Unfriendzoned: stories of rejection and breaking up in the age of social media
A few weeks ago, I added a former flame on Facebook. Our common friends said he was single and I was single so I thought no one would mind if we try to reconnect via social media. We were good friends before, so I added him on good faith that maybe things will be the way they were.
I was ecstatic when he accepted my Facebook invite just minutes after I sent it. Not wanting to freak him out, I decided that I shouldn’t stalk his page or message him right away. A day later, I needed to ask him something connected to my job. It wasn’t a move, I swear. It was a legit question and he happened to be one of the people I needed to ask.
When I searched him on my friends list, he wasn’t there. I typed his name on the search box and went to his page. It said “Add Friend” again.
The bastard unfriended me.
Of course I felt confused and rejected. Why would he unfriend me? Was he still mad about what happened last year? I didn’t even bother to ask him or our common friends. I didn’t want to sound affected even if I was. It was the virtual equivalent of having a door slammed to my face.
Was I hurt because I still had feelings for him? Or was the experience of being unfriended an unpleasant experience to begin with, no matter who did the unfriending?
“Kung sino yung nang-unfriend or block, siya yung mas affected! (Whoever did the unfriending or blocking is the one more affected!)” a friend once told me.
A part of me was fascinated that I was treating what happened in social media as part of “real life” and in a sense, it was. In our generation, it’s almost impossible to tell a story of a courtship or a breakup without social media being involved.
Often, social media is portrayed as the great connector, a tool to link and mobilize people. In a country dubbed as the number one user of social media in the world, our lives have been digitized. So of course, I met a few people who shared similar and mortifying experiences which show the dark side of social media.
Grace and her boyfriend John had been together for five years. They have been workmates at a particular division of a media outlet. They belonged to a group of friends who got along fairly well. One day Grace had to be relocated to another division so she had to transfer offices. Grace kept in touch with these friends and asked them to look after John.
Grace didn’t suspect anything at first but the day after she and John celebrated their fifth anniversary, John started to avoid her.
“After a week, I went to his office. At first he didn’t even want to talk to me. He said he needed space so he can find himself,” she said.
Grace agreed and kept in touch with him on social media. After three months, she asked their common friends how John was doing and they nonchalantly told her that he has a new girlfriend.
“My friends and I fought over Facebook because they didn’t tell me about it right away,” she said.
It turns out, John’s new girlfriend was also an officemate of theirs and it was her friends who pushed John to pursue this new girl.
“I was so angry at them. They all made a fool out of me!” she said.
Grace and her “friends” took to Facebook their anger and hurt. They did not hesitate to call one another names and vandalize one another’s walls.
At the end of World War Facebook, John blocked Grace and Grace blocked four of her “friends.” She also quit her work so she wouldn’t encounter any of them.
But the story wasn’t over yet. To make matters worse, Grace found out, also via Facebook, that her cousin was flirting with John.
“My cousin had always been chatting with my ex. I didn’t mind it until I saw photos of her having drinks with him.”
Grace posted statuses about her feeling betrayed. That particular cousin and her siblings were quick to wage another war on Grace. They called her “bobo” (stupid) and “walang pinag-aralan at delicadeza” (doesn’t have breeding and propriety) on a public status which everyone saw.
This particular thread reached 72 comments when friends of Grace jumped in to defend her and more family members got involved.
“What happened to you? Are you being like this just because of a boy? I pity you. Because of what you’re doing, you won’t have any relatives left,” one of her cousins even messaged her.
Grace became depressed after everything that had happened. She even thought about ending her life. She also had to resort to blocking some of her cousins to give herself a peace of mind. She busied herself with work and hanging out with the people she considered her “real friends.” Gradually, she felt herself becoming better.
“It was hard at first but I had to accept it. Some things just aren’t meant to be,” she said.
Justine* and his ex Kevin* met at a conference.
“In just a week, we became boyfriends because we were really into each other. It’s both sexual and intellectual. There was a connection because of our common advocacy and how we perceive each other physically,” he said.
Justine said they used social media a lot – they talked through Facetime and chatted via LINE.
“We live quite far from each other so after conference, we shared majority of our “getting to know each other” through social media. I also checked his Facebook logs to know where he was and what he was doing,” he said.
However, Justine slowly suspected that Kevin may be hiding something. A certain Kyle* was liking and commenting on Kevin’s posts. When Justine stalked this person, he found out that there were instances that Kevin and Kyle were in the same place at the same time.
