You don’t need to have Asperger’s to feel bewildered in a culture that relies so heavily on inconsequential chit-chat to grease the wheels of day-to-day life. —Lynn Coady
Wise at last
My eyes at last
Are cutting you down to your size at last
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered no more
Those words, which appear late in the familiar song, keep going through my head this morning as I look through my Facebook feed. I’ve always found it interesting how emotions and events move in waves across my friends list. If one gets sick, at least a dozen more will do the same, even though they are not only unacquainted but don’t even live in the same region of the planet. If one has a baby (or grandbaby, more frequently), then I’ll start seeing baby pics from twenty different people.
What leaves me bewildered a bit, though (and I’m using that word a lot today), is when mass unfriending happens. We seem to be riding that wave at the moment. I’ve seen seven people allude to either unfriending or being unfriended in the past twenty-four hours. Each one has two things in common: they were “breakups” with someone they’d known a long time, and the split was over socio-political issues. Emotions ranged between anger, sadness, and resignation. With each, though, they were bewildered that they could know someone for so long and just now hit a topic of such severe disagreement as to part ways.
Unfriend or Unlike
I’ll admit that I rarely unfriend someone. I might unfollow them so that their all-too-frequent posts don’t clog my newsfeed, but I reserve unfriending for either blocking the rare person who is a complete asshole or weeding the list of people with whom I share no interest or relationship. Few people ever argue with me on a topic, which I appreciate. My need to unfriend someone is quite rare.
Neither am I someone who feels a need to “collect” friends. I am bewildered by those who do. I don’t understand the so-called advantage to having 5,000 friends one doesn’t know. The way Facebook limits who sees your posts changes so frequently that the only sure way to communicate with someone is through private message. On other social media platforms, one’s reach is more of a pure numbers game, so having high numbers of followers makes sense. Facebook doesn’t work the same way, though.
At the beginning of 2015, I did something drastic. I culled my friends list by a thousand people and started a professional page. My hope was to direct more professional contacts, such as models, makeup artists, stylists, photographers, etc., to that location so that I could be more personal on my personal page. Plan backfired. Not everyone got the message about the professional page. Not everyone cared. Roughly 800 of those unfriended stayed that way. Bewildered? Yes, totally. I don’t “get” this whole unfriend and unlike scenario.
Oh, But There’s Science
After seeing all the talk about unfriending, I thought I’d check and see if there was anything close to real research about on the topic. I wouldn’t have been too surprised to find nothing. After all, the whole concept of unfriending someone, even the word, has only been in the global lexicon about seven years. Proper studies take time.
What I found was a couple of studies done at the University of Colorado that were published in 2014. Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student, was the research behind both studies. He looked at 1,700 cases and came up with some interesting results. First, there’s the matter of who we unfriend in the first place:
- high school friends;
- friend of a friend;
- work friends;
- common interest friends.
Look at that very top result. High school friends. Why do we unfriend high school friends? Because our opinions have changed, matured, and become more deeply rooted. We are more likely to defend our positions after 10-20 years than we were back in high school. I’m starting to feel a little less bewildered by the whole thing.
How Does That Make You Feel
What may be the stronger study, though, is how one feels after being unfriended. You’re in a heated conversation with someone, and suddenly, they’re gone. You check, and you’ve been unfriended. Ouch! That hurts!
Or does it? Sibona’s study found four core factors for predicting someone’s response to being unfriended. You might respond negatively (sadness, disappointment, or anger) if the other person was a close friend, or if you monitor your friends list constantly. You might respond positively (relief, amusement) if differences were discussed both prior to and after the act of unfriending.
Equally interesting in this study is that the unfriending is more likely to occur with someone to whom one was once close. Those are the people with whom we are more comfortable engaging in deep conversation. Thus, we are more likely to find areas of severe difference.
More Unfriending To Come
One of the things we learned from the last presidential election is that as political tensions become more severe the number of severed social media relationships go up. There’s no reason to expect this year’s election season to be any different. The candidates themselves are about as polarizing as two people possibly can be. Political sentiment and a deep feeling of frustration have more people talking about the election and its related issues than ever before.
We have some decisions to make. Which is more important to you, maintaining a friendship with someone who is philosophically opposite of you, or holding firm to your position? I suppose, to some extent, that the exact issue on which one disagrees plays into that decision.
Perhaps we take old friendships too seriously. After all, one can’t expect people to stay the same forever. Should we really be surprised when someone 300 miles away decides the online connection is no longer worth the frustration?
At the same time, the answer may lie in being more compassionate with those who don’t see things the way we do. Even though we differ on very serious matters, are they not still our brothers and sisters in the universal sense? Maybe we can find that seed of love within us and share that rather than our differing opinions.
Don’t be bewildered by being unfriended. We are all different people with different experiences. Let each one go their own path. We’ll all have less stress for doing so.