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Guest Post: What can happen when you deactivate a Facebook account

Published: February 27, 2014 | Last Updated: February 27, 2014 By | 28 Replies Continue Reading
Cindy La Ferle

Cindy La Ferle

This is a cautionary tale about what can happen to some of our friendships when we deactivate a Facebook account — and why it’s important to avoid jumping to conclusions.

by Cindy La Ferle

Last year, my elderly mother was hospitalized five times, making it hard for me to meet my freelance writing deadlines while managing my family obligations. To make things easier on myself, I decided to seriously cut back on social media activity.

For starters, I deactivated my Facebook account, an attractive nuisance that was taking more and more of my time to maintain. I’ll admit it wasn’t an easy decision, letting go of 500-plus friends and colleagues who seemed to enjoy my cat photos as well as links to my new blog posts. And I knew I’d miss (most of) my friends’ ongoing updates, links, and photos.

But as my mother’s dementia progressed, and her surgical recoveries demanded more of my time, I had to establish some new boundaries.

Before pulling the plug on Facebook, I posted a status update announcing that I’d be “deactivating” soon. A couple of days later, I was Facebook-free – and secretly relieved to have some of my free time back.

Unfortunately, not all of my online friends had seen the post about my decision to leave Facebook. A few actually thought that I’d suddenly un-friended them — and they were hurt or offended.

This didn’t occur to me until I ran into a woman I’ll call Terry at a local event. While Terry and I were never close friends, nor did we get together socially, we’d enjoyed a friendly professional relationship in the past. And we’d been Facebook friends. But when I approached Terry at the event, to say hello, she gave me the cold shoulder, an uncharacteristically chilly reception.

Later that day, over a cup of coffee, I tactfully asked Terry if everything was OK. Finally opening up, she told me she was surprised that I had “un-friended” her on Facebook, and wondered what she’d done to offend me. Of course, once I explained that I’d deactivated my Facebook account, Terry understood and apologized for jumping to the wrong conclusion. I apologized, too, for not giving ample notice about my decision to leave the popular social network.

I later learned that other former Facebook friends – mostly social acquaintances – were also confused or offended when I went missing. In short, I had some more explaining to do, and regret that I didn’t make a better effort to ensure that everyone understood that I was deactivating Facebook from the get-go.

The brave new world of social media clearly has its own rules of etiquette, and apparently I needed a crash course.

Cindy La Ferle is an award-winning journalist and author of Writing Home, a motherhood memoir. She blogs at Cindy La Ferle’s Home Office  

Have you been involved in a misunderstanding that occurred on Facebook?

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Comments (28)

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  1. Jade says:

    Same thing happened me I deactivated Facebook for a few weeks and when returned was asked ‘were did I go’ ‘Why Did I delete’ it I thought you unfriended me etc, I deactivate but usually come back, I deactivated because I spending to much time on it and get sick of scrolling and looking at stuff about what others are posting that I couldn’t really care about,Also the ads which are popping up on the news feeds so annoying, You shouldn’t feel the need to have to justify yourself for deleting your Facebook and If someone gets the craps with you because they assumed you deleted them then obviously they are spending to much time on that darn social network to, real friends pick up the phone and call you or hang out for catch ups not judge a friendship over darn Facebook, glad I deactivated it!

    • Cyndi says:

      Jade, I appreciate your words of wisdom..I was feeling bad about deactivating my account, but I realize now that true friendship does not rely on social media connections. In fact, I think facebook has hurt relationships by acting as a surrogate to real relationships and interactions. Unfortunately, many people think facebook friendships are sufficient for maintaining a relationship. All that said, I feel great about my decision too! 🙂

  2. lua says:

    I deactivated my FB account 4 years ago and honestly, do not miss it. Too much drama and don’t want that extra layer. If really are a friend, call, text or email me.

  3. Marcy says:

    My biggest problem with Fakebook is that I’ll write a serious post, say a post about needing help & advice and I’ll be crying my eyes out as I write it because I am THAT desperate for my friends to come to my aid at that moment.

    I’ll get maybe 2 or three small replies, but then notice that another friend has made a rather superficial post about her new fingernail color— and she gets TONS of responses. Have people really gotten this superficial ???

    • Dee says:

      Sadly, you may be right. Deactivating my account was the best decision ever. Let’s get back to REAL networking and friendship building activities. True friends will at least call, email or text as a commenter stated above.

      Who needs 500 plus superficial names on a list to validate one’s worth? Trust me, just because it was not posted on FB doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Lots of great things happen in all of our lives everyday. Does it have to be shared on FB to substantiate it? Absolutely not. Ridiculous! It almost cheapens it.

