Why Facebook makes you miserable

Since I joined the multitudes in January and started a Facebook account, I’ve found it enlightening. Through Facebook, I can answer age-old questions like: “Who is better, Lennon or McCartney?” Well, I can argue about it at least. I recently had a lengthy to-and-fro in which I tried to explain to a friend, calmly and logically, that it’s McCartney. My friend, who reads this column regularly (no mean achievement, as she lives in Stratford-Upon-Avon), had some crazy, twisted idea in her head that it’s Lennon.

I’ve always noticed that, in the Lennon-versus-McCartney debates, the Lennonists are always very scathing towards McCartney. (“I’ll give him ‘Yesterday’,” admitted my friend. This was faint praise, especially amidst her general theory that he was a talentless fool who wouldn’t have been able to lift a guitar off the floor without Lennon’s help.) The McCartneyists, meanwhile, still revere Lennon, albeit less than McCartney. Conclusion: McCartneyists are nicer. Of course.

That, of course, is one of the many arguments I’ve been able to have on Facebook. For that, we can be thankful. If we didn’t argue online, we’d probably meet in person and thump each other. I have a growing number of Facebook friends, of various backgrounds and ages. The youngest, I believe, is an 18-year-old whom I previously knew from real life. Though she’s very cool, I don’t feel especially honoured to be one of her Facebook friends, because her list probably outnumbers the complete list of people I actually know.

Personally, I am happy to say that I actually know most of my Facebook friends. For example, a former boss and all-round nice person (Facebook friends: 111. Actual friends: almost everyone she’s ever met, because she’s brilliant!) sends messages encouraging me to keep up my running. I’m trying to do the same for her, so we can both get fit. In this weather, our mutual efforts are not as successful as they should be.

(Incidentally, whatever the previous paragraphs might suggest, not all of my Facebook friends are women. They just send the most messages.)

Other times, Facebook seems designed to leave you miserable. This happened recently with one of my closest friends (both on and off Facebook), another writer. We kept in touch frequently, despite living on different sides of the world. Early in the friendship, it was made clear that we definitely weren’t in love, but we were always there for each other as friends, from across the ocean. When I finally took the plunge and joined Facebook, she was obviously one of the first people I “friended”, as if we didn’t already keep in touch enough.

Earlier this year, we had a disagreement, as friends often do. Naturally, it wasn’t the first time. I won’t explain the details of this disagreement, not because it’s private (though it is), but because I’m still not sure what they were. Personally, I thought that she was overreacting to something I hadn’t done anyway. She might have a different take. Whatever the case, her next email was somewhat angrier. The next was polite but dismissive, and uncharacteristically short.

This wasn’t the first time she had been angry with me, or I had read her words and thought “What is wrong with her?” It had always been resolved. If we only accept perfect people as friends, we’ll all be very lonely. But within a fortnight, we’d gone from one or two (lengthy) emails a week, to none at all. OK, I was thinking, maybe this would take a bit longer.

Even if we’ve drifted apart, I can accept it. Over the years, I’ve parted ways several people with whom I was once almost inseparable. School friends, writing partners, buddies from work. There was no bitterness involved. People move on.

But then, surfing on Facebook, I noticed that my list of friends was one down. I checked my list, and noticed that she wasn’t there. The unthinkable had happened: she had just “unfriended” me.

This isn’t always a terrible thing. I was unfriended a couple of months ago by someone else. Despite perusing my list, I don’t actually know who that was. It was possibly one of the people with whom I’d connected on some flimsy pretext, before they looked through their list and thought “Who is this guy?” This time, however, I actually missed the unfriender.

Losing touch, save for the occasional updates, is understandable. We’re all busy. That’s one of the great things about Facebook – we can still stay friends without ever seeing each other, or even writing to each other. But being unfriended made it official. For reasons I still don’t understand, she has decreed that we are technically not friends any more. Though we never claimed to be anything else, it’s still much worse than simply losing touch. Aside from announcing “I don’t want to be your friend now” (which nobody has said to me since I was about eleven), it’s the most certified way to sever ties. No wonder mass-unfriending is a popular tactic among cyber-bullies. Even if only one person does it, it can feel terrible.

Worst of all, I still have no idea what I did wrong. Since when did friendship get so confusing?

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This is the posts comments

  1. Peter 12 July 2012 at 5:16 am #

    A bit confusing, ah

    • Mark Juddery 12 July 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Confused, but not bothered. I’m glad it exists, even if it’s temporary…

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