Virtual Friends

Last month I did some pruning of my Facebook “friends” list.  There were several people on there whom I don’t really know and definitely don’t have any regular contact with.  Given the amount of information that Facebook provides me, a mostly uncontrollable flood, I finally asked myself, “Why am I getting updates about people I don’t really know, haven’t seen in more than a year, and don’t stay in touch with?”

Now, I’m the first to recognize that a virtual “friend” isn’t going to be the same thing as a real-life friend.  But there are “friends” on Facebook who, even if we haven’t spent much time hanging out together, we are still regularly in contact with one another.  We comment on each other’s updates and photos, etc.

Same thing here on Xanga.  There are many people in Xangaland with whom I feel I’ve developed a close rapport.  We share stories about our lives, comment on each other’s stories, have little dialogues.  I interact with some of these people more than I do with my family.  So I don’t want to suggest that virtual “friends” can’t have a lot of value. 

But it does seem like a point was reached where I had to make some decisions, at least with regards to those Facebook “friends”. 

I knew that doing so might come back to haunt me.  Sure enough, this week I received an email from one of these pruned “friends”:

We used to be facebook friends… OK, we haven’t hung out in a while, but I’m a little surprised that you deleted me. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t done anything to sprite you.

Anyhow, not broken up over it. It’s just kinda funny.


To which I thought, “You may not be broken up about it, but it must have bothered you enough to send this message.”

After a few days of figuring out the most diplomatic way to say, “I don’t really know you so I don’t feel the need to call you a friend,” I settled on the following:

Hi R,

Rest assured my deleting you doesn’t have anything to do with you having spited me. After the most recent facebook format was put into place, I’ve found it difficult to manage the amount of information I’m receiving. The flood of status updates, quizzes, photo album adds, etc. is making it difficult for me to stay up to date with those people whom I know well and stay in touch with regularly.

Because of that, I decided to start pruning my list of virtual friends. I feel that I don’t really need to be receiving updates on people I’ve only met a couple of times and haven’t had any contact with in a year or more.

I hope you’ll understand my decision to try and define virtual “friendships” less like acquaintances and more like friendships I have in real life.



Do you think I handled it diplomatically enough?  It is tough to tell someone that, but I didn’t want to wuss out and make a lame excuse like, “Oh, that must have been an accident.”  If I value honesty and directness from others, I guess I should be willing to be honest and direct – and hopefully tactful – myself.

Where are you on the virtual friends issue?


0 thoughts on “Virtual Friends

  1. you are nicer than I, once I make that decision to delete, the only response I’m accepting is a limited request for why? please reconsider! or a simple note saying they are aware.  the way you “contact” wrote his note said to me that he was aware.  cool. click. delete.   in a way though this perpetuates something most have probably suffered from once or twice, NOT KNOWING.Have you ever applied for a job, interviewed and waited 3 weeks to figure out for yourself that you didn’t get the job?   That is annoying.But the point is, where am I in the world of virtual friends… you know, doing well thank you,.  I’ve blocked one person in 12 years and managed to piss off only 4- 1 of whom relented, if only temporarily.  I try to leave room for new and interesting people such as yourself, and houseclean out the duds from time to time.  itsoverall, I’d say that if I can say I managed a date not the best date of that particular year from a virtual friend turned temporarily real, I’d accomplished something perhaps interesting.

  2. i completely agree; i am trying to be somewhat selective on facebook as well because i don’t find the need to share my entire life with people that i never would have shared it with in person. besides, if you don’t maintain some manageable level, then you’ll just end up ignoring everyone and then what’s the point of being “friends” with them anyway?

  3. I think you handled it diplomatically. Does Facebook actually tell people with a status update that “X just de-friended you?” I did not know that.I think that if you (Chris) de-friended me, *I* would be disappointed that I would not be able to live vicariously through your “food porn” and adventures throughout Asia. That’s just me, of course, but maybe other people feel the same. Also, if your former FB friend never had that many FB friends in the first place, maybe you leaving the list seems like a bigger hole to them.I totally understand why you did what you did and as a like-minded Scorpio, I definitely prefer the more straightforward method but I find that people (in lots of cultures, not just American) don’t really like it when you say what you really mean. I have another dilemma from the other end…should I accept people I barely know as a FB friend? This guy from graduate school that I barely know (only through mutual grad school friends) tried to friend me on Facebook and I decided not to accept. I really thought long and hard about it because he’s Black (am I being racist?), has tried to romantically stalk one of my grad school friend (like literally showed up at her front door), and says stuff that offends another grad school friend who is a lesbian. Why am I even thinking about these things when I don’t even know this guy?And I see him at professional conferences every April…I know I have offended him by not accepting him but I could not justify being friends with him.Anyways, I think you did the right thing. If you deleted him from your pen and paper address book, he would have never known. But it’s done on the Internet so it seems more public than it really is.

