I defriended a "friend" on Facebook today, the first time I've done that. And to be clear, this person was someone I went to school with and got along with, but was never close to; I think we might have gone for burritos once or twice, but that was the extent of the relationship. But I'd always thought of this person as a fairly intelligent, nice person. Well, they posted some remarks to their Facebook page that I found insulting and derogatory towards Indians (which I happen to be). My first knee-jerk reaction was to respond and point out the error of their ways. But then I thought, what's the point? He posted such a comment knowing that I was his friend and he probably has other Indians as friends and it didn't seem to bother him or filter his remarks. So I defriended him without a word.
I know ignorant people are plentiful in this world, especially online where they are not aware of the impact of their words; I learned that through the fanfic world. However, as much as one expects and to an extent, tolerates, such comments from relatively anonymous, non-flesh, non-RL contact people, it's hard to take from someone you considered a friend or acquaintance. In fact, I was so startled that I read his comments several times before I realized he was serious and not joking at all. I figure he can continue to share his ignorant opinions on Facebook; I'm just not going to read them myself. And at least, now I know where he stands so I can effectively write him off for the future.
When I first joined Facebook, it was a novelty -- all these people I hadn't seen or talked or thought of in years were at my fingertips. I was going through lists of people thinking, "I know you, what have you been up to?" The emails started going fast and furious. It was amazing to find out that some people were married, had a baby or two or three, and then to find out where they live. I don't know what I was thinking -- that as my life progressed, was everyone else right where I left them? It's disconcerting to say the least.
I've stopped actively looking for people to friend on Facebook. Part of it is because I've found everyone that I do want to be in touch with. Some of them are people I'm regularly in touch already (Hi Liz!), but others we haven't had any contact -- not even a Christmas card -- in years. In two cases, I knew I knew the person, but couldn't remember from where: high school? college? camp? Somewhere else entirely? It was mystifying to me. It then occurred to me that I have three groups of friends on Facebook.
The first group are the people I actively keep in touch with and even see in person regularly. The second group are people I don't keep in as close of touch anymore, maybe a Christmas card here and there, or an IM chat/email exchange every now and then, but we haven't seen each other in years. However, with this second group, there's still an active fondness and a definite desire to hang out if ever we're in the same geographic region again. And finally, the third group - people I have met/spent time with during the high school/college years, but never developed close enough relationships with to keep in touch later. Most of the people in this group are from high school.
Then there's the fourth group: people on whom I once spent time with but don't have any desire to renew any kind of acquaintance with them for whatever reason. I always feel bad when I ignore those requests/emails, but my thoughts have been lately, "What happens if I renew my friendship/acquaintance with this person?" Would it add to my life? Would I be happy that this person is back? Clearly there was a reason why I made a choice to minimize contact, so why would I start up again, knowing that no good could come out of it?
To me, that's the ultimate dilemma. I like using Facebook to send quick messages to my RL friends and planning meet-ups etc., and I like looking at the pictures and news from people who are in the second group. The third group is moderately amusing and nostalgic. The fourth group just plain out stresses me out because my instinct to do right and be polite is mitigated by the fact that sometimes people are oil and water and no good can come out of an attempt to stir the pot and come up with something new and equally unappetizing. Or something.
Facebook for the word games is a whole lot less complicated and less fraught with emotional social issues.
I got a lovely postcard today from our intrepid hiker, Alex, who spent the month of September tackling Kilimanjaro, which is completely awesome. She's gotten closer to the top of the world than anyone else I know and it's a super-human effort. Congrats, Alex -- 17,000 feet is an amazing feat worthy of many margaritas and poolboys (and girls!) galore! Check out Alex's blog over here for the full detail of her trip to Africa and Kilimanjaro.