real life” relationships. It’s very easy to unload on a friend who’s pissing you off in a passive-aggressive Facebook comment than it is to talk to them, and thusly easy to lose sight of the fact that people should be respectful of one another in every facet of their relationships, online and off.
So if you’re also using Facebook Unfriended, don’t feel so bad- at least you’ll know who to snub at the next family reunion.