I've been doing a good bit of defriending lately.
Fortunately, cutting ties with people is fairly drama-free on Facebook. Most of the time, the other person barely notices. Actually, the more accurate truth is that I would not notice if most people defriended me, therefore I expect the reverse to be true.
I have mixed feelings about social-media friendships. On one hand, it's been really nice to become reacquainted with some old college chums, for instance. But I have to wonder, were we to find ourselves in the same town, would we get together for drinks or dinner? Or is our relationship strictly limited to pithy exchanges over a computer? This troubles me. Sometimes I think the cleaner approach, in which people from the past stay in the past, is preferable. Well, not preferable, just ... easier.
The truth is that losing touch with people is sad, and being "friends" online is a good way to feel as if the friendship hasn't really been lost. In this instance, I'm referring to the people with whom one is Facebook friends but has basically no interaction. There are some people with whom I enjoy regular exchanges online. There are others I wish happy birthday, maybe, and that's about it. I'm in the process of breaking up with a number of people who fall into that latter group. They may or may not know it.
Last week, a New York Times article discussed how real-life defriending is far more complex than online defriending. Yes, and a yard is longer than an inch. The story referred to ending friendships using both the "bad boyfriend" approach -- making excuses not to get together, avoiding calls, etc., and the direct approach -- explaining why the relationship has run its course and saying goodbye.
To my recollection, I don't think I've ever directly initiated a friends breakup, and if I remember correctly, I've only utilized the bad boyfriend (read: passive aggressive) method a few times. Most of my friendships that have faded have done so simply because of time and distance.
I have, however, wondered whether friends were attempting to break up with me. In a few cases, I've been able to ask, and the whole "I've been so busy" thing, it turns out, was actually true.
In a few other cases, as confidants became more like acquaintances, despite desire or attempt on my part to maintain a sense of closeness, I have simply decided to let the ball be in the other person's court, so to speak. I'll respond more than initiate.
Reading the above statement, I realize I come across as somewhat pathetic, as if I'm happily willing to let someone step on me and dictate the terms of a relationship with me. While the evolution or devolution of some friendships saddens me, there are very few people for whom I'm willing to be put on a personal shelf of any sort. It takes a long time and a lot of trials and tribulations endured to earn that particular privilege.