Unfriending leaves a mark.

Whether you were once BFFs, Facebook friends, more-than friends, or friends of friends, unfriending someone leaves a record – a history.

My family and I were strolling through a park a few weeks ago and sat on a bench swing. Bench swings, trees, and fence posts have a rich history of serving as markers. People throughout the world use these public spaces as places of memory. Carvings in tree trunks speak of first loves, fence posts bear the artifacts of couples who plan to return, and benches become places to invest in relationships.

While we were swinging in the park, the post of the swing caught my eye:

The first thing I noticed was the immediate attempt these friends made to be sure they had the correct date on their vandalism inscription. I can appreciate that. I’m all for accuracy.

But then I noticed that either Anabella or her BFF had returned to the swing – to commit an unfriending.  At some point after 6/24/11, one of the girls scratched out the name of the friend and left only Anabella’s name on the post.

The key marks on the post are a physical reminder of the relationship lost. They shared with me a sense of hurt feelings, or even anger. One of the girls felt so strongly about the end of the friendship, that she took the time to return to the inscription and blot out a memory.

I started to wonder about the act of losing a friend, and my thoughts immediately turned digital. How does unfriending surface in a digital age?

We inscribe our friendships on the walls of Facebook. These walls are as public as the post of a bench swing, and can be just as revealing.

A quick Google search reveals that one of the biggest questions asked in digital etiquette might be about the rules of unfriending. When is it okay to unfriend someone? Will they know? How can I unfriend them without letting them know I unfriended them? Here’s Facebook’s response:

Screen capture from Facebook’s Help Center

Even without virtual key scratches, the remnants left behind in the digital space signal the dissolution of a relationship. The absence of a name in a friend list or the dissappearance of a familiar face from the news feed are tangible reminders of the friendship lost.

But the digital marks do not stop there.

Facebook users can request records of their friends who have quietly committed unfriendings. Applications like “Unfriend Finder” and “Who Unfriended Me” (and other similarly named things) can tell a person who has unfriended them and when. Some will send alerts to a mobile phone or pop-up alerts on a computer.

Friendships are tricky things in the digital world and the physical one. In both spaces, the marks of unfriending are clear.

Have a good unfriending story? Feel free to share it here.


What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s