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The Facebook Enigma: When Social-Networking Sites Infiltrate Our Real Lives

To Friend or Not to Friend? That is the question. This week, I tried to simplify my life... and I got burned.

Becky Graebner


July 17, 2013 - 4:00 pm


As a Millennial, I’ve gotten used to relationships starting via Facebook. Dating wasn’t “official” until my Facebook status said “in a relationship.”  As far as friends went, after meeting one time, it was socially acceptable to find that guy from the bar and friend him on Facebook—then wait a few hours before messaging him…hoping he’d ask to hang out again.  In the beginning it was cool: friend everyone you know–and their grandma.

However, hundreds of Facebook friends and seven years later, I’m tired of my Facebook and its power over me.  I feel this odd sense of confusion if I don’t check it for a few hours and I was starting to feel burned out and annoyed by the constant, idiotic updates from some of my “friends.”

The BFF-obsessed girl who is in love with the Caps Lock Key:

Ohmigod. Tonight I had the BEST night EVER with my BESTIE, (insert annoying name). OMG I LOVE you GURLL. BEST FRIENDS FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR :) :) <3

Gag me.

The kid who is really hoping to sound cool:

I am SO HIGH right now.

Really? I hope the police see this.

The person who needs some serious attention, ice cream, and a Sex and the City marathon:

Thank goodness you are out of my life. I am SO much better without you. Now I know who my real friends are and I don’t need you. I will never let you back into my life.  I am so much stronger now.  I’m in a good place. 

Please grow up. Then, call a shrink.

See what I mean?

Some people “delete” their Facebook as a sign of mental strength—only to reappear a few weeks later with 100 status updates about their awesome willpower.  Forget you.  I wanted a long-term solution.  So, after years and years of accumulating friends, nourishing Facebook friendships, and pruning some of those annoying (above) stragglers from my friends list, I decided to do a Facebook purge.

Honestly, when I told some of my real-life (not just digital) friends that I was going to go through my page and systematically delete people, they were aghast.  HOW could you do that?  That’s sad! Why?


Unless you have hundreds of pictures of these little guys, nothing can save you from the “delete” button…

Come on people, it’s time to let go of our little digital worlds full of people we care nothing about.  We spend more time on laptops and cell phones “Facebook stalking” (yes this is a word) than actually talking to REAL people around us.  I give a pass to far-flung families who have ongoing message threads or use the site to swap photos and news. Fine. Legitimate.  However, I’m staring to find it sickening how obsessed some people are with their pages.  One of my good friends urged me to stop posting on mine—no need to tell everyone what I’m doing all the time, where I am, or who I’m with.   After a few months of barely sharing, I realized how weird it was that people would “check in” at restaurants or post pictures of what they were eating or drinking for the world to see.  Does the world really need to know you are at Taco Bell in Reno, Nevada with Dave, Kate, and Rajesh RIGHT NOW?  Me, me, me generation right here!

I had enough. A few weeks ago I deleted over half of my Facebook friends in a matter of days.

Criteria for dismissal:

  1. I had no idea who you were.
  2. I hadn’t seen you (in person) within the past year.
  3. I couldn’t remember where I met you.
  4. I hadn’t talked to you (in person) within the past year.
  5. I hadn’t talked to you (on Facebook, email, or text) within the past year.
  6. You constantly posted annoying statuses about your life, eating habits, or lame boyfriend.
  7. You made daily, political rants that offended me.
  8. You didn’t have a cute dog that outweighed any of the other reasons for dismissal.

I was proud of myself. I’m naturally a bit of a “neat freak” and having a “clean” Facebook, populated by only people I genuinely talked to and cared about was a good feeling.  But, just as I was feeling good, it started to go very bad.

Within two days of my mass friend dump, two people tried to re-friend me.  What? Are YOU stalking ME?  Please note, I had not talked to either of these people, or seen them, in a matter of years.  How did they know I had de-friended them and then re-friended me so fast?  I was conflicted.  Do I re-friend them out of kindness or do I stand my ground and leave them until their “friend request” magically disappeared?  Someone needs to write social guidelines for this!  Is it mean to not friend them—what does that mean for real life?  Will they read my de-friending as shunning them as friends and acquaintances in real life?  I had zero problems with either of them—I just never saw or talked to them!

It was ridiculous how much time I spent on this. (Check out Hannah Sternberg’s advice today for this predicament.) The legitimacy of my actual relationships was somehow governed by a webpage.  Pathetic.

