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Thoughts on Being Defriended

September 4, 2010 | By | 15 Replies Continue Reading

This week, I received an email from another writer who reminded me that she had once defriended me on Facebook. We both belong to the same professional association (which meets annually) but we live in different States and have virtually no contact with each other (although we might see each other’s posts on forums). While I was stunned that I had been defriended, I had totally forgotten about the incident until I received her recent note. The subject line read I’m Sorry.

My ex-Facebook friend wrote:

Irene, I’m sorry that I defriended you last year after I felt hurt following some Facebook comments early last year. I’d like to think I’ve developed thicker skin since then…but I’m a human. :) Anyhow, I hope we can work beyond our differences…

I can’t remember the specifics of the incident but suspect we disagreed, like so many Americans, regarding the politics surrounding the last election. Frankly, I was taken aback that I was defriended by someone with whom I had only the most peripheral online relationship and who took my comments so personally.

Nonetheless, when someone defriends you it is like having a door slammed in your face and that’s how I felt. It left little room for dialogue unless I wanted to take the conversation elsewhere. Under these circumstances, I didn’t.

Why does defriending occur?

Defriending is generally provoked by something you did or said, online or off, that has created distance and led to a breach of trust. As a result, your “friend” no longer wants you lurking or being privy to what she is saying or doing online. Here are some common examples of how it happens:

• You’ve had a misunderstanding or disagreement, online or off;

• You humiliated the person in some way;

• You used information against her or she fears you will;

• She’s learned information about you (perhaps, from your Facebook page) that is a deal-breaker (for example, you’re a liberal and she’s a right-winger or she’s an atheist and you’re a devout whatever)

• She’s annoyed that you post too often-and are too self-promoting

How can I deal with being defriended?

In an article in Sunday’s NY Times called Defriended, Not De-Emoted by Austin Considine, I commented that the emotions sparked by suddenly being defriended aren’t too different than those felt when someone is dumped offline. It hurts!

While it’s hard to get back in someone’s good graces once you’re defriended, you may realize for one reason or another that you don’t necessarily want to repair the friendship either!

But if you do—and you know what you did wrong, apologize. And apologize sooner rather than later because little misunderstandings can blow up quickly. If you’re not sure why you were defriended and it matters to you, write the person offline to find out if you did something wrong or annoying. If the person doesn’t respond, you might want to allow for a cooling-off period and then try again. Use common sense.

As you might guess, the rules of defriending in cyberspace are pretty murky since there are no commonly accepted rules on the etiquette of how to end face-to-face friendships!

One takeaway lesson: While the act of defriending is as quick and easy as hitting a key, the decision to do so can have long-lasting repercussions, both for the defriender and the defriended.

Here are a few prior posts from The Friendship Blog on the topic of defriending.

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, Online friends

Comments (15)

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  1. Mike says:

    I can understand wanting to keep people from Facebook games at arms’ length, but I’ve had a couple of people whom I’ve subsequently interacted with outside the game, even to the point where they become friends.

    As far as defriending is concerned, if someone is just a “friend” through one of those games and you have zero interaction otherwise, no big loss. Shrug and move on. If it’s someone with whom you have an offline relationship, that’s when it’s more upsetting.

    I had a roommate who asked me to take down a photo I’d put up after he made a comment on it. I’d deleted the comment, but he said he could still see it on his iPhone. I told him no, then he blocked me. THAT really angered me, and we haven’t communicated much since then.

  2. ms D says:

    I don’t use the unfriend button often. But when I do it is always within good reason. I had a frenemy once, who at the time I was trying to decide if It were me with the problem, or if she actually was a frenemy. So I poured my heart out to a friend who was a NEWLY mutual friend to her. About two weeks later my friend who I had been friends with for years tells me that the frenemy admitted that, we were not cool like that and that we were NEVER Friends. So without a blink of an eye I unfriended her. That answered my questioned after all the years I had known her. That she never thought of us as friends. Well guess what we don’t need to be friends on facebook either and you dont need to know anything personal so you can continue to try to one up me and outdo me. So delete and block. And now she wonders why I don’t respond to any thing. Now that she knows nothing about what I do, she can no longer plan similar girlfriend trips, find jobs similar to mine, happen to be at hang out spots, or do the same certain activities. She will only hear it through the grapevine.

    • Kiki says:

      After being on FB for a few years, I deleted nearly 200 people from high school that I have no interest in seeing or hearing from in any capacity. If FB never existed I would never have anything to do with them, nor would they with me. In this context, FB serves as nothing other than a nosey neighbor, a gossipmonger, or an annoying boaster only serving their bad habits. I don’t delete people I actually know and like, regardless of whether or not I agree with their political and/or religious posts. Suggesting that people have to “stay” freinds with all these people is absurd. I am so sick of all this phony baloney. Be real, like those you actually like, delete the ones you don’t.

  3. Irene says:

    You should definitely exercise caution – online and off. Hopefully, all he wanted to do was talk dirty. Irene

  4. Anonymous says:

    I accepted a seemingly funny guy as a friend.
    After months of chatting- he started talking dirty.
    So I blocked him. He knows where I live. Do you think I should
    be scared?

