Face Value: A personal essay about my relationship with Facebook

Once a year, ever since I signed up for a Facebook account, I have purged my friend list. This involves removing people I no longer talk to at all, people who I don’t feel comfortable commenting on my posts, or people who were added as a way to develop a friendship but neither of us put the effort in to make that happen.

I can’t speak for the rest of my generation, but as a young person living and working in a world dominated by social media, I get defensive when people are critical of it. I think it’s because I have this naive utopian idea about how it can bring us all closer together, but in truth there are glaring issues with social media that need to be addressed and the goings-on of my Facebook page is a perfect example.

Everyone uses Facebook for different reasons, but it seems that most of us function in this limbo of dating site meets family album meets high school reunion. Regardless, we should add a new rule to our online etiquette. I don’t mean don’t post obscene material or tag me in unsightly photos (though seriously, that is unkind). I mean consider the context of which you know a person in real life and let that inform the way you interact with them online.

Facebook is individuals making comments on my posts that they wouldn’t say in a face-to-face conversation, or inviting me to intimate parties when I don’t know them all that well. I, too, am guilty of these crimes, which makes it all more frustrating, because I am no more immune to expecting social media to deliver more than what is possible at this point.

I have many Facebook friends, but there are not many of them I would call if I was stuck in a grim part of the city and need to get picked up. There is an even smaller per cent on that list that I would share personal secrets or dreams with.

The worst part, the part which makes me squirm inside about Facebook, is I feel like I’m lying to people. I accept their friend request, giving the impression that I immediately see the potential for growth and mutual understanding.

Instead people become contacts, disposable and easily deleted from my life.

This is made all the more difficult when engaging in shallow text conversations. And likes are no way to begin a friendship or perform the type of maintenance an existing friendship requires.

In my experience, this plays into misguided idea that friendship is forever. I know we all have BFFs, but when we are never allowed to let people exit our lives, or exit theirs? We must keep up the appearance of friendship devoid of depth and effort.

There’s no socially acceptable way in this world to break up with a friend unless you delete them on Facebook. This is an act that can only make me the villain. There’s no way to say to a person that you’ve enjoyed the time that you spent together as friends but now your interests or ideologies have changed to a point that we are no longer compatible. At least, not without it having the air of being malicious.

What do I have left when I can say to someone we’re no longer friends? Clicking a button, rendering that person into just one number less displayed on my profile.

It is this idea, and the insane amount of Facebook drama I’ve seen over the years, that stopped me from learning something important until recently.

In my life I will outgrow people, and that is perfectly okay.

Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith is a third-year journalism student who, instead of curbing her habit of mindlessly scrolling on the internet, is exploring why online culture matters.


  • Sheetal Reddy
    Reply November 29, 2013

    Sheetal Reddy

    This is a really good piece. Many people including myself, don’t really think about who gets to stay on our friends list, but you raise a good point: what is the purpose in maintaining an appearance of a friendship when there’s nothing there anymore?

  • Samantha Lego
    Reply December 7, 2013

    Samantha Lego

    Because I travel so much I add so many random people on Facebook on a whim. So I come home, and months later I have hundreds of friends who I have no idea who they are. I don’t rampantly post things on Facebook but I’m still sharing information about myself with so many people that I don’t know. It kind of goes against common sense. This is a good piece and made me go purge my friends list. Thanks Chloe.

  • Danielle Himbeault
    Reply December 7, 2013

    Danielle Himbeault

    This article is so close to home for me. I find the people I interact with the most on Facebook are people who I don’t really interact with in person. If I want to talk to a friend, or make plans, I tend to do it over the phone or through text. But when I comment on someone’s Facebook post, it is usually a person who I haven’t physically seen in ages. Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends from far away, though. Having moved to BC from Toronto, I still have a lot of friends who I visit when I go back once a year or so, and usually the only way I have to stay in touch with them is Facebook.

  • Avatar
    Reply December 8, 2013

    Cindy St-Laurent

    Wow great job. You totally hit the nail on the head with this. I literally just went through and deleted a bunch of people off my Facebook last week and came into the problem of deleting people who I would “offend” if I did so and I’m sad to say I kept a few of them as friends. Your totally right that you can outgrow friendships and social media makes that hard.

  • Jaclyn Sinclair
    Reply December 9, 2013

    Jaclyn Sinclair

    I would have to agree. It sounds weird to admit that we periodically “purge” our friend lists, but it makes sense and should become a common process in this day and age. I like the line “consider the context of which you know a person in real life and let that inform the way you interact with them online.” It just makes sense and I wish a lot more people would live by it.

  • Avatar
    Reply December 9, 2013

    Aasim Raza

    Adding friends to one’s Friends list has become something of second nature. We have confused the distinction between a Friend and an Acquaintance. What Facebook has done is that it has blurred the line between this distinction, making people indifferent to the notion that everyone and just anyone can not be your friend.
    You drive home the point that deleting someone from your friends list is followed by an after school melodrama. This one time I had to delete a group of girls from my friends list, who in the first place were only added on there because we had to make a Facebook group and I had to add them to the list first in order to add them to that group, so it only seemed right to purge them from my list at the end of the semester because we were not friends and I did not want them to have this impression otherwise. But what followed were a few sad, melancholy messages trying to make me feel as if I was obligated to have them on there for the rest of my life.

  • Avatar
    Reply December 9, 2013

    Ashley Ezart

    This article was really interesting for me. I’m not someone who purges my friend list, even if I don’t talk to many of them, because I enjoy seeing what people are up to now post-high-school. However, I totally agree with the fact that it is ok to outgrow people. It happens and that’s life. People mature faster and differently than others and sometimes it is not worth it to stay connected to someone who is not going anywhere while you may be.

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