Justine gathered evidence. He saw photos and other digital footprints left behind by Kyle and Kevin acting like a couple. After finding enough evidence, Justine confronted Kevin. He showed printed copies of the photos and asked Kevin to explain. Kevin broke down and admitted that Justine was actually the third party in his long-term relationship.
Naturally, Justine broke up with Kevin. They’ve been together for only a month but Justine said it was like being on a roller coaster because so many things have happened.
“Social media was our last conversation. I asked him to pick up his clothes that I once borrowed. Then he blocked me on Facebook, so I immediately blocked him on Twitter and Instagram,” he said.
“It’s a way of saying it’s over and I don’t wanna connect and know anything about you anymore.”
After that, Justine created a dummy account to check on Kevin’s social media pages.
“You can create a dummy account on Facebook so I made one and still check his public posts, new cover photos and profile pictures. On Instagram, you can view an account even though you’re blocked by typing the URL through a browser, so in a way I was able to check on his partner’s posts.”
Justine eventually stopped stalking but said that it was a way to check if his ego is still hurt and he hasn’t moved on yet.
“It’s somehow a gauge. After three months, I can say that the pain has lessened and I am finally moving forward and beyond.”
Ivy met Ron when he chatted with her cousin through IRC, the predecessor of social media. Her cousin actually sent a photo of her and pretended to be her, so when they finally met, Ron fell in love with Ivy. As the Gods would have it, Ivy fell in love with Ron, too. They dated for seven years until Ivy caught Ron having cybersex with a certain Pam* who Ivy remembered for having awkward-shaped eyebrows.
Like Grace, Ivy took her feelings to social media. Not only did she post angry statuses, she also made public the screenshots of Ron and Pam having cybersex, and the nude photos of Pam she found in Ron’s computer.
“I just wanted to expose my ex’s infidelity and indecency to my friends in social media, probably, as way to avenge myself. I just wanted everyone to hate him and the girl he cheated on me with. I wanted to put them to shame, especially the girl,“ she said.
Ivy admitted that it was also her way of gaining sympathy to survive the heartache.
“He did unfriend me, but it wasn’t until I was already in my next romantic relationship. After I posted the statuses, though, he ‘filtered’ his wall just so I couldn’t see it,” she said.
On the other hand, Pam continued to text and message Ivy. She threatened to sue her if she didn’t take down the posts. Ivy eventually did and decided to move on. After months, she met the man she eventually married.
“One time, I decided to browse his photo albums and found pictures of him and a girl I think he’s courting. I actually felt sorry for the girl. I almost sent her a message of warning then I realized this will only make me look like a bitter ex,” she said.
Like Justine, Ivy said that social media helped her discover Ron’s infidelity. While it may help foster “transparency” in relationships, she said it may also make cheating easier because of the convenient communication.
“Temptations can be one click away, for example, girls with provocative poses and outfits. So with the excessive consumption of social media of today’s generation, I think networking sites are doing their relations more harm than good.”
Facebook Data Science
Facebook may not be able to answer the moral question if their site is doing more harm to relationships, but they did publish data on a couple’s use of social media before, during, and after their relationships.
The Facebook Data Science team studied couples who changed their statuses from “Single” to “In a Relationship” and explored their interactions.
“Relationships start with a period of courtship: on Facebook, messages are exchanged, profiles are visited, posts are shared on each other’s timelines,” Carlos Diuk from the Facebook Data Science team stated.
What they found was that 100 days before relationships starts, they noticed a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple. When the relationship starts, right after the couple changed statuses, the posts begin to decrease.
“Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world,” Diuk stated.
He also noted that while there is a decrease in online interactions, the content of the interactions become sweeter and more positive.
And just to be fair, the team also studied those who recently changed their statuses from “In a Relationship” to “Single.”
The team tracked a combination of the number of messages these recently-single people sent and received, the number of posts from others on their timeline and the number of comments from others on their own content.
What they discovered is that people received support from thief friends in the form of messages, posts, or comments.
Ivy agrees with this and said that talking with her friends via social media helped her move on much faster than she expected.
“I think that constantly talking to people and telling my story over and over again via chat and comment sections helped me get over my ex,” she said.
Grace is now more careful about choosing her friends and with whom she shares her posts.
“Everything has a reason. Those people are out of your life now because there will be someone who will love you more,” she said.
As for me, I still don’t know why I was unfriended. If there’s anything I learned from Grace, Justine, and Ivy, it’s that I shouldn’t try to resolve my real world problems in the digital world. Oh well, time to talk to my friends… not on Facebook, but maybe over coffee.
*Names have been changed