Before Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Facebook, who you kept in touch with was not for public knowledge. A lot of people had a Rolodex or an address book filled with phone numbers and addresses. (Throughout high school, I had a small piece of paper with my friends' phone numbers on it.) With cell phones, keeping any number stored in your phone was groundbreaking.
But ever since those aforementioned social networks came into prominence (especially MySpace and Facebook), deleting anyone from a virtual (and public) Rolodex has become a touchy subject. Un-friending someone doesn't mean, "I don't want to hear your political rants, what you're eating, or what was the last movie you saw." Instead, it often comes across as, "I need distance from you, so I'm breaking communication ties for now." And sometimes (usually with the blocking function) it means, "I don't want to have anything to do with you for the foreseeable future."
Whenever someone un-friends me, I often think about the last time I saw her or her. Most times, the conversation (no matter how brief) was pleasant and friendly. So to find myself un-friended, I'm more curious than anything. I don't hold it against that person if he or she does it, but I most certainly will politely ask about it if I see that person again. (And as much as people like to say it's not personal, it certainly comes across that way when there's no real explanation given.)
I'm not bashing social media here; I love the concept, frankly. Keeping in touch with people you haven't seen in a while, you get a ballpark sense of what that person's everyday life is like. For people you often see, you get to see things that may or may not be brought up in a future conversation.
Too often, what we're thinking in our heads is not always suitable to be said in person. It doesn't help that Facebook always asks, "What's on your mind?" in the blank space delegated for a status update. Humans have a great filter called vocal cords. We can use them when we want to say something, and we don't use them when we hold back. Yet we don't have to use them at all when posting a status update. Which makes me wonder about the validity of, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it" matters in our modern society.
I'm no saint here; I've said some really hurtful things to people over e-mail, and I've been very cryptic about heavy things going on in my life on Facebook and even this blog. I have tried to curb all of that even though I understand why people use the route of sending a message instead of having a conversation in person. There are some people that we know that just don't "get" what we're talking about. They cut us off mid-sentence, urge to change the subject, or make light of what we're talking about. That certainly derails us from truly speaking our minds.
I can't help but think of this topic with the presidential campaign being over. Friends of mine, who love to vocally voice their political opinion on Facebook, have plenty of things to say today. In some cases, people have come across as hurtful and misinformed with the posts they share and the things they say. Interestingly, they don't bring these things up in an everyday in-person conversation.
All I come away from is knowing what to not talk about with someone in our next in-person conversation. If their political rants annoy me, I can simply unsubscribe from their posts, and they won't know about it. Thankfully that doesn't have to be public knowledge . . . yet.