Should There be a Real Life ‘Unfriend’ Button?

Photo courtesy of Silly Lil’ Doe

One summer, while working in a mall boutique to make extra money, I met a girl who I thought might have real potential to become more than just a co-worker. I saw her a few times a week when we shared shifts, but not often enough to really get to know her.

The summer ended, along with my job, but our friendship continued. Soon she was visiting me often and calling me many times a day, leaving multiple voice mails on my phone. When I did spend time with her, the conversations were one-sided and I could never get a word in edge-wise. My frustration with her grew until one day I found myself ducking behind a display when I saw her at the grocery store. I realized I would be happy if I never saw her again.

Some friendships shift, fade, or simply turn out to be something you weren’t expecting. And now that we are all digitally connected via facebook and Twitter, ditching someone can be infinitely more difficult than it used to be.

So, can you get out of a friendship with someone who’s toxic or is just generally driving you crazy? And is it possible that your life would be drama-free if you could?

Actually, it’s quite likely that you’ll create more drama by carrying out some elaborate “break-up” plan with a friend. Unless things are really, dramatically awful (as in, this person is making your life completely, 100% miserable), you probably don’t need to sit them down and give them the ”We’re Not Friends” speech.  Although many of us probably have at least one or two people we fantasize about saying that to - in reality, it’s just not that simple, especially if you share friends who may feel forced to take sides. Also, once you say those words, they can’t be taken back, and you will have drawn a very distinct line in the sand.

That being said, continually exposing yourself to someone who really rubs you the wrong way can create a stumbling block on your path toward acknowledging your self-worth and value. Try to institute what author and psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior calls “The Slow Fade.” In her book “The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up with Your Friends,” Dr. Bonior explains The Slow Fade as only seeing the person when you have to, in groups of friends. Begin to let all other contact with him or her fade into an acquaintance-type of friendship. Often this set-up is much easier to bear, even with the most agonizing of personalities. It can backfire, though, if your withdrawal only fuels your friend to seek you out with more determination. In that case, you may need to make a clean break.

Ultimately, you’ll have to do what feels right, based on the level of stress this petulant person is causing you, the number of friends you have in common, and his or her reaction to the new state of your friendship. While it might be easy to “ignore” someone’s online friendship request or “unfriend” your neighbor’s boyfriend’s cousin because her constant photo posts are clogging up your news feed, breaking up in real life really is hard to do.

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    • Laurie

      In sessions related to uncovering my Authentic Self, one of the activities I found most helpful, but most difficult consisted of first writing down all the people we spend time with every day at work and in our personal lives.  We were to spend copious amounts of time compiling the list.  In the next session, we were to break the list up into daily, frequently and occasional interactions. We then had to indicate how we felt after seeing that person.  We used a +, – and = next to their name to indicate positive, negative or neither emotional influence.  Finally, we spoke of ways to eliminate those people who had the negative drains on our lives, or severely limiting our interactions.  Our time, our emotions and our well being are all too valuable to spend any of them on people who drain them away.

      This elimination strategy included ‘unfriending’ a few family members for me.  Since I just could not bring myself to do that, we worked on changing the relationship to mitigate the issues that caused me to place the ‘-’ by their name in the first place.  While difficult to ‘unfriend’ certain people, my life did take a 180 degree turn for the better because of that tough trail and it was definitely worth it!

      • Adrienne McGuire

        I have been implementing something similar in my life for several years now, although my system never involved writing a list. I think that is a very interesting idea, and I want to make my list tomorrow and see what I uncover.

        Ever since I came to the realization that I don’t need others to validate me, I’ve been able to step back and look at the way other people make me feel. I’ve taken marked steps away from a number of people who drain my positive energy.

        It’s not to say “I think I’m better than this person, so I don’t want to associate with him or her,” it’s just about the way their personality meshes with mine. I am extremely sensitive to overstimulation, so being around people with manic personalities does nothing but frustrate and bother me.

        I’m also the first to admit that I’ve not always been on a path toward finding my best self. I went through a period of being quite difficult to be around, at least in my opinion. But the point is, it doesn’t matter WHEN you take strides to live the life you want, it just matters that you’re doing it at all.

        It can be hard to disengage from people who have been close to you or that you are forced to see due to life’s circumstances, but ultimately, the only person who decides what you do and who you spend time with…is YOU.

        It took me a really long time to be ok with that, but wow does it feel great to finally be here. :)