      I’d rather keep my happy times family events personal and choose specifically who to share them with. Otherwise you’re just casting pearls . . .

      #lifeisgreat #getbacktoliving

    • Gina says:

      Aaawww. That really is sad, Marcy. I’d be your friend. Id give you a hug too. (Something you cant do on soulless media.)You can email me and cry..i would listen. See that’s the problem.i am going to delete my account. I can’t stand how social media makes people insensitive. It’s not real. Where have all the real people gone??? I’m screaming inside. I hav ed to get off.

  4. Karla says:

    I am usually a private person and thought getting back in touch with people I haven’t seen in years would be a good idea. Bad move, it brought back old feelings and reminders of why I moved on. It became so superficial that I couldn’t take it. Call me or even text if you’re my real friend-/family.

  5. Lola says:

    I found this site looking for current facebook usage, I guess you can call it that. I deactivated my facebook account almost 3 years ago. Reactivated the account to see what I had left, I actually erased a lot of stuff the 1st time around, but have not been able to delete the account because I still have friends in facebook that have died, and there is a little part of me that still wants to hold on to those comments. But, all of your comments have rang true to me. I got tired of all the unpersonal “friendships” and I have found that a way to avoid the faces with people that had me as a fb friend is to be the first to talk and go, “so how are you? I deactivated the fb account ages ago, so I am glad when I see people…” I have now people that are so used to the fact that I don’t have it that they send me the invitations via text or call.

  6. Heather says:

    Sorry, my life doesn’t not revolve around Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, its great to connect with people. But sadly I did miss simply calling and talking to a friend or a conversation face to face. My friendships shouldn’t have to revolve around social media. It saddens me that just from simply deactivating, or friending and unfriending or being friends with someone that your other friends don’t like, causes a problem. Just my personal opinion and from personal experience. Glad I made my decision to quit social media.

  7. Quinne says:

    There is now a free app you can get, called Who Deleted Me, and it will tell you if you’ve been unfriended, or if the other person simply deactivated their account.

  8. Dale Wainio says:

    I just really upset a great relationship due to this 🙁
    I have deactivated before and never was an issue.
    But I have been thinking about quitting Facebook anyway but decided just to deactivate.
    My girlfriend was very upset and unfriended me and thought I had deleted all of our posts and pics.
    I was shocked and would never do such a thing to someone I love so much. I tried to explain that once I activate all of the stuff comes back.
    I even showed here my page that has my relationship status as being with her.
    I hope someone reads my story and at least let your significant other know before you deactivate.
    I can only hope I didn’t lose the best thing that ever happened to me 🙁

  9. Jacqueline says:

    My marriage broke up due to my husbands addiction to face book and his superficial contact with other woman from his past and present.

  10. Kay says:

    I moved constantly because of my job and every times I moved my relationship with the old friends seem to break apart. I don’t care anyways because most of the friendships are superficial and causing me lots of stress. At first we remained to stay in touch on Facebook but this time I decided to deactivate it and just a few months after moving to a new state, my so called friends dropped like flies. The saddest thing is there were 3 of them I was hoping to remain good friend with and was trying to initiate all the call, text…but through times they started to lose interest in keeping in touch with me. Don’t even bother to answer phone calls or text messages, or just answer very short and indifferent, almost feel like I’m the only one asking questions and they just answer like an interview. These are the 3 friends I liked the most and we had so much good memories with each other. I rarely consider anyone “good friend” or “best friend” but for these 3, and just 3, I have such a high hope for. But yeah, that tells you how much social media has affected friendships nowadays. If you decide to deactivate your fb account, be ready that your friends, even some real good ones, will forget about you in a heart beat.

    • Cyndi says:

      It is sad, many of the friendships on Facebook are superficial or based on how many people you can get on your friends list. I have lost friends I have had for over 40 years because Social Media has made people incapable of picking up a phone, it has become impersonal. A simple Happy Birthday call is now just a text message or message on our walls.

      • Brad says:

        “A simple Happy Birthday call is now just a text message or message on our walls”

        Or the ultimate cop out, an e-card. Or worse yet, a “belated” e-card (because, what with all the alarms and alerts and calendars available today, who can be expected to remember to send a cop out e-card on your actual e-birthday?)

        • Cyn says:

          So true, but with friendships I have had for over 40 years, you would think they would know better. I always pick up a phone and call. It seems like they never have the time to answer but can shoot a text in a matter of seconds after you disconnect.

      • Gina says:

        I agree, Cindi.ive lost friends too.

