Friend/Unfriend: Negotiating the Admin Panel of Online Friendships

At last! An advice column that's 100 percent East Tennessee, and twice the advice for the price of one. Each letter gets a response from "Jacki," a 20-something shoe-loving Jersey gal with a UT English degree, and "Jill," who is a good 20 years older and has been dishing out advice for decades. On occasion, we ask the letter writer to respond to the advice, and include the Take Three as well.

Dear Take Two:

I got mad and unfriended a woman from my group on Facebook. Now I'm missing a lot of the gossip since I can't see her comments, and I realize I overreacted in the first place. Can I refriend her without admitting what I did in the first place?



Says Jill: Sure, give it a whirl with a new friend request. But be prepared to be ignored—those friend requests can really mount up. And know that if a situation got to the point where you felt like unfriending someone, and your group uses Facebook regularly, she's probably already talked about it with mutual acquaintances. These things do not go unnoticed in the Facebook "neighborhood," so if you're hoping it won't generate more gossip, you're out of luck. Last, about these temperamental unfriendings on Facebook—and even the rationally, carefully considered type: Is that really a step you need to take? Here's a good alternative: 1. Go to the top right corner of the "friend's" profile, to the rectangle that has "Friend" checked. 2. Pull down the menu to "settings" and then select "only important" and uncheck all the other possibilities (likes, status updates, etc.) Voila! You are still friends but you won't get any news from her, including those posts about her cat's sixth litter of unwanted kittens or the politics you loathe. 3. If her seeing your posts is the problem (say she's using them to see where you've gone without her, or starting arguments with your other friends), go to your account settings by clicking that down arrow next to "home." 4. Choose "privacy settings" and "blocked people and apps." 5. Add her account to the "blocked" people.

Why go to all this trouble? You may need to communicate with her at some later date, or figure out—like you did—that you way overreacted. Then you can always change those settings back, but meantime, she's still your friend—but without any benefits.

Says Jacki: No. Don't stop reading because I've given you advice you don't like, but I don't think you would have asked if you didn't know it was impossible. I think acknowledging why you were upset in the first place is important and not just because you're missing out on all the viral gossip--because that's what friendship is about. Facebook has made it possible for us to disengage from human interaction and avoid uncomfortable confrontation by allowing for the passive aggressive "de-friend."

Further, you need to ask yourself if you want to add her back as a friend on Facebook so that you can see her comments or because she's truly your friend. If she is, then you can have a face-to-face conversation with her about what happened and she should understand. Unfortunately, this means you're going to have to swallow your pride and have real-life communication with another person (oh, the antiquated horror). If, however, it's simply the gossip that you miss and not her friendship, then I think you can live without both—no need to admit what you've done because you don't need either in your life. Either way, you're going to have to be a bigger person and, again, the fact that you've come looking for advice, says that you're capable of doing that. Best of luck!

Take Three:

Wow, I really had to stare down my bad values and take Jacki's advice: This woman pushes all my buttons and there's really no need for me to be friends with her. So, I didn't talk to her, and I'm not going to try to re-friend her just to be able to see her great gossip about a couple of local rock stars. I'm taking Jill's advice, too, but with someone else. I am going to just hide, not de-friend, this other friend. He's not a close buddy, and I can't bear to look at one more of his political posters. But, I want the option to be able to see his photos and such when our class reunion gets a little closer, so it's good to know I can change back his settings later.

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