I have over 1500 Facebook friends. Yes, I know what you’re thinking- there’s no way in hell you know even half of them. And you’re right, I don’t. Some of my Facebook friends are random people I friended from my high school freshman year because collecting friends was apparently the cool thing to do back then. Other friends are people I didn’t actually know but accepted because they seemed to know everyone else in my social group. And some were people I once knew but lost touch with who I sent a friend request to out of the blue simply because I was curious as to what they were up to now.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize how unnecessary having all of these “friends” is. When my newsfeed isn’t clogged with me advertising this blog it’s full of posts from people I don’t even recognize. I sometimes even catch myself reading the wall to wall of people I barely even know or care about. I’ve never been able to commit to a Facebook purge like others I know. I just can’t bring myself to delete the irrelevant, unknown people from my life. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy or maybe it’s because I know if I unfriend them I’ll lose that weird voyeuristic window into their life.
Many of the friends I have yet to unfriend are old classmates from high school. I’m not sure why I keep them around. It’s not like I even knew them very well when they were in my life on a daily basis. I sometimes think it’s because they make me feel connected to high school and in turn my youth. Looking at pictures of people I went to high school with makes me feel reconnected with a part of me that no longer exists. It reminds me that I was and still am, to an extent, connected to a community. It’s also possible that I don’t unfriend them because I like to compare my growth as a person and job seeker to others my age. I like to see whether or not the underachiever I knew from school has made something from himself and whether or not the asshole who bullied me in gym is successful.
There’s a strange sadness and anger that occurs when I realize that someone has unfriended me. To an extent, it feels like my life is no longer of any interest to them. It is something I take bizarrely personal- it’s more than them just deleting some random person they barely even knew.. it’s like they’re trying to delete me from existence. I know that this is a strange even melodramatic thought but it’s sad to think about your existence no longer mattering to someone. I think it’s fair to say that most of us go through life oblivious to the fact that other people truly exist beyond ourselves. I mean we know that they “exist” in the sense that they are real and alive but we forget that they have thought processes and goals of their own. It’s strange knowing that the stranger we run into on the street exists when we can’t see them and that they have a life and mind as complex as ours. It’s even stranger when we realize that they see us the same way we see them.
There is one Facebook friend I make a conscious effort not to unfriend. It’s a person whose page I visit at least once a month despite not having talked to them for a good three years. It is the Facebook of my first real crush. And I don’t mean crush in the juvenile way. I mean crush in the sense that this was the first person who ever made my heart beat a million miles an hour. It was the kind of crush so powerful that you still reflect upon it years down the road. I may not have talked to him in over three years but part of me still yearns for him which I know is incredibly weird and stupid. The sad part is that I know he’ll unfriend me one day. I’ll go to type in his name and see that we’re no longer connected. And there will be nothing I can do about it. He’ll be out of my life for good. And it’ll be a strange feeling- I can imagine I’ll feel a little emptiness in my heart knowing that we’ll never be together, even though that’s something I’ve known deep down ever since the beginning. When sometimes unfriends you it’s like they tell you that you’re no longer allowed in their life. So when he unfriends me, I imagine it’ll feel like he’s telling me I no longer have the right to think about him, or our past together, or what he meant to me.
Maybe that’s why we don’t unfriend people. They’re the key to the past. Through them we can course our life journey and how we’ve grown as a person. Through them we can reflect upon the happy moments we shared with them or around them. To an extent keeping a hold of the past keeps us from getting old. Or maybe we simply don’t unfriend because we want to show the world that we are known and loved by so many people. I don’t have an answer and I don’t think I will ever have an answer on this subject. My hope is that I’ll find the answer before he unfriends me.