A third request came in: another de-friended person wanted to be my friend again.  This time, however, it was different.  This person, we will call her “Kimberly,” also sent me a Facebook message with her “be my facebook friend” request.  It said: “YOU DE-FRIENDED ME.”

At least it was short and sweet.

I was slightly mortified — but I didn’t immediately re-friend this time.

Two weeks later I was sitting in a restaurant with a group of friends.  Kimberly arrived after having been invited by another member of our party.  She sat down three seats away from me and started scanning the table, introducing herself to the new faces.  As soon as she saw me, she got visibly hostile and mouthed: “You! You! You de-friended me on Facebook!” Then, she started violently shaking her head.

I just sat there, flabbergasted.  What was I to do? Seriously! I hadn’t talked to or seen this girl in a year and a half—and here she is, berating me in mime fashion because I didn’t want to be her friend on an internet social-networking site!

I seriously thought about whipping out my phone and accepting her friend request right there at the table—at least she’d stop shooting laser death beams out of her eyes down the table at me.  However, I didn’t. I held fast.  She is currently in “Facebook purgatory” and I have decided not to re-friend her.  Why? #1: I should not allow an internet site to control my friend group. #2: I shouldn’t let Kimberly’s childish reaction influence my decisions. and #3, Due to her crazy behavior, I’m not sure I want to be her friend—in real life or in cyberspace. Adios, Kimberly.

Kids, these days…

Becky Graebner moved to the east coast from Wisconsin in 2011. She is still a rabid Badger and Packer fan, although she does support the Caps in hockey. She enjoys Formula 1 and Indycar. She likes the eastern seaboard but does miss track days with friends and family at Elkhart Lake and the Milwaukee Mile. Her favorite drivers are Kenny Brack and Robby Gordon.

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All Comments   (5)
All Comments   (5)
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I did the delete and then go back some time back. That was before the Snowden revelations. I deleted it again and will not go back. I have decided that Facebook is nothing but a spy ring. Not that I think my friends are spies, who mostly are people I worked with in the military, but because I don't trust Facebook or the federal government, so good riddance to FB.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a person who has been on-line, as it was back in the day, since 1986 I have a simple parameter for my facebook page: If I am not related to you by blood or marriage, or I would not recognize you and walk across a busy street to greet you, I don't need you on my facebook. I do have a good out, though, many people my age don't use social media. A young man that is in my daughter's "I wanna be your boyfriend" line sent me a friend request a few days back. I also consider that off limits.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think you should reconsider re-friending the girl you defriended, but with an explanation about why you defriended her, including an idea of the parameters you used. Tell her it wasn't personal. Say you're sorry and that in the moment of cleaning, you forgot that you weren't cleaning out shirts that did't fit anymore you were clearing out actual people.

I'm older than you and joined facebook as a way to keep an eye on my young teens. Until very recently, every one of my 'facebook friends' was either family or someone I've known for many years. I have a different perspective than you, but the bottom line is that there's a person on the end of every connection that deserves some sort of respect. When you lost that understanding and chose to not share an authentic reason for the defriending with the girl you ran into, you were choosing to show her less respect. That's probably why she acted that way. It's cover for some people.

I don't defriend people. I change their settings. It's less messy, and life is to short. Cheers!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"I don't defriend people. I change their settings."

THIS. I don't understand two articles in a row from young women bragging about purging people from their "fake digital life" because they felt like a victim of Facebook (lol) but were too stupid or lazy to click on "Hide All Updates From Newsfeed." I don't think I'd want the whole world to know that about me.

I also don't understand people deluded into believing that it's not "real life"; I've been using the internet socially since 1993 and it's always been real life.

My Facebook "friends" include a number of elderly and disabled people from my hometown--mostly distant relatives or friends of my mother--and while I don't care about what they're watching on TV or Yet Another Picture Of Their Dog Sitting On The Same Couch As The Last Thousand Pictures, I understand that this view into the world outside their living room is important for them. Letting them read my updates (and I've got lists set up so I don't bore work friends with family stuff or family with hobby friends stuff, etc) and look at my photos costs me absolutely nothing in time or energy. And I know they read them, because they'll see my mom at a funeral or whatever and tell her, heh. :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I agree. Facebook is a very real means of connecting to people near and far and it's been a terrific outlet for me. However, I do see how young people growing up with it feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the 'friends' they acquire.

Like any tool, it's only as effective as the person using it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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