Imagine this scene: two acquaintances have gotten together in a café, coffeehouse or similar establishment. They are both sullen and have not said much since arriving. Then one acquaintance turns to the other and says, “I’m sorry, we just cannot be friends anymore.
“What do you mean, we cannot be friends anymore?” the second acquaintance asks. “Is it something I said or did?”
“No, it’s not that. I just don’t want to be your friend anymore. We don’t have much in common and we hardly stay in touch,” the first acquaintance says. “I would rather spend my time with people who, you know stay in touch with me more and have more in common with me. I hope you’ll understand.”
The second acquaintance looks down at the table. “So, this is how it ends, right? We just stop being friends?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“But I like you.”
“I know. You’ll get over it, though. Believe me, this is for the best.”
Of course, in real life we never really “break” up with a friend. We might stop hanging out or getting together and then after awhile, it might even seem like we were never friends at all. We might meet someone new or hang with a new crowd. All the world’s a stage and people are entering and exiting our stages all the time.
Although we don’t break up with our friends in the real world, in cyber world, particularly social networking sites like Facebook and My Space we can. All one has to do is click a button or check a box and click delete and voila! That friend is no longer there. Deleted. Gone.
Now as easy as that may sound, it’s not that easy getting rid of someone you don’t want to be friends with. After all, no one wants to be cruel to be kind, but sometimes you can’t help it. Sometimes, for whatever reason you have to cut some people loose—perhaps to make room for more friends who share more of the same interests that you do or someone who simply annoys you by constantly updating their status to tell you everything about their day.
Regardless of the reason, there should be some guidelines and etiquette to make the decision to say sayonara easier.
A Kinder, Gentler Goodbye
For those with a warm heart and a conscience—and someone who wants to avoid getting on anyone’s shit list in cyber space—the preferable way of removing someone from your friend list would be to give that person a heads up. You know, explain why you are removing the person and please don’t stalk me or spread vicious rumors about me. If you want to lie through your teeth to save face, no one has to be the wiser.
Stay in Touch, or Else
This approach is good if you want the other person to make the first move, or in this case, by not making the first move, thereby freeing you from the responsibility of explaining why you removed them. “Hey, I asked you to stay in touch or I would remove you from my friend’s list. I guess you forgot to read that message.” You don’t really want to remove this friend, but you might feel a little slighted why this friend always finds time to comment on other people’s posts, but never your own. Was it something I said? You could try this approach first and if it doesn’t work, come back at them with the slam dunk—in this case, The Great Purge. See below.
Sometimes there might be someone on our friend’s list who we forgot why we added them in the first place and instead of coming right out and asking, “Where do I know you from?” we might drop subtle hints from time to time to inquire about our so-called friendship. It might also get the other person thinking about why they are friends with you and they might beat you to the delete and delete you first. Nonetheless, this is a slow way of saying goodbye and requires more effort with the inquiry. You have to stay on top of this; otherwise you may never know why you are friends with Billy Joe Bigót.
Ignorance is Bliss
For those who have a heart but are a little shy, this approach is simple. Just ignore the person. Hopefully they will get the hint and cut you loose.
Out of site (pun intended), Out of Mind
Similar to Ignorance is Bliss, this approach requires nothing on your part. When you do get around to deleting the friend they have probably already forgotten about you and won’t even know you are gone.
The Great Purge
You could take a page and a nasty one at that, from Uncle Joe Stalin’s play book and just start purging all your “friends” who have not kept up their end of the bargain to be your friend or ones who have started to annoy you with their posts and comments. The more the merrier.
While any one of these would work, there is always the chance that someone who you might have cut loose will send a message to you asking you why. A little etiquette goes a long way and even if you have to tell a white lie, it’s probably the best, not to mention the honorable thing to do. After all, there’s nothing worse in than having an ex-friend talking to one of your friends behind your back, or in this case, when you are off-line because you deleted them without telling them why.