About a week ago, I went on Facebook to post a video on a friend's page (in fact, the very video I used for Friday Quotations last week) only to find that she was no longer on my friend's list. Facebook, as many of you I'm sure know and have perhaps experienced, does not actually tell you when someone else blocks you. It's probably a measure added to keep dropped people from immediately lashing out, and it's probably a good idea; to paraphrase, Hell hath no fury like the Facebook user scorned. In this particular instance, I'm reasonably sure the lady in question has dropped Facebook entirely. And I can understand that. Facebook is hardly a private enclosure, and its chief interests are not exactly its users' best interests. If someone wants to forge ahead without it, power to them.
What caught me a little off guard in this case, though, was the realization that her foreclosure was effectively the end of our friendship. I don't know her phone number, her address, or her email address. We had one connection, and that was done. It was a parting of ways without a goodbye, and in this day and age, a permanent parting, without even a hint of the "maybe talk sometime" seems like something rare. I don't want to overstate the terms of our friendship; she was a person I knew kind of distantly, and we both updated facebook statuses rather regularly, so we exchanged snipes once every two or three weeks. That was it. But then again, that describes about three quarters of my friends on Facebook--and frankly, that frequency rate is probably much lower than most.
Glaring childhood trauma is what's behind about 90% or so of adult insecurities, and that's certainly the case here. I don't talk about it a lot explicitly, but longtime readers with a gift for reading between the lines won't be surprised to know that I didn't have a lot of friends growing up. I had a few, and I'm still grateful for them, and I don't like to get all melodramatic about the time period, because things got better, to put it simply, but in general, there were some unpleasant stretches. I was small, bookish, and kind of a snarky snob. (In fact, given that I was small, bookish, and kind of a snarky snob, it's something of an accomplishment that I didn't have enemies. And that I made it all the way through high school without getting beaten up. Let's look at the bright side, yeah?) At any rate, that background has made me a little more sensitive towards friendships in general, and given me an appreciation of how fragile they are. Generally speaking, a friendship doesn't fall apart from a big fight or major melodrama, but from disinterest and neglect.
And social media, in a lot of ways, makes things worse. I can't speak for how instant messaging affects matters, since my phone is stuck in the metaphoric stone age, but I think the general experience still holds. In almost all cases, making it easier to contact someone doesn't make contact more frequent. A lot of the time, it has the opposite effect; if it's so easy, if it can be done at any time, why not put it off just a little longer? I recently went nearly a month without phoning my parents, and for the last two weeks of that, I said to myself almost every night, "Well, it's too late to call them today, but I'll definitely call them later." I understand that MMO companies' biggest money-makers are those who sign up for automatic payment, then stop playing without signing out. It's the same principle: you will never go broke betting on the human ability to procrastinate. In life and in Warcraft, procrastination has its price.
The argument could be made that any unfriending resulting from lack of Facebook contact (or similar drifting) is a case of cutting wheat from the chaff; if X was so important to you, you never would have lost contact with X to begin with. And all right, there's some truth to that. At the same time, my favorite 17th century peep, John Donne, famously said, "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." I think you can invert that: "I am involved in mankind, and any diminishment in my involvement is a tiny death." Don't keep toxic people around you, by all means, but don't let good people slip away. (And, um, don't be a stalker, but that's a different set of social disorders.)
I don't know if there's a particular conclusion to draw from this set of ramblings. I suppose I could take from it that I should spend more effort getting to know my friends. Granted, that tactic runs the risk of making them annoyed and exasperated. But hey, at least they won't be disinterested.