A manual to unmaking friends
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I’ve spent a lot of time on this newsletter talking about making friends, so it seems appropriate to also look at its evil twin sister: unmaking friends.
In this era of Facebook and Instagram, a lot of people unmake friends by unfriending and blocking ex-friends on social media.
I think this is, to be blunt, kind of stupid.
First of all, unfriending/blocking someone simply changes the nature of your relationship with them on social media. But we don’t live on social media.
We live in the real world. And in the real world, there is no “Unfriend” or “Block” button to click and magically vanish a person from your life.
Friendship, any relationship for that matter, is forged through personal connection, interactions, feelings. It’s profound and at times messy, and no amount of unfriending/blocking will make it any less so.
Instead, I think of unmaking friends as the reverse of making friends. For me, making friends is investing time and energy to get to know another person.
So, unmaking friends is simply not investing time and energy in that person.
Defriending is not the action of unfriending/blocking someone. To me, it’s simply inaction. You stop going to see them, calling them, messaging them, and if you keep at it, soon you’ll stop thinking about them as well.
Unfriending/blocking people usually gets a bad rap. It’s used as a last resort, when all other attempts at making the other person realise their undesirableness has failed. It’s taboo and often invites retaliation of equally desperate measures. OMIGOD he unfriended you? *gasp* You should block him, yes go on block him block him YES YOU DID IT! Good girl.
But this bad rap is built on the misguided belief that these actions are meaningful, and as I’ve alluded to above, I don’t think they are. Simply removing a digital connection to someone or preventing someone from seeing the digital you, it’s tangential to how you feel about the person in the real world and vice versa.
It’s immaterial. And worse, it distracts from the real issue:
This once-flourishing friendship is now broken and this person causes me anxiety and pain.
Instead of engaging in a social media tit-for-tat, you’d be much better off focusing on regulating your emotions as regards this ex-friend who’s now persona non grata in your mind.
If you’re thinking, but that’s much harder than unfriending someone, well, you’d be right.
It’s very, very difficult to not let someone—or rather, the thought of someone—mess with your head. I’ve had my fair share of messy friendships, and each time I get sucked into a vicious cycle of anxiety and self-doubt, consumed by a feeling of rejection and worthlessness.
It’s not a nice place to be. But that’s exactly where you’ve got to be.
Don’t hide in the world of social media. Face your messy feelings, stare them down. Ask yourself why you’re feeling those emotions and try to untangle the root cause of your broken friendship.
Once you’ve discovered what’s broken, let it go.
Stop agonising whether to unfriend/block them. Stop wondering whether they still like you as a person. Stop thinking of what might have been.
Stop, just stop.
Your time and energy are far too precious to be spent on a relationship that’s not salvageable. Better spend them on friendships that are yet to be built, those that can still be mended.
Unmaking friends is as painful as making them is wonderful.
But it’s sometimes necessary.
Do you have friends who need unmaking? What’s worked and not worked for you in the defriending department?
And, admit it: do you still unfriend/block people on social media?
If you still do, I hope I’ve made you begin to question the utility of doing so.
Write a reply, leave a comment, send a letter, share with a friend.
Until next Friday… Stay cool, stay safe, stay thoughtful,
But please, don’t be sending this to someone you want to defriend as a hint. Passive aggression doesn’t look good on anyone.
i LOVE this! i haven't "blocked" anyone in years, cause i realised even that action was giving the person a hold over me, to even go out of my way to manually "remove" someone and send them to this space where i deemed them not even worthy enough to "see" me and it began to feel silly. like i withdrew the energy, to just put it into a different circumstance almost. loved how you summed it up here though! this is so perfect!