  4. Well I think you acted nicer than how I would have responded to that message.That’s one of the many reasons I stopped using Facebook though.

  5. I just replied to another friend’s blog yesterday on the exact same subject (well, the flip: she was realizing a few people of her *600* friends had defriended her). Since it applies more or less equally here, here is what I commented to her:I’ve recently begun a defriending process. A while back, I decided that if I ever got to 300 friends, I’d start culling the list to always stay at 300; someone new comes in, someone old goes out. Now that I passed 300, a few people have had to go because a few more wanted in.The reason for this? Information overload from several overoptimistically-defined “friendships” with folks who are very loose acquaintances (people from high school that I can’t even remember; or people I have never met in person but sent an email or two to in relation to some event I was coordinating). Yes, I can block them from my news feed, and I can put them in a special “group” so they don’t get too much information about me… But at what point is it useful to remain FB friends with them? Will I ever need to contact them independently? Do I want them to contact me independently?It sucks to be defriended, but when stakes are low… Thus far, I’ve never had someone write to say they realized they were defriended, so they probably realize that there wasn’t much of a connection worth keeping track of. (What’s more: Those that get culled are usually from a friend list on Facebook that suppresses outgoing updates from my own news feed, so even when we had been friends, they weren’t getting any updates from me).

  6. I think you handled it well. It’s ridiculous how people get so upset over losing a facebook ‘friend’ when they were never really even friends with them to begin with.

  7. I am very strict about adding.Requests from people I don’t know that well are all ignored.People I feel iffy about have a category in friends that I receive no updates from nor sent to. (They’ll be pruned after a while)

  8. i did this sort of “pruning” a while back…i don’t really understand people who just go around adding people they don’t know or don’t intend to talk to…lol

  9. I never accept invites even from people I know in real life that I don’t even like. Bleh In the end I deleted the account and am much better for it 🙂

  10. The night before my university graduation, I cut out about 60% of my facebook friends- around 800 people. I’ve had people re-add me and gotten some of those messages in response; in general, it’s an awkward situation. I usually just respond with “Sorry, got overzealous with a friends cut” and accept any re-adds. In general, though, I understand about the difference in real-life friends from online friends. Although you might never realy see them in person, I still feel much closer to certain online friends than many of my friends here at school. It’s a different relationship, but I think it can be just as rewarding. I find that the small xanga community I’ve been interacting with has been really nice, even though it is still relatively new to me.

  11. I think you went above and beyond what many people would have done.  Your level of diplomacy impresses me.  Some people seem to forget that the person on the other end of the line is, in fact, a real person.  Most of my close virtual friends have moved on.  I think I could prune 90% of my friends / subs list without receiving a single comment.

  12. Thanks, everyone, for contributing to the discussion.  I really enjoy reading your thoughtful comments!@artworkjanalee – Biggest reason for not adding him back: If I ran into him in person (even if I hadn’t cut him) there would only be about thirty seconds worth of conversation before we got to the long, awkward silence.  Thanks for your comment.@YourOuterCritic – @SimplyNita – @ElusiveWords – @yang1815 – @Uncious – Thanks for the supportive comments about my diplomatic skills.  I’ll be preparing my resume to send to the State Department, attention Mrs. Hillary Clinton…@kunhuo42 – @chrispycrunch – @LostSock21 – @onmovement – @tequila_sky – Yes, being more selective on who I add as a friend would keep me from having to make these type of decisions in the future.  Fair point, thanks.@secade – 800!?  Was that the number cut or the total amount, of which you cut 60%?@Wangium – Whew! I suddenly feel like I made it over a very high bar, then.  But now I worry whether or not I’m in the iffy category! =P@choyshinglin – Very philosophical approach.  I’m certainly not worried about whether or not I’ll become friends with him; I just don’t want to insult anyone.@mike august – Thanks for the comments, Mike.  Sounds like you have the opportunity to share this advice with several people who are facing the same dilemma!  I agree with the question at the heart of your comment: Yes, I could just put them in a category in which I get and give no news feed.  But what’s the point of that?

