Facebook, Unfriending & Havoc Created: Part 1

On Friday, I read a post on my friend Dyane’s blog that reminded me of a life-altering experience my friend, Tara, had several years ago.

I do a lot of thinking about social media — the connections, behaviors I see, the benefits, the drawbacks. I ponder how I prefer using various platforms, both personally and professionally, and often find myself weighing the pros and cons of meshing my professional life and personal life within virtual spaces. It’s a tricky thing. I have no firm answers, but I’ve determined that so much of it is a highly individual decision that varies depending on the situation.

I find myself frequently having these conversations with  real-life friends, often after they’ve had negative experiences and need to talk through them.

I commented on Dyane’s blog and shared that I wanted to add more but was pressed for time and would do my best to come back.

On Sunday evening I sat down and began typing out my comment only to find that it was LONG. Dyane loves open dialogue, and never minds lengthy comments, but the more I wrote, the more I recognized that this comment would be better as a blog post.

Dyane is a prolific mental health advocate and writer. Her work is her passion, and she works tirelessly to speak for those whose voices have been dismissed and ignored. Dyane candidly shares her own story of postpartum bipolar disorder as well as her daily life raising young children in the process. She’s engaging and inspiring, and her writing is laced with intelligence and wit, and I learn something from every post. I’m proud to call her my friend.

I encourage you to read her post in full as I feel it’s important to fully understand my response here. Dyane tells of a recent situation where she was featured in a Huffington Post article. She was on hiatus from Facebook, but in order to respond to comments on the piece, she had to use a Facebook profile. During this time she was unfriended on Facebook by someone she considered a friend and confidante and was extremely hurt (understandably!) by this “friend’s” action.

Dyane’s experience and response reminded me of something a dear friend went through eight or so years ago:

***

Tara had recently taken a job and moved her family to a town that felt like another universe. She was learning a new position, helping her children adjust to a new school, new friends, renting out a house thousands of miles away  — you get the idea. She was under a ton of stress.

Tara is a talented, go-getter, who does everything with a depth and passion most can’t fathom. She’s high-functioning, intelligent, and very sensitive — and I absolutely believe that some of the most talented people are often the most sensitive. She was having to hold everything together in her job and with her family while navigating a climate vastly different from her home of origin. At night she couldn’t sleep and would often turn to social media to connect with her long-sustained support system, now geographically far far away.

She would pal around with her friends on Facebook, and that got her through numerous hard times in her daily life. At the same time, she would post articles and have discussions pertaining to her career — a career she chose because she loved the field and wanted to make the world a better place. She was talented and deep, and she was great at her job. She was changing lives, making an impact and a name for herself.

As she grew more renowned in her field, her Facebook feed held more work-related content (articles, links, discussions), and often became host to lively discussions drawing friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. The majority of her Facebook friends shared her passion and were outwardly supportive and congratulatory of her success, and were also quick to support her on low days when she shared her disappointments.

Unfortunately there’s an asshole (or a few of them) in every group, and nowhere is this more evident than in these intimate online spaces. Tara got unfriended by four or five colleagues — people she had always sensed didn’t like her and were jealous of her success, when the reality was that her being better and drawing attention to some of the things she was drawing attention to only bettered all of them. But…their egos got in the way, and they couldn’t see that.

However…they had choices in how they chose to handle those ego-filled moments — human moments. None of us are immune to feelings of jealousy and envy, and none of us go through life never having a bad day. Perhaps I could chalk Tara’s situation up to the newness of social media, but I still have a hard time defending her unfrienders.

I learned a lot about the depth of pain inflicted through what might seem like a ‘hey-that’s-life’ situation with Tara. This mass unfriending brought her to her knees. It made her question every conversation she’d ever had on Facebook. It made her swear she’d never show any vulnerability in a public place again. It was the beginning of her career undoing and sent her into a deep depression that she had to fight and claw her way out of with the help of meds and numerous professionals. And the worst part was how the unfrienders used her reaction as ammunition, causing her further pain.

They called her unstable; unfit to handle the pressure of their field and basically everything other than crazy, when in reality, she was suffering from a common mental illness that she had been forthcoming about with these people.

I’m being vague here to protect identities, but the field that these colleagues — so-called experts, unfrienders were in — is very much a field where they know better, but they chose to not do better.

They could have unfollowed her or chosen to not participate in certain discussions.

They could have tactfully suggested she start a different page or group independent of her personal page that could serve to facilitate some of the very discussions taking place on her personal page — though Tara was doing nothing against policy and only these few seemed to have a problem with what she was doing.

Instead they acted out with some passive-aggressive bullshit by choosing to collectively unfriend her.

