Thanks to the wonders of social media, many of us can now claim to have hundreds of "friends".
Facebook has united us with ex-coworkers, the chick from High School who didn't really know you to begin with, the guy you dated back in the day, the girl you sat next to in some random University course, the friend of a friend, your ex-boyfriends sister and the guy you had a crush on in 4th grade. All of these people are now considered our "friends" but are by no means usually part of our active social circle. And that's the difference. There's real friends, and virtual friends. I can guarantee that most of the people I just mentioned don't really know me at all. And yet I've never felt the need to "unfriend" them.
There's a little bit of guilt and stigma surrounding the concept of rejecting a persons freind request or unfriending them on Facebook. And don't we all scan our friends list when we see our friend count has gone down to figure out who could have unfriended us??
But here's my question. Social media aside, when do we unfriend in real life? And how do we do it?
Some time around the beginning of University, my social group changed dramatically. I met hundreds of new people at University and my new job and slowly lost touch with most of the people I had grown up with. Mostly this wasn't a bad thing. Clinging to mediocre friendships just because you've known them since childhood isn't necessary. We're not evaluated as human beings based on how many friends we have.
During this time, I walked away from my best friend since the age of 4. Why? I realized that despite her being the closest person to me in the world, our friendship was toxic.
I'm guessing that every one knows what I mean by toxic relationship. This is the friend that doesn't put as much effort into the relationship as you, the one that is never really there when you need them or is only around when they need you.
Now bear with me people, I'm about to get nerdy on you.
Back in the 20's a British Anthropologist figured out that human beings can maintain somewhere between 100 and 230 stable social relationships. He settled on the number 150 and it's been dubbed Dunbar's Number ever since. So in theory, we should be able to maintain 150 relationships. That actually seems a little high to me. I totally agree that a person can only maintain a certain number of CLOSE friendships. Now by close friendships, I mean people you talk to regularly and spend time with. People who know you well and who you know in return. And especially, people who are there for you during the good, the bad and the ugly. These are close friendships. The people who you would do everything from shop with to cry with, to get in trouble with all while laughing about it afterwards.
How many of these true friends do we really have? 5? 10? or only 1?
How many of us truly appreciate what it means to have these kinds of friends?
And what happens when one of these friendships starts to turn toxic? When do you unfriend in real life?
Let me lay down some scenarios for you.
You've know each other for years and have always been really close but the last few years you notice that you're the one making all the effort to keep the relationship afloat. You make sure to go to all her parties and gatherings, but she is always busy on the night of yours. You are always there to help her move but when you get your own apartment she's not feeling well. You are always friendly and polite around her other friends but she doesn't even want to be there when your other friends may be included. She says she'd rather just spend time with the two of you, but always makes you come to her. When she fights with her boyfriend or gets dumped she's more than willing to come crying to good 'ole you but when you end a serious relationship she gives you a pat on the shoulder and says you're being dramatic? The one who only spends time with you when they're bored, need something or are currently between boyfriends. I think we've all had this kind of friend at least once in our lives. The one who simply takes from the friendship but never puts anything back in.
Know the friend I'm talking about?
When do we say enough is enough?
And how do you un-friend in real life?
I think that if you're not getting what you need out of any relationship and it can't be fixed you should walk away. Now depending on the history of the friendship and the level of toxicity, trying to talk to the person can't hurt. I wouldn't want to think back on the end of a long friendship and never be comfortable with the fact that I didn't really try to do anything to fix it. But then deep down, a lot of the time we know that these friendships can't be fixed.
So stop contacting them, unfriend them on facebook or level with them and explain why you don't want them to be part of your life anymore. Whatever you're comfortable with. But I say, don't try to stop the Titanic from sinking. Make sure the lifeboats make it to shore ;) Take the energy you've been putting into toxic relationships and let the people that really matter know how much you mean to them.
So to all my friends who I love with all my heart, you know where I am if you need me. And better yet, I know where you are too.
Thank you for being my unbiological sisters.
Some entertaining friendship quotes for your enjoyment.
"Best Friends: They know how crazy you are and still choose to be see in public with you."
"My friends are the kind of friends that if my house was burning down, they'd be roasting marshmallows and hitting on the firemen."
"A friend will help you move your couch, a best friend will help you hide a body."