  5. Irene says:


    It sure sounds like your beau’s radically changed directions about wanting you involved in his Facebook life. It’s understandable that it would be baffling to you since he’s given you no explanation. If he is unwilling to discuss it, I think you have question whether this is someone you can continue to trust.

    I’m so sorry this happened but go with your gut!



  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear Irene,

    I had a very strange incident occur recently.
    I met a man while on vacation and he asked to friend me after the romance had started. We coniued to see eachother intermittenlty while back home, Nothing serous but we were getting along. he is divorced and lives in New Jersey. With kids and friends and family (23people) on his Facebook page. This includes his ex. in Israel. His picture is of Amy Grant. We recenlty became more intimate and he told me he would have to defriend me because he does not permit gilfriends etc on FB. I did not believe him (stupidly) but that is what he did. I NEVER posted anything inappproriate or indicating a relationship of any sort. I am totally baffled and okay…I see this as a move to shut me out I have told him this and bascially as far as I am concerned its over.
    Any thoughts? Anyone.


  7. Irene says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This topic is so interesting that I’ll probably post about it again!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have two comments on this post, which really got me thinking, thanks!

    I often prune my FB friends, exactly as the first comment noted. I only have people as FB friends if they actually talk to me, whether by liking one of my comments, posting a message occasionally, or sharing their own lives with me. I don’t keep lurkers on my friends list.

    Also, I periodically defriend people after friending them, and often feel terrible about it afterwards! However, I do it in the spirit of keeping only true friends (ie, people I like and care about, and who like and care about me) as my FB friends. I will often accept a friend request from a friend of a friend, or perhaps from someone at work whom I’d like to get to know…but if a deal breaker such as those described in this post arise, particularly concerning religion or politics, I have no qualms about defriending them.

    I want to be able to log on to FB and see true friends there, not a thousand people whom I barely know or like.

  9. Irene says:

    It seems like she blocked you because she had no intention of owning up to her unethical behavior. You’re truly lucky that there’s a healthy distance between you. Sounds like she wasn’t worthy of your friendship, online or off!



  10. Irene says:

    Great point—many times it isn’t personal but it still may feel like that to the person defriended. Thanks for your post!


  11. Anonymous says:

    The five listed reasons under the heading “Why does defriending occur?” are great. But one reason – a reason far less personal – didn’t make the list. What if someone simply has a change of heart about Facebook (not about you)?

    I know someone who has pruned her friends-list at least three times. Each time, she picks off individuals whom she hasn’t had any contact with in the last year. It’s a preventative measure to (just like real pruning) keep the list from getting overgrown.

    It’s nothing personal, nothing against the people being defriended, and is not tied to anything they did. It’s simply a way of keeping the list relevant. It’s a way to keep it limited to those still involved in her life in some way, and eliminate the people who turn out to be completely out of orbit.

    On a sidenote, I await the day when spell check acknowledges “defriending” as a word and doesn’t insist on red zig-zagging it. :)

  12. Anonymous says:

    A friend of 30 years did some extremely unethical and harmful business dealings with two of my friends — contract fraud, basically.
    I tried to talk with her, but she was always busy, didn’t return calls. Then I sent her an email about it, saying I did not understand what she did, and was horrified by her actions.
    Instead of responding, she BLOCKED me on Facebook — as if I were some stalker. I’ve never talked negatively about her — I always made excuses for her behavior — and wouldn’t start now, so it was quite a shock.
    But the most amazing thing happened — I love it. I love NOT being the friend of this scheming person who thinks nothing of using and harming anyone in her way. I love having zero contact with her. If she ever tried to re-friend me, I’d re-send her that email and maybe add a few paragraphs about other breaches of trust I’ve learned about since I sent it.
    My life is so much better without her. I suspect she is trashing me right and left, but I figure those mutual friends are smart — they might figure it out. If not, it’s their loss.
    Took me a bit, after the shock — but I truly love that FB has that blocking feature, and that she used that “nuclear option” to end our false friendship. My life is MUCH improved –

  13. Anonymous says:

    I am not referring to the situation in the previous post, that certainly makes sense. A stranger is a stranger. However, I find it interesting that someone would “friend” me but then be annoyed when I post something on their wall or “like” what they like. Why “friend” me if that is the case. Why should I have to monitor interaction to know whether or not my comments and/or friendship is wanted? You can ignore a friend request without hurting anyone’s feelings. What I find even more frustrating is that there is no real communication taking place. Most of the people on your “friend” list are not really your friends. They are old acquaintances who may or may not have moved on with their lives. My best friend from childhood told me that she likes me better in person than on fb. Huh?! I’m the same person. What is she really saying about our friendship? There are things I like about fb (easy email, access to photos, keeping in touch with relatives in Europe), but I don’t know if it adds anything fundamental to my life.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I have FB friended some folks at the request of others to be Farmville “neighbors”. The point of this is to exchange Farmville gifts and be able to level up as you add neigbors. Now mind you, these are people I do not know at all. Yet some are repeatedly commenting on my posts, my personal life and I find it intrusive if not rude. You would think they would know that our relationship is only about this Farmville thing. I am at the point with one woman of de-friending her-I do not know her, I do not like what she says, and it is unpleasant to see her constant “likes” and comments. I think this is a interesting Facebook friend topic to explore. Thanks-great posts.

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