Tara is not passive aggressive. She lives out loud. She called them out on the unfriending — questioned them — and these were people unaccustomed to being questioned. They made proper, avoidant responses — ‘We felt you were using your personal Facebook page to further your cause.‘ Pardon me, but the very cause to which they were referring was supposedly the same cause their entire organization claimed be furthering. But because Tara was the one actively working to further this cause in a unique public space and gaining good attention because of it, rather than jumping on board and saying — ‘Hey, this is something you’re awesome at. We never considered Facebook a place for this, but it’s amazing. Keep doing your thing. We’re behind you.’ — they made her life miserable, and caused her to doubt herself.

Tara developed a phobia of speaking out on social media — something, I believe, she truly had a gift for. These unfrienders had different strengths but weren’t interested in progressive change — certainly not when they weren’t the ones pioneering the idea.

Eventually, Tara’s depression went into remission, but she was told that the organization wanted to go in a different direction. They insulted her with a pay cut inviting her to stay as an intern — an ‘opportunity’ to mold herself into their more traditional way of doing things, even though they originally hired her for her ‘innovation and ability to creatively share the company’s ideals.’ She politely told them to go f*@# themselves and is now successfully freelancing, effecting change, and kicking ass on her own terms.

***

I actually consider Tara’s story to be one of my greatest life lessons. I say that now that she’s moved past most of the trauma — and call that an exaggeration all you want — but that’s what it was. Many of my thoughts on social media and the way I conduct myself there are because of the profound effect Tara’s experience had on me. Stay tuned for part two of this post for more of my personal thoughts and conduct on social media.

It’s so easy to forget that behind every social media profile is a person. I want to believe that the person who unfriended Dyane is someone struggling in her own life and made an impulsive decision that wasn’t well thought through. My hope is that she’ll read Dyane’s post and choose her future social media actions more intentionally — with more compassion, directness, and empathy. Unfortunately for her, she lost a good friend in Dyane.

The flip side, and anyone looking for a debate can certainly attest to this, is that we don’t have all the details and that people have every right to unfriend whomever they choose.

All true.

We also have to the right to tell the barista making our coffee that their creation tastes like shit and that we’re never coming back to their stupid café again.

We have the right to ghost people we’re in relationships and friendships with by cutting off all contact with no explanation.

I hope we all aim for more civil and mature ways to handle our dissatisfaction.

Social Media has a way of shining a light on people’s character — a bright and far-reaching light.

I hope it’s encouraging people to work to be better. Kinder. Even if the only reason is to prevent being exposed as an ass.

Online social spaces are still babies — or maybe we’re in elementary school by now. We’ll have to ask a more tech-y expert for an accurate developmental phase. Let’s just say it’s young, evolving, and we’re all still learning.

So often we read articles touting the benefits and/or drawbacks of social media, but I rarely see personal stories illustrating people’s experiences — especially the expression of feelings after instances of something hurtful like being unfriended.

These stories are important. I’m sorry Dyane was hurt, but I appreciate her for boldly sharing this experience. I hope it will make us all examine our actions on social media a little more carefully. Here’s the link to her post. I encourage you to check out her important blog and the work she’s doing in the mental health community, specifically  drawing attention to Postpartum Bipolar Disorder — a lesser known disorder impacting many, possibly someone you know.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media. Have you been hurt by someone unfriending you? What are your thoughts on unfriending and social media etiquette in general?

 

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Facebook, Unfriending & Havoc Created: Part 1

  1. I adore this! I often struggle with the balance between what to share or not share. There is definitely a fine balance. I thought of creating another page. I have a love/hate relationship with facebook .I so wish I could discuss this with you in person. This story that you’ve shared and your thoughts on this matter are of importance. I use to share a lot more, but share/post drastically less on facebook over the last few years by choice. It’s so many layers and dynamics that go into the Social Media Culture. I loved reading this. And would love if people opened dialogue for this more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: An Outing in Savannah | Grief Happens