    • robert says:

      it’s really unfortunate, but that’s how it’s worked with me…except it didn’t even have anything to do with facebook. i’m considering deactivating because i literally talk to one, MAYBE two people on my friends list, so why do i even have fb? i don’t really have “friends” anymore.

      what i really liked about your comment was the “almost feel like I’m the only one asking questions and they just answer like an interview”. that’s exactly how i feel. whenever i talk to my so-called friends, they answer as if it’s an interview.

      best of luck Kay.

  11. Cindy La Ferle says:

    Cyndi, so true. I often think about my life — and interactions with friends — before Facebook and other social media took over everything. So different. By disconnecting, I’ve found myself back in that old place again. So much so, that I hate to reactivate my Facebook account! 🙂

    • Cyndi says:

      At 51 I came from a generation where we would interact with peers at school or at the Mall, now the same friends just post a like or a short message, no interaction what so ever. It has become impersonal, the same with cell phones. I cannot get anyone of my friends to answer their phones but they can send a text within seconds after trying to call them. Sadly this is the world we live in.

  12. BJ says:

    With all of the privacy issues on facebook, I decided to unfriend almost everyone except for a few people who live in a different country. I didn’t like the fact that I would make a comment on one of my friend’s post and then other people who were not even friends with this person would see what I have written. I didn’t like being tagged in photos, etc. I am just a private person.

    I did get most people’s email addresses if I could see it in their account. One friend who I emailed did mention he was glad he heard from me because he thought he may have done something to offend me when he noticed I defriended him. I should have sent emails to everyone…but didn’t. Honestly, I double most people noticed as they are too busy trying to make their lives appear important.

    • Cindy La Ferle says:

      BJ, thanks for your comment. I sense that a lot of people are becoming disillusioned with social media, especially Facebook. For me, once again, the whole thing consumed a lot of my free time. As you noted, I also felt that my privacy was compromised. There are many different levels of friendship — and I treasure all of them — but some information should be reserved only for those who are close to us, really close, and Facebook makes it a challenge to decide who gets to see what information.

    • Dee says:

      BJ said: “Honestly, I doubt most people noticed as they are too busy trying to make their lives appear important.”

      Great point BJ. For a brief second, I was actually concerned that feelings would be hurt as different ones would jump to conclusions and be put off that I would dare unfriend them. Then I thought, Bah, the ones that matter don’t mind (they know me) and the ones that mind don’t matter.

    • SusanB says:

      I agree, the lack of privacy is a huge issue. It is strange and unsettling that someone who is not friends with that person can see your posts. The over-sharing of sometimes personal information intended for *one other person* with hundreds of people at the same time, e.g. “So much fun having lunch with you today!” seems pathological from the outside looking in but has been deemed normal in our current society.

      I am musing over all this posts as I strongly considering deactivating.

  13. Amy F says:

    One on the downsides of social media is that communication is one dimensional. For insecure folks and those without healthy communication skills, misinterpreting posts can be a reflection of how they view themselves and their relevance and importance in the lives if others. I’ve seen people jump to conclusions based on auto-spell correct, lol.
    Before social media became a primary source of interaction for many, people had to make more of an individual effort to nurture and maintain relationships. Now it’s easier to substitute a quick like-the-post or happy birthday, rather than more individualized attention.
    I can easily see how deactivating an account can be misinterpreted as a personal slight, for some folks, but I bet those are also the high maintenance, drama prone friends off line as well.

    • Cyndi says:

      I could not agree with you more. Facebook has become a platform for narcissist, people prone to drama and those who want to play the Social media grammar police. It has become a platform for people to play out their daily lives with photo’s of everything from what they are having for dinner, to little Sally’s kindergarten play. I have deactivated my account and so has my sister, it became a bore and now when people want to talk to me, they actually have to make the effort to pick up a phone because I also do not answer text messages.

    • Cindy La Ferle says:

      Amy, thanks for your comments. I totally agree with what you said about interaction before Facebook. Many of are feeling the lack of depth in our relationships, thanks to so much superficial online communication — that suddenly passes for normal friendship. It’s not.

      It takes a long time, and A LOT of consistent personal contact, to build a real live friendship. Online communication is wonderful, and a great way to make the world seem larger … but being in touch with someone via Facebook and email is not a substitute for friends and colleagues who share a long, personal history.

  14. Cyndi says:

    People need to get a grip and grow up, what did people do before Facebook and Social Media? Many of us like you have busy lives. I have a son with Autism and I work, for those who have nothing but time it might be an offensive move

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