Oh, the sting of digital rejection.

Last week, a friend of mine Tweeted (and #fb’ed) asking about the etiquette of a friend request from a person he neither knows nor has mutual friends. My gut reaction? DE-NY.
Our classmate, Nate Granzow, had the same advice but with a different experience: “I had a guy send me the same thing the otherPicture 5 day. He followed up with a message about how he was going to fuck my life up.”

…That’s a worst case scenario, but seriously: denying a Facebook friendship, a Twitter follow–or ‘worse,’ the dreaded defriending–can be a touchy subject.

CNN reports that recent research shows that our “digital egos” can bruise just as easily as our actual egos do, if not more:
“People tend to think that these relationships are trivial and not very deep, but this is what we’re moving towards, having a lot of our communications play out over the Internet,” Purdue University social psychologist Kip Williams said. “That’s the way it’s becoming; this is how we interpret our worth. People care how many [online] friends they have.”

Picture 1

Qwitter: Post with Care.

A third-party website called Qwitter has even been created to allow Twitter users to track who has unfollowed them and after which post it occurred….Yikes.

  • Under what circumstances do you unfollow or defriend someone? What’s the etiquette?
  • What’s your reaction to being the unfollowed or defriended?
  • Do you agree or disagree that online friendships is the direction our society is moving toward?

17 responses to “Oh, the sting of digital rejection.

  1. I actually de-friend people at least a few times a month. Is that bad to say?
    If someone constantly posts status updates about their feelings and/or things I find really unnecessary, dominates my newsfeed, and isn’t even someone I speak to in real life, I don’t feel too bad about eliminating their cyber-friendship. The way I see it, I doubt they’ll even notice, and it makes my life just a little happier.

    I don’t personally pay attention to being unfriended or unfollowed; maybe that’s why I figure others don’t care either. If someone doesn’t want to hear about what’s going on in my life, why should I be offended? Maybe I should be a little more interesting.

    Online friendships are becoming pretty normal, but how do we determine the rules?

    • Those are the conditions on which I de-friend as well. What happens when those lines, blur, though? I have a friend from high school, and now college, who does nothing but whine in her statuses. You can’t unfriend that. Tricky!

      I don’t know how we determine the rules. I’m a bit bothered by the fact that, somewhere along the way, we decided it was a little more OK to be a little less cordial over the Internet. I think there’s something about having that computer screen to hide behind.

  2. I personally don’t have the time to sit around and document who is or isn’t following me or still my friend on Facebook. I’m also not going to sulk about my ex-BFF from high school giving me the Facebook-boot.

    Secondly, I wouldn’t say I have an etiquette about de-friending people, ect. If someone asks to be my friend who I really don’t recognize then I decline. I blocked a couple of people who have creeped me out one too many times on Facebook chat or are simply just annoying.

    I definitely think that in today’s tech-savvy world that online friendships have their own category in my life. I have my friends, and then I have my Facebook friends–it’s as simple as that.

    • I completely agree. I just got a friend request from a man in my hometown (he’s like 45,) who recognized me because I played volleyball in high school. I denied this friend request. I don’t really know this man, do I really want to give him access to things I want friends and family to see?

      As far as de-friending etiquette goes, everyone once in a while I go through my facebook friends and delete the people I really have no connection to. If I met that person once last year, chances are I don’t really care about the superhero quiz they took today.

      • I hear that. How wide do you want your circle to open?
        It’s interesting that you still maintain that that’s what your Facebook is still actually for. I think many people would argue that social networking has become a numbers game and forget that it began with connecting people.

  3. I look at online “friendships” and “followers” strictly from a utilitarian/security standpoint. If a person I don’t know at all asks to be my friend, I don’t friend them. I figure if they want to be my friend for a specific reason, they could have included a comment in the request.

    Example: “Hey, Erin! I’m Susan, a first-year at Drake. Someone told me to contact you because I’m interested in a journalism major and wanted some advice.” To that, I would gladly “friend” the person. (You’ve got to love the noun-as-verb trend technology has started.) However, to the random person who seems to have no reason for seeking my friendship, I don’t feel guilty declining their offer.

    As sad as it makes me to say this, I think our society is moving toward technology-only friendships. There are people that you only contact through Facebook, Twitter and maybe a text message now and then. I don’t think this lends itself to the same level of friendship the standard “meet in person” does, but I sometimes I think that’s where it’s all headed.

    While the Skype post reminded me that we can integrate the visual element into technology, my opinion is that none of these tools can truly replace the meaning of personal contact. However, I think in a world that so strongly values efficiency, we are certainly headed this way. But, the fact that people like my dad still travel so much for business reassures me that we haven’t given up on in-person presentations and meetings entirely, or at least not yet.

