Saturday, July 30, 2011

I don't actually like some of my Facebook friends.

It's perhaps a shocking admission, to which one would think a rational person might respond "well just un-friend them, silly".  That would be easy enough, yes, but I ask myself a couple of questions; how did they get there in the first place and what is their value to me now anyway?

I've been on FB and in the world of social networking for long enough now (anyone need an invite to Google+ yet btw?) to be pretty across the cycle of friend and follow-culling.  I've had a couple of discreet culls myself.  i'm probably a cullee of others' trimming too. Now it's not as if I'm one of those types (very often they were early adopters) who make it a mission to 'friend' as many people as possible or who sends a friend request to anyone who looks remotely interesting from a comment on an existing friend's fact I think I might only have sent half a dozen or so friend requests in my life.  I have at present (hang on, I'll just check) 85 'friends' at present on Facebook, and maybe a dozen other pages that pop up in my feed because I 'liked' them.  I am just reaching my comfortable management limit now, and may cull again very shortly.

How many of them (you) really are friends though? I couldn't say, because the definition of friendship is such a nebulous concept.  Plus, there's ebb and flow, as with offline life.  Some old pre-FB friendships with those now on my FB list are having quite a renaissance and renewal, and prior acquaintances are becoming rather close to my heart.  Some friends are drifting away in some sense.  I do not cling these days.  But I'd say that half or more of my friend list are those I'd never met nor spoken to even online, random pop-ups from the worlds of tubefeeding, blenderized diets, from my blogs, and via other FB friends.  Some of them become what you'd call actual friends, and some even very very close friends.  And as I said at the outset, some I actually don't like much at all.

Not liking a FB friend is different from, say, disagreeing with their politics or worldview.  I love some of my friends who have quite diametrically opposed views and beliefs and we get on famously.  We may argue and become heated at times and some of these friendships have even provoked harsh words and unwarranted lapses of demeanour on both sides, but have survived to live on, as in the offline world.  No, those I don't like much tend to be those that.....just grate on my sensibilities somehow.  And yet when I think of doing a cull, it is this class of friend that niggles, that I hesitate to cull, and for a few of what I think to be very good reasons, which I'll come to shortly.

In thinking about this apparent fondness for experiencing annoyance - pain really, as it's the opposite of pleasure - I've had to really drill deeply into myself, and look hard at my choices.  After all, doesn't your choice in people, the energies you invite into your life, affect the very quality and essence of your life?  Of course it does.  Every form of spiritual guidance and teaching - and all that life-coaching stuff -  from the modern era at least speaks of surrounding yourself with only positive influences, of avoiding 'negative' people and energies, lest you become more that way inclined yourself, or 'dragged down' by that sort of energy field. Am I unconsciously sabotaging my own growth and development somehow by identifying with these prickly people?  I have to admit that in the past, many choices I made in relationships were founded in supporting retrograde habits of mind, sub-optimal ways of living and experiencing the world.  Not quite in a 'misery loves company' sort of way, but as we all do - we search out those that are a bit like ourselves, and we do this warts and all.  We attract to us and are in turn attracted to those who reflect our 'negative' (deliberately apostrophised) traits, be they over-thinking, over-drinking, under-caring, over-eating,.......whatever they may be.  Those needy of being victims find oppressors likewise.  I found one or two of those in my life and gladly have learned the lessons they brought to bear.  The only oppressor I experience now is my physicality, and that's only when I let my mind run away with things.

But back to those good reasons: firstly, diversity in life is generally a good thing.  I rely a fair bit on my various 'people feeds', the channels of FB, twitter, email, various groups and networks for much of my information and as a wide finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.  And quite a few of those more annoying people still cough up the odd gem.  Indeed, therein lies the heart of a conundrum; if we were to only surround ourselves with like-minded people, and rely on their input for our view of the world, we'd live in a very narrow world indeed. As with those whose religion or philosophy or politics I disagree with or jar against, the contrasting links and status updates challenge me in my views.  They act as a spur to my development, and also as a check of my own values and morals.  In short, they make me question my assumptions and outlook.  It's the same reason I read news from either side of the political divide.  Wisdom comes often from unexpected quarters, even from those you don't like so much.