  3. Hmmm, I don’t trust social media (blogging excluded). As you say, we like to believe there is some humanity behind every profile, but I just don’t have that much faith in humanity these days. I was ‘unfriended’ personally (not Facebook). Losing a friend in virtual life and real life is traumatic. My heart goes out to Tara. She lost so much. Where is the justice, the accountability? It makes me furious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree it is infuriating. Losing friends anywhere is hard. Unfortunately with Tara, there was NO justice or accountability. She toyed with seeking that for too long and finally had to accept it — for her emotional well-being. For me, knowing that she was finally able to move on to better things is a form of justice in itself. But I hear you — we need more kindness in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Removing myself from Facebook is one of the more positive things I’ve done for myself. No one wanted to hear, understand, or learn about Bipolar Disorder or Conversion Disorder. Until I posted a comment on a famous musician’s Facebook page. He had done a Documentary on how Society sees beauty and how the “freaks” and “ugly” people are treated. It was so intelligent and struck a nerve in me. There were actually a few performers from a “Freak Show” interviewed and their stories were heartbreaking. This musician then photographed them how HE saw them. It was brilliant. I told my story and how I often felt like an outsider and that I self-medicated with alcohol for over 20 years but am now sober. He personally responded to me and posted it on his page, my page, his band’s page, and every social media outlet he had access to. You would think this would be a good thing. It wasn’t. It blew up. Close to a thousand people from his page were trying to ask me questions while people from my past found me and starting sending hurtful things to my page. I left Facebook and went to Twitter where the musician still engaged in conversations with me. I then found out it was a marketing ploy and he had actually called me “annoying” and “bad for business”. I was crushed when I saw this. I doubted everything I ever did to make people aware of the stigma behind Mental Illness. I felt shame for some reason and embarrassed. I went in to a depression for several months. I risked myself to try to help others and it backfired. Once I found out about blogging my life changed. There is no negativity or shame here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a nightmare!!!! I am so sorry that happened to you. I agree that blogging is an entirely different, and in my experience, more accepting climate. I broke up with FB for awhile a few years ago. I DID go back but with different rules for myself. I don’t share much there. I leave that for blogging. I hope to share more about this in part 2. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad blogging has been a better experience for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I had a completely eye opening and cruel unfriending take place a couple of years ago. It was when I was trying to come to terms with my diagnosis and the fact that I couldn’t work any longer. I was feeling very sensitive and depressed. Meanwhile a “friend” had started to drink more and more and more until it was obviously a problem. All of a sudden, one day out of the blue, she started messaging me about how crazy I was, and I was obviously a nut job. She then unfriended AND blocked me. The inability to respond was horrifyingly disturbing to me. It’s been about 4 or 5 years and it still digs in under my skin every so often. My social media activity has decreased significantly since then.

    Great post!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I think that the repercussions of our online identities are highlighted as relatable to our face to face identities. Pain in the virtual world equates to pain in the face world. Both are the real world add the emotions and experiences are genuine. I have problems with people slamming some of my posts and this I take personally as I see social media as an extension of self. My face is on there, I speak honestly, it is me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This makes total sense. And you’re exactly right — some people act so shocked when people take offense to online criticism, but like you said, they are a part of our identities — an extension of self. I plan to talk more about this in part two. I’ve just had a crazy week & need more time to formulate comprehensible words. Thanks for your insight.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can understand the pain of losing friends on facebook, but now I haven’t the faintest idea who is a friend still or not. I use that platform only to promote my blog and occasionally keep up with my family and blogger friends. I think I have lost a few bloggers, but I have so many I can’t keep track. There are certainly ones that I would be most upset about. Time change and our worlds have changed. I am still supporting bipolar, but I also support God and my new found following of his fellowship. I lost a few during that change. However if they are truly friends they will stay in touch and follow me. It is easy enough to skip my devotions they are titled. Just skip them if it’s not you thing. I have not had that pain lately. Praying for you Dyane.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Okay, my dear, I finally had the chance to read your post and WOW!!!!

    I was utterly stunned…in a good way. 😉
    You are an astoundingly fine writer. I found myself thinking many times, “Ahhh….I wish I wrote *that*!”

    I need to go back to my hastily written intro for the reblog, and emphasize how gifted you are as a writer, and add that anyone reading my words needs to follow your blog STAT. And the new blog too!

    Even if your Part One had nothing to do with my situation, I would’ve been riveted. It’s a sobering lesson that all of us social media users (and non-social-media users) can relate to and learn from in different ways.

    I wish I could’ve added additional detail to clearly explain how f*cked up her behavior was, but I’m paranoid. She won’t read my blog, though. She never read my blog, or followed my Facebook, or Twitter unless I tagged her – although (and I’ll divulge a clue here) MANY women I referred to this person for professional reasons DID receive her social media attention in the form of comments, “likes”, etc. I found that strange and I was hurt. She opened up to me, she was closer to me, but I felt that my life wasn’t important enough to be on her social media radar compared to the gals I sent her way. Meanwhile I kept being co-dependent Dyane always promoting *her*, and her projects – she admitted this last week. I was a big cheerleader for her. And I wanted to be – until she pulled her “I don’t have the bandwidth for you” B.S..

    (I know, I know, “Bitter much?” Yeah, I still am.)

    The Huffington Post Women article that I was so thrilled about? After I sent it her way there was no reply. She never shared it through any of her social media forms – she couldn’t care less about me. The way I see it now, she was a user because she needed others around her, both IRL and virtually, to boost up her shattered, wounded ego. I wish I knew that going into the friendship.

    I know that while I hurt her in the business exchange we had, I didn’t deserve her sicko response. I’m glad she’s out of my life. I sound like a freaking Michael Jackson song. I’ll dedicate his song to her, although we has a platonic friendship.

