Earlier this month I was dumped by someone on Facebook and rather than hide and cower in the corner crying, licking my wounds, I decided to do what all good writers do – turn pain into paying copy. It was the late great Nora Ephron who said everything is copy. Never were truer words spoken.
And so I got my first piece in the Telegraph – my first pitch to them too! I also went “below the line” as we say in the trade to engage with those who left comments on my piece. Some say the so-called bottom half of the internet is a place where those who write for the top half should avoid. For there be dragons there! But I take the view that words on a screen can’t hurt me and until they invent a method for punching someone through a screen or strangling them via their keyboard, I’ll take the flak and fling it back.
Why it hurts
So why does it hurt when you get dumped on Facebook or unfollowed on Twitter? Or someone refuses a friend request – ouch! Because all these activities, as I say in my piece, plunge us back to the playground and our first year at school or nursery where how well we did with our reading or sums mattered much less than whether we made friends. Whether anyone talked to us, wanted to sit next to us. Whether we ate in company or ate alone. Those very real fears never leave us. And fear of rejection is what keeps some people from even trying to pursue relationships.
Therefore it’s not some trite thing to be defriended on social media. Someone has to actually go to the trouble of finding your page and clicking remove friend. A thoroughly nasty thing to do in my opinion and a nuclear option I only ever take if someone has been abusive to me and not always then. You can hide people on Facebook and mute them on Twitter. You can even hide updates in LinkedIn if someone is driving you mad with their boastfulness or their endless prattling on. The good thing about the hide/mute button is they need never know. I find that infinitely more satisfying than dumping them. There they are, blethering away on some hobby horse or other and they’re just talking to themselves (much as I am on this here blog).
So be kind to your “friends” on Facebook. Say yes to every invite – what the hell does it cost you to do this? Don’t be one of those pompous gits who says, I’m sorry, I only accept people I actually know. Where’s the fun in that? How will you ever widen your online circle if you only keep it to people you know? What’s the point?
I don’t have a big house and I can’t do much in the way of entertaining or even going out because my hearing is deteriorating rather rapidly and like many approaching or at middle middle age I have “cocktail party syndrome” which means if more than one person is talking, I can’t hear them very well. And don’t get me started on the overly loud music that blights so many venues now. So I have virtual parties instead. I can “hear” everyone on social media that I want to hear. This is just one reason why online relationships while maybe not friendships in the old-fashioned way are still friendships. Still matter.
Go on! Go “friend” someone new today!