Your college friends are your soul mates because they are the first friends you make on your own, says my mom. She says this in contrast to the way you make friends when you’re little — parents arrange playdates and decide whose house you’ll go to and what type of pizza you’ll order for lunch. Quickly and often, the moms become friends and the daughters become closer. Before you know it you’re all bound to each other like a familial PB&J.
Well, Mommy dearest, I beg to differ. The first friends I really made on my own were on Facebook. I decided to press that ‘add friend’ button. I was the one to take the plunge with the girl who was a friend of a friend but not a real friend, if you know what I mean. I am the reason that a mutual girl crush became a real-life romance. You can thank me for giving you the means to know my name when you approach me at a party. Mama, I’m a big girl now.
Still we do, with age, come to select our own friends on our own terms much more than we used to. We are no longer friends with people just because we grew up with them — because childhood and training bras bonded us together. We’re friends with people because we find a reason that makes us want to be. And at the same time, we sometimes find reasons to no longer be friends with the people we used to because we realize that what brought us together was something like the training bra, but now you’re a C and she’s a D and if ya can’t share bras, then what’s really the point? Okay, okay. In all seriousness, we are also learning how to divorce the people we want to, or perhaps the people we need to.
Today, or some day in the last few weeks, I was divorced. Someone divorced me. She wanted to divorce me so badly that she went to my Facebook profile, and she clicked on the button that says “Friends,” and she selected “Unfriend.” The “Unfriend” option is the last one on the drop-down menu, which means that she went through the trouble of reading all the options above it, which takes time and effort, in order to reach her destination. And then when she was asked if she was sure that she wanted to make this a divorce and not a temporal separation, she said yes, yes, let me file those divorce papers goddamnit, and she divorced me for life.
I have childhood friends who I will never not be friends with. I am never going to divorce them, I am never going to unfriend them. Because in real life, that just doesn’t happen. Maybe it happens once in a while, in what we call a ‘falling out,’ but it’s not a divorce. There’s no button that you can press that separates your lives forever. The concept of ‘unfriending’ then — this horribly isolating, exclusionary, and melancholy verb — wasn’t an option. Or it wasn’t a possibility. In real life, we don’t really unfriend, so we’ve created a digital space where we can.
It’s troubling that I’m upset about my recent divorce because that particular marriage wasn’t really strong to begin with. Well, maybe it was strong, but it wasn’t tangible. Let’s be explicit: my ex was my absolute favorite person to Facebook stalk.
“Maybe it’s because you’re so Facebook active,” one of my best friends told me at dinner tonight. What she said was something I already knew. My shameless (okay, my shameful) self-promotion is omnipresent on newsfeeds far and wide. But people tell me they read what I write, so that must mean it’s working. Therefore I can’t entirely stop the shameless/shameful self promotion. And I know she couldn’t have unfriended me because of my muploads, because I really only mupload every few weeks and it’s never more than 50 pictures at a time. Ironically enough, I only realized the possibility of her unfriending me because my newsfeed seemed rather quiet recently. Her incessant muploading generally takes up 60% of what pops up. Suddenly, it was AWOL, which meant she either deleted her Facebook or unfriended me. It was, as you may have figured out, option B.
I was probably annoying to her, and I felt sad. A relationship that didn’t even exist had ended out of my control. But what if she liked me in person and didn’t even know it?!?!? Someone consciously evicted me from her life the way some people do to their childhood friends when they realize all that’s holding them together — much like a Facebook interaction that only exists on two days, your birthday and hers — is the occasional ‘I miss you’ text or a random #TBT.
The more sad I got, the more I thought about feeling sad in this situation where that emotion just didn’t seem to fit. And I knew I wasn’t solely sad at the fact that I’d never have the balls to friend her again, like I did in eighth grade, so my stalking would really end. I felt instead a misplaced disconcertedness.
So, yes, we can all say what hurts the most about being unfriended is the fact that none of us will ever have the balls to friend someone again. What really hurts the most, though, is that ‘friend’ has gone from being a noun to a verb, and it doesn’t happen on your old tee-ball team and it doesn’t happen at a frat party, either. It happens quickly, it ends quickly, and it is a divorce. Hire your lawyers. You never know when the time will come — I can’t say I saw mine coming myself.