Thursday, January 28, 2010

Won't You Stop Being... My Neighbor?

I've just done something decidedly unfriendly.

Yes, That's right. I have unfriended someone on Facebook.

I'm kind of in this guilt stage about it now. I mean, it's not like he got a big message saying "Dude, you suck, and Janet doesn't want to be your friend any more." But still, at some point I know he's going to come looking for my profile. Especially because we had been in the middle of a back-and-forth on both my status and a link I posted.

Here's the deal. This person, let's call him Martin, is one of those very opinionated people. Very opinionated, very outspoken, and not always tactful.

And he's a Christian.

He used to go to my church so of course I became friends with him on Facebook, and sometimes he would write comments that made me cringe just a little, but then other times he was just a normal person with whom I was friends on Facebook.

Sometimes when I was done cringing at something that Martin had wrote on my wall or as a comment, I would wonder why I was still friends with him. And then I would remind myself that I don't like to be flippant about my friends list on Facebook (I don't) and so why bother removing him if he wasn't a big huge headache?

A month or two ago, however, a mutual Facebook friend made a mention about how she had had to really look hard at her list of Facebook friends, and make some tough decisions. Now, she didn't get any more specific than that and far be it from me to assume, but I really just got this feeling that she was talking, to some extent, about her Facebook friendship with Martin. But, as I was not certain and again he wasn't being a big headache, I decided to leave well enough alone.

Until tonight. (Yesterday/last Wednesday/two months ago... whatever time words work best for you as you're reading this).

Tonight Martin made a comment on both a link I'd posted, and a status update of mine. Both comments were probably the third or fourth in a string that had other, non-mutual friends' comments, and both were highly opinionated. One of them seemed, to me, to be a very poor example of how a Christian should express themselves. (Especially because it was on a link to an article responding to a Christian who had expressed himself badly in the press and thus gave Christians a bad name, again. Irony? Methinks.)

I attempted, in each string, to reign him in. Neither attempt worked. I thought about unfriending him, then decided that I should be more patient and try again to help him see how what he was saying was not constructive. That didn't work either (honestly it could have been a failing on my end as well).

But after the third comment on each string, I realized that should any of the first few people (people who either aren't Christian or don't know Martin) actually look back to see who commented after them, they might be terribly, horribly offended.

Suddenly I felt a headache forming.

I had to weigh my options. What was more important--showing the love of God to Martin by allowing him to continue commenting and attempting to show him the callousness that his words showed towards people with whom he disagreed? Or protecting the friendships of these other people who commented quite benignly on my posts, people who probably know I'm a Christian and who might get the impression that I somehow condone these harsh statements of Martin's?

So I deleted Martin's comments, my responses, and then with a heavy heart, I unfriended him.

I debated whether I should message or email him to tell him what I was doing and why. And I remembered that this mutual friend of ours must have been including him in her friend decision-making, because he actually asked me at one point to convey a message to her because he had "somehow lost his connection with her during one of the Facebook updates."

If only that had been the case.

So I didn't say anything, because I realized that if other people have felt the need to move on, then maybe I could feel the freedom to do so as well. And I couldn't find a polite way to say "I don't want to try to deal with how you write, even when you try to explain yourself afterwards, because you still sound just as ignorant as you did the first time, and please dear Lord please don't write back to this because I don't want to get into an argument about why we should or should not remain friends on Facebook."

I mean, really. How do you say that?

But I still feel like crap. I just unfriended someone I've known for years. But you know what, when he put those words out there, he opened himself up to people reading them and judging him, and not only judging him but judging me, and judging "Christians." Not that I need to pussy-foot around non-Christians, but I just couldn't see how allowing someone to have hateful words on my Facebook page would be a light for any of the non-Christians with whom I'm friends.

I tried to use this as an opportunity to grow in my abilities to deal with difficult people, but I believe that a public forum is just not the place I want to hash this out (for the abovementioned reasons.) So, he is no longer my friend, in Facebook, and likely in life, once he figures out what happened. Not that I won't be open to taking him back at some point, but I will have to be careful about it.

