I surveyed the disaster in front of me. Groan. How did I let it get this bad? I had become the consumate hoarder – collecting without a second thought, the mound growing higher until I could no longer see the bottom. I picked my way through the mess. “I don’t even remember this one,” I said more than once. No, I wasn’t reorganizing my closet, or purging my cosmetics graveyard.
It was my Friends list.
I don’t know when I lost control of my Facebook Friends list, but sometime between starting my page a few years ago and now, I became a social media slut, saying yes to just about anyone who requested me, as long as they had a vague association with someone I knew. What was the harm? I was a Consultant, and I used it to network with clients and other people in my company. I friended other Moms around town that I met through activities and clubs, and it quickly became a year-round High School reunion, as we found each other and branched out. Then my mother friended me. Ugh! I love her, but didn’t want her to see my Wall, or worse, post anything on it. But I felt powerless to say no. Suddenly, I was getting requests from my mother’s friends, Aunts, in-laws, distant cousins. At this point I ran a pretty vanilla page, so I opened the gates. “It will be a nice way for us to stay in touch and show them pictures of the children,” I justified. I didn’t plan on posting any F-bombs or wild, drunken selfies – that wasn’t my style, so I was safe.
But then something happened: I changed, and so did my Life. I hit my 40s, my kids grew up, and I decided that I really am a sassy, potty-mouth who rather loves booze and selfies. I stopped consulting and came out as a writer. I started a blog and a fan page, and Facebook and Twitter became my comedy outlet. And I was having a fabulous time…on everyone else’s pages. But on my own…let’s just say my status started to put even me to sleep. I would sit down to write a blog and get a slight tightening in my derrière. I avoided certain subjects and colorful ways of saying things. Now, I’m not saying that cursing is necessary to make things funny – when overdone, it has the opposite effect. But I was censoring myself, because I was afraid of what certain people in my feed would think, and when someone is writing with one hand tied behind their back, you can tell. Their voice is not their own, and no matter how it sounds, it isn’t entertaining. I imagined being true to myself and just writing what I wanted to: I heard the reverberated sounds of anuses snapping shut ’round my corner of the Internet.
And so I decided to do something about it – I went through my list with a fine-toothed hatchet. Old co-workers, gone. People I haven’t spoken to in years, unfriended. But the toughest, most important people for me to drop like they were hot, were the relatives and family friends that tightened my, uh, chest. I did it anyway. Yup, even my parents! I love them, but we aren’t friends. We’re relatives, and that is different. We did not seek each other out in the world because of shared interests or personalities. We’re bound by blood and shared history, and that has a different emotional charge than “besties” or “buds.” If you want proof, just look at the number of people out there regurgitating their lattes, because Mommy asked them to go see Fifty Shades of Grey together (shudder.) Yeah, we are all people, with our own needs, desires, and humor. But we don’t have to feel comfortable sharing all of that to love each other. And while we’re on the subject, I am pretty pissed at Facebook for co-opting and frankly, ruining, the word “Friend” for everyone. This is a very important title, and it has to be earned through time, trust, and tasking. It takes more than clicking “Accept” to be a Friend, and I hope my children grow up holding that in perspective, Facebook notwithstanding.
In my defense, most of the relatives I axed barely use Facebook: these are not people I was interacting with regularly, if ever. I’m not saying to unfriend your mother-in-law if she checks in with you every day! Please don’t send me hate mail, because you got yelled at at your next Reunion…Discretion is advised. Sometimes blood is thicker than status updates. And don’t feel sorry for my parents: they hate Facebook, and I call them all the time. Only one person interacted with me regularly through the Book of Face, and she got a personal message. I told her that I am changing the direction of my page, that I am using it to network with my writing friends, and that they can be very crude. (That wasn’t a total lie, I just didn’t mention that I am as bad as they are…) She was, luckily, very understanding, and I promised to keep in touch with her in other ways.
I’m relieved that this was a relatively painless process so far, but even if someone calls me on it, they will get the same explanation. Being authentic is something I deserve – we all do. And though it’s my fault for letting other people’s opinions affect my behavior, I can’t control how I feel. But I can control what I do about it. And, to be fair, it wasn’t their actual opinion I was afraid of: I never gave them the chance. I made up a story about what I thought their opinion would be. But, I don’t regret my decision to trim the fat. It was time.
So, what about you? Do you have co-workers or relatives that you feel like you “have” to be Friends with?
Does it affect what you do/do not post on your page? Share in the comments below (they can’t see it here!)