    • I completely agree. Things like Skype are great, but should be used as a supplement to actual, personal relationships, not a replacement for them.

  4. The guy who said he’d f*** my life up was upset that I had posted “It sucks to suck” on a picture of him crying on the sidelines after his team lost a football game. He wasn’t tagged, and I thought it was harmless. He disagreed, obviously.

    If there’s one thing I’ve found regarding friend requests and the opening of communication with strangers is that it is almost always better to air on the side of caution, be skeptical, and keep your list of friends small and intimate.

    The online world is a complex and wonderful place, but with the wrong people working their way into your personal space, it can become a very scary thing.

    • It is so much less exciting to have those minor details.

      Err on the side of caution, definitely. And there are so many kinds of ‘wrong’ people, because I feel like the Internet is so undetermined still. Creepy people in your ‘safe’ space, work people in your ‘personal’ space, etc.

  5. Ann Schnoebelen

    The fact that the “wrong people” are out there and creeping is exactly why I did a Facebook “friend purge” over the summer. I’ve read and heard waaaaaayyy too many stories about sketchy people finding all sorts of creative ways to find you even when you think you’re being careful online- things like scoping out license plates on cars in the background of your pictures, examining your wall-to-walls, etc.

    Upon graduating, I plan on going through my friends again and really cutting them down to people I know well and will need to stay in contact with. Right now, I’m with Clara- I’m really not all that offended if that kid from my fourth period 10th grade bio class decides he doesn’t need to see my status updates.

  6. Mary Bess Bolling

    I like to call it cleansing my friends list.

    Anytime I feel like my page is riddled with people I neither know nor care about, I’ll go to their page an defriend them. The next screen that pops up has a list of mutual friends and I’ll usually find someone on that list who I don’t want to follow any longer and my defriending spree snowballs. This happens less frequently the more time I spend away from home.

    Because I look at it objectively, I wouldn’t take it personally if I found that I had been defriended if it was someone I didn’t know well.

    I do agree that society is moving toward online friendships, and I don’t think it’s a terrible change. It’s human nature to want to make things as easy as possible, but it’s also human nature to want personal contact. I’m intrigued to see how we find the balance.

    • “Cleansing.” What a euphemism, MB. I like it.

      I get the efficient society thing, but who said friendships were ever supposed to be easy? I don’t know what people are going to say when preschoolers don’t know how to “play well with others” because their parents maintain most interaction through social media around their busy work schedules and parenting.

  7. The idea of an “online” ego is interesting. I definitely think people can feel rejection and hurt based on the denial of a friend request or being “unfriended.” I was once broken-up with by the guy just defriending me. Ouch. Didn’t hurt any less just because it was virtual rejection.

    In fact, I think online denial can sometimes feel even more devastating. Instead of just being ignored, you know that person had to make a conscious decision and take measures to reject you.

    Which reminds me, I have about 40 friend requests built up that I never felt like rejecting yet…

  8. The ultimate social stigma nowadays is to be de-friended (sounds like defend) someone on Facebook. I think the whole thing is ridiculous–why add the person in the first place?

    That being said, I’m guilty of adding people I don’t know all the time–even the creepers. One day I’m sure this will bite me in the butt, but I think I like the status quo of having lots of friends. Which brings us to the online ego…

    I like the part about egos in Holly’s blog, because it really is just that. I think that if I have more friends on FB, this somehow makes me more popular. I get really stoked whenever someone starts following me on Twitter, too. At this point, I could care less who I’m friends with on FB or Twitter. And I’m happy to say I’ve never de-friended anybody… not even the ex.

    • And Twitter even brings another egotistical aspect to the table. You don’t just friend someone. You FOLLOW them. The implication then exists that they care what you have to say to be constantly updated on them.

  9. Yikes is right! I can remember when I first started using sites like Facebook and Twitter. I friended nearly everyone in the beginning. When I started getting marriage proposals and less-than-appropriate links from people I’d never even met, that stopped. I immediately re-vamped my security settings. Even though these things were not my fault, I was definitely mortified.

    I’m still pretty open to people who have a connection to my networks, but outside of that I usually ignore or reject. In certain cases I’ll block them. I don’t think it’s rude. I think it’s safe. Unfortunately, this is where we’re headed, and I think it’s absolutely necessary to be able to protect yourself. There’s such a huge shift from personal to professional usage now that it’s almost required.

  10. I definitely think we’re moving steadily toward maintaining online friendships. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just, as Mary Bess said, a delicate balance. We should use social media to further friendships, not create them. No one likes to be creeped on, let’s be honest.

    I usually defriend people if I don’t talk to them or if they’ve been on my page for a while. If their status updates are filled with useless information, that’s another strike. But I don’t take it personally if I’m defriended, unless the “defriender” is or was a close friend of mine.

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