When it all comes down to it, I think the status update I posted after unfriending Martin really does sum up the situation best:

Janet is sad when people fling words like excrement. Sometimes you can try to avoid it, or try to see it as fertilizer for growth, but sometimes you just have to step out of it, and move on.


Post Script: In the time it took to write this post, he figured out that I unfriended him. Perhaps I would have done better to wait until he was no longer online. And now he has sent me a message asking what he said to prompt this.

What should I say? Or should I even respond at all? Have you ever been in this situation?

Advice is very much appreciated... I'm swimming in murky waters here!


  1. Popping in from SITS - sounds like you have a dilema on your hands ... I too had a hard look at my FB list some months back and had the guilts in a big way. But for me it came back to who I want to connect with - I thought to myself, would this person be someone I could have a cuppa with tomorrow? if not, then I deleted them. I have had one or two come back and I have given a pretty kind and plausible explanation and they have been fine with that (or so I think). But for me, I have a daughter who checks out my FB page to live chat with family and look at photos etc. I don't need her seeing some of the comments and status updates some of my friends (now ex-) post ... and that was what was important to me.

    Also people will say on a computer what they wouldn't in real life, face to face. It's a security, and sometimes entitled, but not when it offends.

    Good luck, give it time, just be ready with a great reason (like, I really want to keep my FB page for family and really close friends!) for if he asks.

    :) Marcia in Australia

  2. Every couple of weeks or so I go through my FB list. I have deleted most of the people I went to high school with. We aren't friends. We believe different things. And frankly reading their stupid posts are more trouble than they are worth.

    I would never question someone who unfriended me. I would just chalk it up to difference of opinion.

    And if you feel the need to do so, just tell him "We are just very different people. I wish you well in your life." and leave it at that.

    This guy must obsess over his friends list or does he only have 5 friends that he needs to keep track of? If someone unfriended me I am not sure I would be able to figure out who it was! LOL

    Don't feel bad. Life is too short.

  3. I love your status update!

    I would respond, but keep it as short and to the point as possible. Tell him that though you are open to differing opinions, you can't tolerate comments that are hurtful(or offensive or however you want to put this) to others and since he couldn't honor your tries to reign him in, you couldn't have him commenting any more. Facebook is supposed to be fun and easy and not filled with drama.

    P.S. Why the heck did fb change privacy settings? I used to have it so that certain people, I accepted their friend request so as not to hurt feelings and then I made it so they saw nothing. Now we have to do that with every single post? It's so annoying.

  4. You could send him a link to your blog. (-: It really saddens me as well when Christians say things that do not make Christ look appealing. Your situation is really difficult and it's hard to know how to handle things like that. keep us posted. (-:


  5. Don't feel bad!!! I just went through a FB purge not too long was great!!! I got down to 351 from only got rid of 1. I think you'll be okay ;)


  6. Your status update reflected the situation perfectly. I would've done the same as you. Don't feel bad about it. You don't have to continuously hear someone's opinion that offends you and other people. That's your right. Allowing it is just letting him walk over you and take advantage and corrupt a situation that was not meant for corruption. And I agree with the Peterson Family. Just tell him there are differences of opinion and leave it at that.

  7. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I would give a simple explanation. And leave it at that. If he keeps bothering you block him. I know you will feel guilty, but then you will not have to worry about, and you do NOT have anything to feel bad over. I am sure God is please that you made a good decision!!

  8. I would just be honest with him. Obviously you tried to be tactful in the comment strings, and that didn't work, so you're almost forced to just say it. Just be straightforward--stick to the facts. You do not have to feel defensive or justify yourself to him; you are the one who gets to decide who your FB friends are, and if he can't handle that, that's on him.

  9. Just tell him the truth. Also, did you know you can simply delete people's comments? You can also block certain people from being able to see your status, wall, photos, etc in the security/privacy settings. Or you could have send him a message and tell him if he wants to tell you something, he can message it to you, but you don't appreciate him posting it on your wall. THANK YOU!

    :D Hope it works out!


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