“UNFRIENDING” AS EFFECTIVE COPING

            Several years ago, sometime between when Facebook lowered the age to join to include adolescents and when adolescents decided they were cooler than Facebook, I (Carlea) facilitated a group with a few “tween” and teenage girls. One of the girls, Alyssa (all names are fictitious), was describing an issue she was having with a peer, Sarah, from another town. Sarah was consistently posting degrading, hurtful, and offensive comments on Alyssa’s wall. Even though this was in a time before smart phones and social media outlets were as ubiquitous as they are today, Alyssa felt trapped, helpless, and a disheartened. A typically quiet member of our group innocently offered, “Why don’t you just block her?” This simple suggestion changed Alyssa’s perspective on the situation as she suddenly realized she had an option that would allow her to regain power and control over the situation.  

            The next time the group met, Alyssa proudly reported that she blocked Sarah and felt a lot better after doing so. But her comment led to some other observations from our group. Christina asked Alyssa if she had any guilt about blocking her supposed-friend (the current word for this dynamic is “frenemy”). Alyssa thought about it for a moment and said it never occurred to her that she should feel guilty about blocking Sarah. “Why do you think I might have felt guilty? Sarah was being nasty so I stopped it.” Christina replied that she probably would have experienced some guilt, and would probably have taken a less extreme step and just “hidden” Sarah from her newsfeed.  Christina continued, “What if Sarah noticed and called you out on it? What would you do?” 

            As we discussed these issues it became apparent to the group that everyone has different thresholds for emotions. Whatever the threshold, however, the key is to search for options that will provide a sense of empowerment, and remember that there are often several solutions to issues. The key is first to realize you always have a choice and then you should do what makes you comfortable. There are seldom universal solutions. Alyssa chose to “block” Sarah; Christina would have chosen to “hide” her.  

            Bullying is not the only time blocking may be appropriate. For some people the barrage of “special events” photos that are posted to social media (e.g., new baby, first day of school, family outings, holidays) can be overwhelming, especially when grieving a loss. You may choose to avoid social media when those posting “triggers” are around. You may choose to block (or hide) the friends or family who routinely share pictures that you find upsetting. The thing to remember in all of this, of course, is that you have the power. 

            You might ask, “Well wait a minute, isn’t blocking someone really just avoiding an issue?” That’s a valid and fair question, especially in the context of the themes we try to develop in this blog. But the answer is no! Something like blocking in the context we discuss above is not avoidance because you are actually taking a very proactive and empowering step; you are taking charge of an issue that is bothering you, and in essence taking charge to control that issue. Exercising power and control when appropriate is the gold standard of coping when confronted with the types of challenges noted. In fact, not trying to empower yourself will prevent you from coping effectively with the challenge.  So, when it comes to social media and those who just bring you bad vibes, go ahead and hide or block them; you will ultimately feel a sense of control when you scroll through your newsfeed. Think of it as a virtual “decluttering.” 

            One thing we have not mentioned is whether you feel you should speak to the person you chose to block, hide, or completely unfriend. Would doing so help you feel even more empowered, or wouldn’t it matter to you? This is an individual issue with no universal answer, but we would be interested in hearing readers’ responses. 

            Finally, there’s another side to this unfriending coin, one we also hope readers will comment on: How would you react if someone blocked you from their feed? Would you feel guilty, immediately thinking you must have done something to offend that person? Would you be angry, offended that someone would dare unfriend you? Would you want to broach the action with the individual or just let it slide? Let us hear from you! Remember, there’s no “right” way to handle the situation – there’s just the right way for you.

7 thoughts on “”

  1. In a world where everyone spends their days on social media (i.e Facebook, instagram, snapchat, etc) either to catch up with family or old friends, you realize people act different when behind a computer (or phone screen or iPad). The people who face to face don’t say much, feel they are invisible behind their electronic device and can say,or post whatever they want. While sometimes things may not be directed towards you, you are allowed to be upset or angry about something you find offensive. Maybe seeing little kiddos first day of school or halloween pictures is annoying to you, thats fine. If it takes ‘defriending’ them for you to feel better, you are entitled to do that, even without warning or a conversation with them. Sometimes when you reconnect with old friends, its not the same person you knew 5,10,15 years ago and you don’t want to be bothered with them now. Thats okay, you reached out but realized you don’t need their status updates in your life. By defriending, or unfollowing, you are in control. You control your life and not only who is physically in your life, but you have the power and control to see whatever it is you want to see or like to see on social media. There should be no guilt in that. You have to surround yourself, now a days even on social media, with things that make you happy. And even if someone decided to unfriend or unfollow you, you shouldn’t feel any guilt. Maybe someone doesn’t care to see your kids, or care about the new job, or new boyfriend. Instead of creating even more friction, let them unfriend you on the internet without asking them about it. Maybe they just did not like your political posts, they are entitled to feel that way, but still like you as a person and don’t want to ruin a real friendship over Facebook posts so its better if they don’t see them. Just because someone has unfriended me, doesn’t mean my life is over. A friendship on Facebook doesn’t weigh much to me unless we have a relationship outside of Facebook. So I can respect being unfriended. At the end of the day, not being friends on Facebook is not going to keep me up at night, maybe I’ll sleep better knowing that now I have one less person to please.

