When I first started using Facebook in November 2007, little did I know that this social networking site would have the power to make me — and many other people I know — make wild assumptions.
Statuses people posted, the comments that followed or photos from the regularly updated newsfeeds led people to read more between the lines than was warranted.
Thanks to Facebook, I learned the terms “unfriend” or “defriend,” something I had never found from the dictionaries I had used since I started learning English.
I know “to break up,” “to separate” or “to divorce,” but not to unfriend or to defriend. Even now at this very moment, my laptop underlines in red those two words because they don’t exist in the system.
Since joining Facebook, I have defriended a few people for reasons I now think are silly. I have also, however, been defriended by a couple of friends — one of them later sent me a “friend request” so that we could be friends again. This is mainly due to assumptions made after reading the words or looking at the photos posted on our walls.
However, one of the most disturbing facts about Facebook was when I learned that even after I was no longer on the site, its power remained strong.
Last month, for the first time, I decided to switch off my Facebook account after thinking about how much time I spent on the Web site over the years. I calculated that if I had spent a total of (at least) two hours a day on Facebook, I must have wasted more than 3,000 hours of my life.
That was insane. I couldn’t believe how much I had delved into Facebook, updating my status and photo albums and commenting on other people’s photos or walls. I should have realized this because I usually spent hours staring at Facebook, going through the newsfeed and reading what people said on their walls.
Switching my Facebook account off felt a bit like breaking up: I sort of felt relieved that it was over, but there were also the awkward moments when I wanted to see my “ex.”
A few days after I logged off, I started to receive messages from friends via e-mail, text message and BlackBerry messenger service.
They asked me what they had done wrong or whether things had gone bad between us because they could not find me on their Facebook friends list.
For those who don’t know, when you switch off your account, you will automatically disappear from the site. People can no longer find your name on the photos you are tagged in or view the comments you posted on their walls, among others.
One of the messages I received was from this lovely woman I have known since we were in elementary school. She asked me how I was doing and whether things were going well in my life. After that, she asked if she had, in any way, offended me with her words.
I had no idea what she was talking about until she finally said, “You deleted me from your friends list.”
I then explained to her, as I did to some other friends, that I had switched off my account merely because I felt that I had wasted way too much time on it. I said to her, it was nothing personal. “Alhamdulillah [thank God], so we are OK now,” she said. We were OK before, we are now and, hopefully, will remain so in the future.
When I told a friend about these messages I received, she said I should have announced it on my wall before I switched off my account. “Just so they knew that it had nothing to do with them when they couldn’t find you on Facebook,” she said.
I disagreed with her, saying that I did not feel I was obliged to do any such thing. Eventually, I started to understand people’s worries of being defriended by someone — as I had been defriended before, not just because the person had switched off his or her account.
This feeling is worse when you feel that there was nothing wrong between you and the other person.
Sadly, for many reasons, Facebook has contributed to changes in the meaning of “friends” and “friendship.” When you are no longer friends with someone on Facebook, it often means you are no longer friends offline, too. That’s what happened to me. When you are added to a person’s list again, it means reconciliation must have taken place.
After a few weeks off Facebook, I am now back to being friends with all the 474 people on my list.
Ade Mardiyati is a reporter at the Jakarta Globe.