Then there's the humility aspect.  It's human to be social, and whether we like it, accept it, or not, we spend a great deal of unconscious effort ranking each other in terms of worthiness.  We are designed to do this evolutionarily, to be able to know at a glance who the alphas are, who are good mating prospects, who the up-and-coming threats will be....the pecking order.  It's part of survival, and one that has become far more a part of our lives today than ever before, given the increasing inequalities of society.  That in itself is the subject of a whole other exploration.  But it's true, admit it - you look down in at least some way on those with whom you disagree.  You have to, because you think you're right and they're wrong.  Fluff it all you like with notions of valuing their opinion, respecting the views of others, understanding that everyone is entitled to their own worldview (and I subscribe to all these thoughts), you still think of yourself as having the superior opinion.  Applied to those you dislike for any other sort of reason the judgement just changes flavour, not meaning.  Their 'way' is inferior (even if you acknowledge their superior 'social' status) to yours.  You like your way better.  And in the offline world you must rub up against these people all the time (unless you're a recluse or hermit) and it helps keep us real.  Keeps us humble.  It keeps us in touch with the very real fact that they think the same thing about us and that half of our mental energy is uselessly wasted on managing our sense of projected identity to maintain our sense of status quo, as reflected by others.  For when I honestly engage with those I don't like so much, especially since it would be so very very easy to just un-friend, block, ignore, move on........I am making a conscious decision to accept, to tolerate, to be inclusive.  To go beyond my petty judgement and be genuinely compassionate.  Effectively, to acknowledge my own fallibility, fragility of character, vulnerability.  It keeps my humility levels appropriate.

Then there's faith.  This comes back to the question of how I got such annoying 'friends' intruding on my wall in the first place.  To be clear, I DO try to be quite conscious about who and what I allow into my life, but to be balanced you can't have rules.  Life isn't like that and rules just mean making choices based on some need to satisfy a rigid intellectual framework: typically the result of a set of 'shoulds' you learned somewhere to help you in your never-ending quest for social status.  No, in that way there is no room for random.  For Divinity - God, if you like.  So I go by gut, almost always, and yes; I have deleted friend requests, quite a lot actually, and often for no special reason.  It's sort of a form of faith I guess, that I trust myself to be 'in the moment' enough to allow what Divinity has lined up for my interest, edification and growth.  Yes, I believe there is some interplay between ourselves and The Silence Between All Things that creates our experience of the world, and that we do it most fully when we are out of our minds.  As in, not acting from our heads alone.

Is there fear of offence if I un-friend?  No. Would there be grief in un-friending someone that rubs me up the wrong way?  Yes.  There is always grief at loss, even if it is a loss we will, for everything we invite into our lives - consciously or otherwise - defines us somehow, and thus a loss of that is a loss of something of us.  But I'm getting really well practiced at losing things; a progressive degenerative illness is wonderful teaching in that way.

At the bottom of it all though, I suppose, is love.  Even those whom I have let go, unfriended, seen the back of - and those I have yet to cull, for surely I shall again some day soon - I have love for.  Even the REALLY annoying ones whose every status update and link makes me think "wtf is this doing in my life again??"....They're there for me to love them, in one way or another.  So that I may learn love, and learn life, better.

So here's to all you guys that I don't like that much.  Cheers, and thanks for being here, for now, at least.



  1. Your problem is fundamental: You are in Australia. Australians are "known" in America as being Hilarious. Thus, you are inherently interesting to Americans. So we all want you for our friend. In addition to being humored or at least occasionally have thoughts provoked (sometimes it's hard to provoke a thought in areas replete with strip malls), it adds a smidge of status to be able to say, I have a "friend" in Australia. Maybe then people will think I am funny and interesting...

  2. Think of them as fans, not friends. Why, the heck should one like all one's fans anyway?