with friends like these….

Our pastor recently culled his Facebook friends and the staff gave him a hard time about it. Seriously, why take the risk of offending a former parishioner when all you have to do is “hide” them.

But he held his ground. It was just an attempt to unclutter his life, he said. No offense intended.

Maybe not. And he may have the right instincts here. One can have too many friends.

According to Joe Queenan over at the Wall Street Journal, a self-promoting British anthropologist says human beings can only handle 150 relationships at a time. (Facebook says the average user has 130 “friends”.)

But Queenan says he prefers the old fashioned approach to the Facebook model of defriending, the one where you simply tell someone to bug off. He once sent a post card with photos of World War II cemeteries to an old friend he had come to dislike with the note: “wish you were here.”

He also once told a new acquaintance that it took Nixon 60 years for everyone to wish he would leave, and this new “friend” had managed it in only a week.

I suppose there is a need for a more straight forward approach. We’ve been deleting people from our Rolodexes for years, but Facebook makes it easier. And more obvious, in some ways.

But to “defriend” someone seems harsh, and somewhat unchristian. It’s not really. At least not always.

We just had a non-electronic experience with this. Katie and I (mostly Katie) had befriended a woman six years ago, running some errands, occasionally helping with some chores or even buying clothes or groceries. She has numerous health concerns and financial limitations, and Katie mostly provided a listening ear.

But she was becoming more and more needy, perhaps more and more demanding. We were getting several phones calls a day, often with unreasonable expectations. And accusations. So we finally said stop. Don’t call. We won’t answer the phone.

And we haven’t.

This is where you wonder what it means to forgive 70 times seven, as Jesus taught. But I’m pretty sure we were close. And after six years, she doesn’t seem to want to get better. She just seems to want more.

It’s problematic. She isn’t our actual neighbor, since she lives on the other side of town. And she was beginning to drain energy from our service to others—students, church members, even our own children. A black hole, our pastor said.

She left us a voice mail message yesterday and asked if we thought this was what we thought God would want us to do.

Yes, I told Katie. He’ll do it himself, someday.

We didn’t return the call. And soon we will quit listening to the messages.

There is nothing to forgive, really. Nothing to gain, nothing to do, nothing to learn that can’t be learned elsewhere.

It’s not sad. It’s just tragic.

And not as easy as clicking “delete.”

———————-
Have you defriended someone on Facebook? Why?
Have you been defriended? How did you feel?
How do you defriend someone gracefully? Online? Face-2-face?

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

14 Responses to “with friends like these….”

  1. Very good. Thanks for the reminder, “He’ll do it Himself, someday.” Guilt always wants to rush in at these moments in life. I can forgive and I can love as I’m commanded, but I don’t have to hang out … even on facebook. In fact, I may have greater influence for the cause of Christ if I don’t.

  2. Excellent post. I have de-friended when I find someone’s status consistently offensive or demeaning to others. I don’t know enough about facebook to know who has de-friended me 🙂 And I really don’t care.

  3. I’ve been trying to gracefully defriend someone who has been in my life for more than 20 years. It’s less of a clean break when it’s that long, and when it was someone I was that close to. But in the last decade or so, I found that I was giving and giving and giving to the breaking point, with very little in return–not even a listening ear. So I’ve been working hard to let go, if not entirely, then at least enough to relegate the party into the casual acquaintance slot. It’s been a slow process, but I find I’m a lot happier without that person’s neediness in my life, and with the limited acquaintanceship that has developed in its place.

    • Mandy

      I understand where you are coming from. These are hard choices to make. I have had to make them myself. It is not fun but if it means your happiness, then I say “click” delete. 🙂

  4. I love the postcard idea and may just steal it. Brilliant!

  5. I’ve had to go through my facebook to delete the people I just added because we had the same friends or people I wasn’t really connected to. I ended up cutting my number of “friends” in half! I have been defriended before (and by people I thought were close friends!). It completely made me question what I had possibly done to offend them or make them decide to not allow me to be a part of their life. It really makes me question the childish phrase of “What would Jesus do?” When I was 5 it was a (snobby) means of getting my siblings to stop being mean to me, but now I really wonder… What would Jesus do if he had a facebook?

    I’m so glad I’ve discovered your blog! I am very blessed by your writing.

  6. Gosh, this is harsh! I have a liberal policy toward Facebook friends– I have almost 2,400 of them. If they speak a foreign language, if they ask for money, if they spend all their time on Farmville or useless apps, I “hide” them. If they pop up “chat” boxes every time I get online to ask for a gift to their African mission, I delete them. If they use foul language and embarrass me on my wall, they’re outta there in a flash. But I have many friends with whom I disagree politically or theologically, and I welcome the opportunity to introduce them to a new way of thinking. I may be dreaming to think that I could make a difference; but it costs nothing to try.

    (By the way, I just listed your engaging blog on my Google Reader. Very nice!)

  7. I went all the way and quit Facebook. The interactions were just seeming too impersonal and I felt like I was watching life through a glass box.

    It’s a great tool for marketing purposes, or keeping in touch with family overseas, but not for real life I think. I miss snail mail and real conversations over tea.

  8. I’m not even remotely unpatriotic, but did defriend someone who constantly posted how much they were in favor of this division or that battalion of the military. Once a month or so with the rah rah is enough. Also an old acquaintance who angrily ranted about sports teams or “bar league” issues. Part of why I started blogging last fall was I had an urge to post real smartalecky crap somewhere, along with some longer posts and some serious posts, and Facebook just wasn’t the place for that.

  9. It really is deliberating to defriend someone both on line and in person.Some people just drain you completely that your good intentions turn into resentment which takes you further away from your relationship with God.As I get older I have discovered if you are no longer on the same page move on with your life.

  10. I meant liberating was typing faster than i was thinking i guess

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