    Looking forward to Part 2, and thanks again for your wonderful compliments about my perinatal mental health work, etc. It’s coming at a much- appreciate time!!! 🙂 XOXOXO

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you again for always supporting me. I truly appreciate it. I have to tell you something that will hopefully make you laugh: I hadn’t thought of that Michael Jackson song in years and was pumped that your comment reminded me of it. So while the kids were winding down and getting ready for bed, I streamed it to our TV in the den because I ALWAYS listen to music while doing dishes — otherwise they’d never get done. So my 8yo comes in and says, “Is that Michael Jackson?” And I said yes and asked if he liked the song. Him: “Um…it’s okay but I think I prefer the speedy dancing songs over this. This feels like bedtime…like you’re trying to be sneaky so we’ll go to sleep.” I had to laugh — AND YES CHILD, THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT BEDTIME SO YOU’LL SLEEP!!

      Like

  9. Great post. When my sister told me that I was posting too many mental health postings to Facebook, I created a page for my mental health advocacy. The problem with that is that I have far more Facebook friends than Facebook Page followers. I get more responses on my profile posts. In fact, I’m right now reconsidering keeping those posts published only to my Facebook Page. Then again, I do not want to overwhelm people with multiple postings. Dilemma…dilemma… Damn.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Social media is a tricky balance between the personal and professional. My chosen voice is Facebook, but since FB is really wacky about fan pages and who sees your posts I have like 2500 friends on my personal page, instead of my fan page. Most are authors obviously.

    While I don’t believe social media is the place to take a stand about one’s personal beliefs (unless you enjoy being controversial and are willing to face the music), I do have 3 issues I am extremely passionate about and will fight to the grave. One is being pro-choice. The second is my stance on cheating, and my third is regarding welfare. Occasionally, when I’m feeling particularly feisty and something relevant is in the news about these issues I will post my stand on them. For example, when the whole Ashley Madison hack came out.

    A very good friend afterward said to me that I should use more discretion in my postings, because I could lose potential readers who might be offended by my stance. To which I responded, “I really don’t give a shit about people unfriending me or losing book sales. It’s my page, my personal expression, and I can do what I want.”

    So…here’s the issue: And mind you, I’m a small-time author. If I was a best-selling “sweet” romance author and the majority of my readers were Christian, then taking a pro-choice stance would probably be career suicide. But I’m sassy and sarcastic and outspoken, and my books reflect that. And I also don’t care what people think.

    I’ve recently been following some wise women on FB who are what I like to call “leading authentic lives.” They’re vulnerable in their postings, honest about their struggles, and basically don’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks. One of them is a psychologist who did the whole Masters thing, then went to work in a stuffy, conservative setting, was engaged to a man, was living the “what you’re expected to do” life. She left it all because she was miserable. Left the man, the town, the job, and went in to business for herself. She couldn’t be happier.

    The other is a writer and life coach who picked up and moved to Costa Rica, where she holds workshops. She surfs, writes, counsels, and loves her life.

    My point to this whole long-winded rant (sorry) is What kind of person do you want to be? How raw? How vulnerable? Do you want to teach by example? And find like-minded people? Are you outspoken and opinionated? Or more conservative, preferring instead to not make waves? If you work in a corporate environment, then letting your freak flag fly may not be the best thing for your career. But if you want to be a pioneer, an innovator, a trailblazer, then standing strong in your convictions garners respect from others. Not everybody will like you and that’s okay. My cousin hides the fact that he is gay from the police force. Even though he’s marrying his long-time boyfriend next year I doubt he will ever come out to his cop buddies. Then again, he may say Screw it, and become an advocate for gay rights. He’s not living his truth, but that’s the choice he makes. And maybe that’s okay for him. When he came out, his brother who is a now die-hard Christian living in the Bible Belt refused to have anything to do with him. They no longer speak.

    Every action has a consequence. Live authentically. Live truthfully. Do no harm. Those are my beliefs anyway.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Reblogged this on Birth of a New Brain and commented:
    I’m reflagging this for several reasons – a primary reason is that the blogger “Grief Happens” is superb. I’m one of her biggest fans! Another reason will be obvious to those of you who read my last post “Mommy, It’s Her Loss”! I’m still giving the issue far too much attention in my head, but it has gotten a better each day – more quickly than I expected. Why? Well, after I got such supportive, insightful comments from you, that truly helped me. There’s no other explanation for it! 🙂 So thank you again – I still plan on replying to a few comments, by the way. Each one has been a gem.

    I’m so glad you’ve stopped by and I’m grateful to you for reading this! See you at the end of this week, and take good care of yourselves.

    Love,
    Dyane

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Oh my God – I can’t wait to read this later on today when I have the time and quiet to do so — in the meantime, thank you for giving me something to look forward to, my dear!!!!!!!!!!! I’m still thinking about the Unfriender, but not as much, thank God!

    Liked by 2 people

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