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  2. Thanks for the great comments. You have the perfect handle on the social media world, and that is to keep it in perspective. I wish many young folks who, often understandably, are devastated by some of their social media experiences, would read what you say. I think they would profit greatly! Thanks again. Charlie Brooks

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  3. “…maybe I’ll sleep better knowing that now I have one less person to please.” What an empowered sentiment!

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  4. “…maybe I’ll sleep better knowing that now I have one less person to please.” What an empowered sentiment!

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  5. I completely agree that blocking someone from social media is not a way of inconspicuously avoiding an issue. It is most definitely a step towards taking charge of the situation by not allowing others to bring you down to their level. I have been in similar predicaments myself where “friends” or “acquaintances” have been in disagreements about the things I voice or how I go about an action, leading to aggressive confrontations and vice versa. I have never gone out my way though, to put up my feelings up on a wall for the world to see because I feel it is inappropriate and naive. I have had others write crazy indirect comments which were obviously directed towards me on their wall or my own. When a situation like this has occurred, it only proves to me one things, “they never a true friend,” so I completely remove them from my friends list. I also proceed to unfriend anyone associated with them who 99% of the time, will take sides with the trouble maker since I don’t have a meaningful relationship with them and their disturbing personalities match one another. Yes, I know it may sound like a psycho move, but I do it to save my self the trouble of leading on any commotion that will only bring negative outcomes. When you are young and dumb, you sometimes open the door to the wrong crowds oblivious to the how your life will be affected. Now, at almost 30 I perceive things from a different perspective, I carefully pick and choose who I want to keep around.

    If I were the person being blocked or unfriended, it would totally raise questions. I have never had anyone do it, so I would be surprised, concerned to have caused hurt without being aware I had done so. While it would offend me, I would not proceed to anger. I would try to confront the individual and try to resolve any emotional roller coasters that are riding by. I have have come to a mental halt when it comes to social media. While unfriending feels like an empowering move which provides the power of control, I feel overly compensated by the fact that I completely removed myself from Facebook. All social media does is create a barrier between real life and that portrayed by pictures and words. I choose my side!

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  6. It’s sad that social media has such an enormous impact on out lives now. I feel as though every time I get together with my friends, they also bring up things people posted on social media. “Oh did you see what so-and-so posted on Instagram?” “Did you see what so-and-so said on Facebook the other day?” Its also the topic of conversation. It’s sad that social media controls our lives and controls our thinking and conversations.
    I believe that blocking someone on social media who is being mean to you and bullying you is completely acceptable and you should not feel guilt. They are the ones who are bullying you, so you should be able to take the initiative and end it. Why should you have to put up with the bully’s rude comments? End it yourself and stop being pushed around.
    If I was blocked by someone on social media, I would want to know why they did it. If I was posting rude or nasty comments, then I would understand why I was blocked, but I would never do anything like that. I wouldn’t feel bad or upset if I found out someone blocked me. I learned a few years ago that you can’t please every one and that social media should not have an affect on your life. Social media should not be your source of happiness in life and it should not control what you do or think. You shouldn’t be concerned with how many followers you have or how many likes you get on the picture you posted. Life is so much more than being accepted and liked on social media. Go out in the world and go on adventures. Enjoy life and the ones you love. Don’t look for love on social media when you already have in your every day life.

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  7. “UNFRIENDING” AS EFFECTIVE COPING

    Unfriending can be a great way of effective coping, also blocking. But, what happened when someone creates a duplicate of your account and uses it to damage your cycle of friends by posting rude and nasty comments on their walls. A friend if mine “Brenda” was a victim of bulling. Someone created a fake account using her public pictures and added her network of friends, than used that to create uncomfortable situations where she was in HS. The issue evolved so quick that fights among friends broke out as supposedly “Brenda” kept instigating and posting secrets of friends on social media. In this case Brenda recognize that this issue was beyond her reach and accepted that she needed to communicate it to someone else. After obtaining help from her friend Bryan, they reported the fake account to Facebook and within hours the account was closed. Although social media serves to communicate with friends and family, it is important to be aware that it can also be used to damage ones reputation and also create conflict within our circle of friends. Brenda also learned that she could control who could view and have access to her Facebook profile by making it private and allow her approved friends to see her photos, videos and other postings.

    By accepting that she needed to act on this issue, communicating to her friend Bryan and restricting access to her profile to those who were her friends, Brenda protected herself and developed positive coping skills when it comes to social media and the internet. If someone was to unfriend me in social media, I wouldn’t be mad or angry. On a personal level social media is social media, and for me life is worth living. Now on the other hand if a close friend refuses to talk to me, then I would turn to ask him or her whats wrong? Because part of effective coping is good communication. Instead of voiding contact or ignoring that person I would engage on my fears and not isolate myself from the situation. If everything works well maybe solve our problems and be friends again, but never avoid.

    B. Zapata

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