Unfriend is your best friend

How to control your hatred of a social network

Oh Facebook, the social network grown so large that it’s now a status symbol to not have it. For those not cool enough to quit, it’s time for us to officially recognize our real best friend on Facebook:  the “unfriend” button.

First, let’s flesh out the foundation for this. “I hate Facebook” is a statement uttered ad nauseam since well before the social network fully grasped cultural dominance, gaining steam at much the same rate as Zuckerberg’s baby.

Like an off-shoot of Louis C.K.’s bit about how nobody says, “I love my phone!” despite the fact each phone we have is “a miracle,” Facebook talk is largely first-world whining about the inane activities of friends and relatives who are really bad at the internet. Regardless of changes made, the chorus sings, “Facebook sucks!” Here’s the thing: Facebook doesn’t suck. Your friends suck. The way you use it sucks.

Do you subscribe to a sports magazine if even the word “touchdown” makes you nauseous? Do you get the Abercrombie and Fitch newsletter if you don’t enjoy filling an entire mall with cloying cologne? Of course not. Just as a career commuter couldn’t care less about how “unfair” a specific resident advisor might be, why keep yourself updated on the inane thoughts and dull doings of that guy you had econ with three years ago?

If you don’t like anything someone posts, make it so you don’t have to read it. Twitter and Tumblr users don’t follow those who don’t provide good content, friends or not. There may be a few lame ducks, but feeds are built more around preferred content and less around reluctant loyalties. Not following does not equal not friends.

Facebook should be no different. Humans try to keep relationships restricted to those whose company can enjoy and benefit them. Yet the pseudo-realism and the familial bend of Facebook guilts us into treating the forum as a family reunion; we put up with the presence of every single person there out of a feeling of responsibility. It’s not a real family reunion, though. You aren’t shunning Great-Aunt May by not being Facebook friends with her. You don’t have to listen to Uncle Henry’s stories about those rude cashiers. You can hide them, and it will feel wonderful. Uncle Henry always was a little sexist anyway. Remember: it’s just a website. If anything of any remote importance happens, they’ll call you.

Hiding may not be enough, though; keeping them out of your line of sight doesn’t keep you out of theirs. Some folks just don’t understand sarcasm. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of us have our skills in other areas. When that inability to comprehend such subtleties turns a simple, non-political joke status into a referendum on whether Obama is a covert Columbian agent meant to take down the U.S. and destroy religion, (a real example), though, something must be done. Don’t hesitate to unfriend. It’s just a website. Don’t deal with the nonsense after the fact. Prevent it. Give yourself a happier Facebook life. Or don’t use Facebook. Whichever.

If the unfriended takes offense, or simply cannot believe you don’t agree with his or her views on the next door neighbor’s dog, remind them: it’s just a website. Unfriending is Facebook-specific. It doesn’t equal “unfriending” someone in real life. Getting offended by something on the Internet is lunacy.

This cuts both ways. Don’t get upset if someone unfriends you. Not everybody cares about your new pickup truck as much as you.