I’ve had a number of conversations in recent months about the delicate ethics and art of downsizing one’s list of Facebook friends. Some are aghast that I would ever do such a thing; others wonder why I would accept the Facebook friendship of someone I might later “unfriend” in the first place. I try to assure them that, in most cases, it isn’t personal. I generally accept friend requests from anyone I am acquainted with; if, after the initial reconnect, we appear to no longer have anything to say over a period of several months, I may unfriend them. “Unfriend” is an unnecessarily harsh term – as I see it, we are just as close as we were before Facebook; we just don’t have to wade through extra content not meant for, or meaningful to, us.
In a few rare instances, however, I have unfriended folks on Facebook because being around is just too difficult. Perhaps our views are so different that I find myself constantly biting my tongue to not start a fight. Perhaps they expect too much interaction, when I don’t feel as connected or close. And truth be told, this happens in the real world, too. The older I get, the more disinclined I am to spend time around people who inspire tension or unease in my life.
I struggle a bit with this. Occasionally, I’ll feel an “unfriendly” impulse, only to, upon further reflection, realize that I am simply being impatient or selfish, and that I must take a deep breath and respond to this person as all people deserve..with love. But it’s a fine line between bearing a cross and loving my neighbor or my enemy, and simply being cross – enduring the company of a person who, without reservation or apology, pushes all my buttons and brings out the worst in me, to the chagrin or detriment of those for whom I care.
The other day I left my office and walked to rest room, passing, in the process, a person who had long been a thorn in the side of my colleagues and I during a previous job. With welcome relief, I noted that my blood pressure didn’t rise when I saw our former adversary; in my new role, these past conflicts were no longer relevant, and so the person was just a person, and I was free to have no opinion.
That, to me, is what I hope to better embrace in my Second Third: who to embrace, who to avoid, and when to gracefully bow out and feel free to have no opinion. I hope the latter option because increasingly prevalent, because each of the former two is exhausting in its own right.