Are you a bad Facebook friend, or given any thought to what one might be? Facebook has been around for almost two decades and I admit that for the first several years I avoided the social media platform because I always thought it would be a lot like the parts of high school I disliked. The parts that were clicky. The parts that were fickle. The parts that excluded by inclusion. The parts that created a false sense of value and worth where there was at times, very little. Yet, smiles, hugs, notes, and a good pep rally could make it all feel like everyone was friends. The part that hasn’t changed, is in fact that not everyone is really friends. Like in real life, you know, not virtual, and that means they can also be bad friends.
I may have a few less Facebook friends by the end of this article, or maybe not. In fact, the longer I extend the introduction, the greater the likelihood that anyone on Facebook will have stopped reading it all together, especially if it takes longer than three seconds. According to Ron Stefanski, “How declining attention spans impact your social media”, in 2020, “human attention span [had] dropped to just eight seconds, down from 12 in 2000.” While it’s only a four second decline, sadly, he also notes that “our attention span has fallen to one second lower than that of the notoriously ill-focused goldfish!” Facebook also admits that “we’re seeing people spend on average, 1.7 seconds with a piece of content on mobile compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.” So, it’s highly likely that by now, most people engaging this on Facebook have stopped reading and may never know if they’re a bad Facebook friend or not, which I promise I did not do by design, really! If you’re still here and interested, then congratulations, you have shown better attention stamina than a goldfish, so far.
So, what are some of the signs that you might be a bad Facebook friend?
Everyone has someone or several someone’s in their long list of Facebook friends that they have zero interaction with. No comments or likes. An enigma in the night. You see their name in your list, but since accepting their request to be your online friend, have not heard a thing from them. Sometimes you may even wonder, “did they die?” or “did I miss the obituary?” – probably not. There are some people who just want to be part of something and their existence on the platform is as far as their comfort level takes them and that’s not always a bad thing. There is no rule that you must interact openly or use any of the communication tools in the platform. However, you must ask yourself why did you want to be online friends with someone you’re never going to interact with? It’s like being invited into someone’s home and then hiding behind the curtain, which comes across a little creepy. If you’re uncomfortable with open communication or support, but want to maintain a connection, show some life. A private message occasionally for whatever reason would save you from being an online enigma. If you can’t do that, move on and stop creeping your way into the bad Facebook friend space.
THE OPINION BLOCKER
There is a meme out there of a phone with the receiver sitting on the desk and the caption that reads, “this is the way we blocked people in my day” and there is an element of truth to that. It’s also true that at some point a parent would yell and be upset when grandpa couldn’t call the house because the phone was off the hook. No one in the house gets mad on Facebook when the phone is off the hook because everyone else’s calls can still get through. One of the tools that Facebook has and in most cases is a useful one that can help prevent harassment and ensure better online security, is the ability to block individuals. Most of the time, it’s not so much the blocking action that makes you a bad Facebook friend because if you’ve reached that point, well you’re not really friends at all. The event that is deemed so egregious leading up to the blocking, which is usually rooted in a difference of opinions, of which there has been no shortage of during COVID19 is what makes you a bad Facebook friend. If a difference of opinion was the catalyst for invoking your best Larry Allen, chances are you were just waiting for the right moment to rip the curtain down in defiance, shouting “word” as you get in the last, well, word.
There is of course an opportunity for being more phony than imaginable on a platform where phony is built into the conduct capability. Facebook allows you to give the illusion that you’re still friends, but not have to see any posts from any individual you decide to unfollow. The unfollowed friend doesn’t get a notification that you’ve unfollowed them and are none the wiser. At this point, you essentially take that conscious step to becoming the enigma and a bad Facebook friend. If I was sitting at the bar with Jimmy the Bartender, I can only imagine he might say something like, “You’re probably not as important as you think to the person you’re unfollowing buddy, just own it and end it.” Jimmy gives good advice.
PEER LIKE PRESSURE
Sometimes even enigmas find their way out from behind the curtain, but perhaps for self-indulgent reasons. There are those times when the pressure to become involved in a post becomes greater than the desire to remain quiet because you don’t want to be on the outside looking in. Social media has a lot of peer “like” pressure, especially as you infer the on-line conversation, perception, and reaction only in your own mind as you stare at the activity on the screen. The bottom line is that if you only engage because you see a bunch of your other friends engaging or because the post has some sort of connection of value to you beyond the person that you’re Facebook friends with, then you’re probably a bad Facebook friend and haven’t evolved much outside those high school day circles.
THE SILENT EXIT
It takes a lot less effort to unfriend, unfollow, succumb to social media pressure, or become an enigma. Those are all the “what” you can do, but this last needle in the eye is the “how”. Leaving with grace is a hard thing to do, but if you’re not really friends, I mean if you’re just Facebook friends kicking a roadside rock to the curb is an easy thing to do that barely leaves a scuff on your shoe. Social media makes it easy to say goodbye without saying goodbye and maybe you don’t need to if you’re not really friends anyway, but why did you go into the house in the first place? If you packed your bags and left in the middle of the night, or sometimes in the middle of the day without saying a word, then you are also a bad Facebook friend and truth be told, you’d probably be a bad real-life friend too.
While there is arguably always more to each circumstance, there can also be an excuse for each as well. The reality is that if you’re engaging in any of these behaviours, there are a lot of questions you ought to be asking yourself about yourself. If you’re on the receiving end of any of these behaviours, don’t take any of the actions personally for as much as social media can be entertaining and unifying, it has also created another layer of “I’m too sexy for this party” of which you may not want to go to anyway.
Whether you’re on social media or in person, be kind to one another.