by Anastasia Maillot
Social networking has been the center of controversial discussions and criticism since the concept was born. In her review of Facebook, titled “Face Value”, Mary L. Gray mentions that Facebook users will create bonds on a very loose basis, such as one common interest, and will therefore assume they know the person well enough to “Friend” them. This brings up another rather problematic aspect of Facebook: defriending. Or, when talking about Twitter, unfollowing. This concept has, in my opinion, changed how people, especially younger generations, manage their relationships.
Since the birth of social networking, getting in touch with people has obviously become much easier. A Facebook user has nearly unlimited access to other profiles that can be friended or defriended. Creating ties with extended family or friends or even strangers around the globe has never been this simple. The frightening part is that cutting bonds with those you never want to be involved with again is also much easier. In fact, it is perhaps the most powerful and feared tool in social networking, as it provides no explanation to why you decided to unfriend or unfollow someone. The fact that it’s quick, easy, simple and doesn’t require you to come face to face with the person erases any guilt that might come along. It is also fundamentally different from deleting a person’s phone number, because some social networking sites will notify the user if someone decides to unfollow them. In short, it is a virtual slap on a person’s face, a wordless message that expresses disapproval or rejection.
Moreover, social networking and Internet in general tremendously helps us forget that on the other side of the computer screen is another human being just like us. In other words, Facebook helps us reduce one person into a name written on our computer screen, a pixel object that can be deleted at any time we wish. It is tempting to forget that each day we are dealing with real people, because it makes defriending morally much more acceptable. But we forget far too often that the Internet is not a separate world, as Barry Wellman states in “Connecting Communities: Off and Online”, but is tightly connected with our real lives and the people around us and can greatly affect our future and our relationships. Whatever happens online will definitely have an impact on our daily lives outside social networks.
At the same time, as we are encouraged to forget we are dealing with real humans, we are also seduced by Facebook into thinking we have solved whatever problem we were having by deleting a friend. We refuse to look deeper inside and think about the real issue in a relationship, because it is too much hassle and requires too much of our energy. Hence, we are not providing other human beings the respect, devotion and honesty they deserve, that we would most likely give them should we communicate with them face to face. These days, however, hectic everyday lives have caused us to forget the importance of true communication in a relationship and has turned it into a “chore” that Facebook helps us take care of, either by ignoring, blocking or unfriending.
The 21st century has brought about many new interesting inventions. Information, friends, family and co-workers are closer than ever to us thanks to social networking. While the positive aspects have been tremendous, it can’t be ignored that the quickness and simplicity of Internet and Facebook have caused us to grow passive and impatient with our relationship management. Relationships are cut off and created on a whim without further thinking and consideration of what we are really doing, undermining the very meaning of friendship and family that once existed. This development is both frightening and alarming and it remains for us to see whether we can preserve our respect for other humans an our relationships even with the increasing development of social networks.
- Facebook launches “unfollow” button (alrasub.com)
- friend? defriend? unfriend? (yoshimi0988.wordpress.com)
- Globalization through Social Media, Any Dangers? (japansociology.com)
- Facebook Wars: Revenge via Social Media (marisatallu.wordpress.com)
- Facebook’s Unfollow Button Replaces ‘Hide All’ in News Feed (mashable.com)
- Unfollow Your “Friends” – Facebook To Roll Out The Unfollow Button (business2community.com)
- Facebook changes ‘Hide All’ to ‘Unfollow,’ shaming us for ignoring annoying friends (digitaltrends.com)