  13. I am still sort of a novice at Facebook….have maybe 20 people on my “list”….there are half a dozen that are on the “request” list that I have chosen to basically ignore…they obviously just added me because they saw my name on someone elses list…I have NO IDEA who they are and see no reason to share any of the information about my life with them. I am not really comfortable with Facebook yet…don’t understand all of the “stuff” and am not interested in the “lets take a test to see which era of history I should have been born in” or “lets take a test to see who knows SuzieQ the best”. I think you handled it well…I wouldnt worry about it personally…just go with the flow. That does bring up another question that I have had though…does someone know when you “unsubscribe ” from them here on Xanga???Ruth Ann

  14. I did the same, i.e., pruning my FB list. One day my colleague from work asked me why I no longer want to be her friend. At first, I didn’t even know what she was talking about until I realized that she had been a “victim” of the great FB purge. I blamed it on the new FB layout but didn’t reinstate the FB friendship. As you say, there is too much information in FB, and I don’t want the whole world to know about it. One has to be strong.

  15. That was very well handled, IMO. And yes, you didn’t chicken out either! I would have in that situation with the exact reason you put. Lol. I’m still somewhat of a newbie with FB but I learned that you can “hide” updates from certain people you don’t want to be getting updates about.Since MySpace days, I made it a loose rule to only add people that I know. Now on FB, I have only virtual friend on there, who happens to be from Xanga. I don’t like people whom I’ve never met before reading about stuff I post about or see pics I post of myself and my friends, etc.And, I also delete people who don’t bother to keep in touch or comment back. What’s the point of staying friends if they’re not going to keep in touch or anything, even with a random comment “Like” or something. If we’re “friends” so they can check out my updates and such, it’s a no go either.

  16. @Redlegsix – They won’t know directly – they don’t get a message that you’ve unsubscribed, for example – but I would certainly miss you!  =)@beowulf222 – A victim of the great Facebook purge.  That’s funny!  Yes, blaming it on the new format is a great all-purpose excuse.@RedStarr5 – Good points.  I’ve pretty much decided that totally random friends on Xanga is okay, since my blog posts aren’t protected and anyone can read them, family, real life friends, virtual “friends” or none of the above.

  17. U handled it very well, though I hvnt deleted anyone from my facebook list,I been deleted by others though and actually they are the one who sent me the request….. And I was the onecwho tried to develop conv after adding them…….. I think it’s quite funny

  18. This is why I love you so much. If you cannot be honest, then you are a hypocrite. I did the same thing here on xanga. I had almost two hundred friends, and more than fifty percent were just there… with absolutely no interaction and my inbox was just so full always. So a couple of months ago I got rid of them. I don’t think any one minded at all. I hardly go to facebook Chris. I don’t enjoy it as much as xanga. So feel free to delete me from your list on facebook. Love you.

  19. @ZSA_MD – That’s very nice to say!  Of course, I wouldn’t need to delete you on facebook because, since you don’t go on it very often, there aren’t many updates!  Plus, you’re someone I actually know and stay in touch with.

  20. Yes very diplomatic indeed. I think I would struggle with the same thing. Though since I don’t have much time to be regular on FB, I don’t have the same problem. And given that I add people to my list so slowly, it would be a whil before I would have to face the same question you faced.

  21. Hmmm, I culled. I culled people I knew, that I had lived with, that I had travelled with and that hadn’t contacted me or me contacted them in over 6 months. Some were upset to say the least. But I want to live in a world were the people who are important to me are IN my world, a part of my life, not just a person I know in case I’m ever going to visit that portion of the world. 

    Just me and my two cents.

  22. Prune ’em! If I don’t really know the person that well and they’re doing little else than contributing to news feed spam, I cut ’em out. Just going through my friends on Facebook, you’re actually one of the few people I haven’t met in real life. BTW, sorry to hear about your air conditioning. The geeky part of me wants to propose some ingenious way to cool your condo, but it’s probably best to let them replace the entire unit. =P

  23. @dynamiqvision – Well, if we don’t get a new unit in place by this weekend, I’m going to call upon your geeky part to improvise a solution.  Re: Facebook, I’m investing in the future date when our paths cross.  After all, surely you will come to Thailand one of these days, right?  Everyone does, eventually.  =)

  24. I think you were tactful and diplomatic. To me, a friend is someone with whom I can converse–share experiences, insights, appreciation.  This is why I keep my Xanga friends’ list at a minimum.  To me, it’s about quality, not quantity. (That’s why you’re on my list!)  🙂

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