... And I was completely baffled.
Jennifer Ginsberg: When my long-lost buddy sent me a Facebook friend request nearly a year ago, I was ecstatic. Claire and I were inseparable all throughout high school. We finished each other's sentences and shared not only our clothes and makeup, but our darkest secrets and fantasies as well.
Then, in the middle of our senior year, she got a boyfriend and I was quickly fazed out. I was hurt that she could so easily turn her back on our friendship for some dude (who turned out to be a complete a**hole -- of course!) after all we had been through. What I learned is that there are some girls who cannot maintain relationships with their friends once they have a guy in their life. Claire was one of those girls.
Nearly two decades passed, and I always wondered about Claire. But when we both left for college, we had nothing more than each others' home phone numbers, for these were the days before cell phones and Twitter and all the other technological mediums that provide us with the illusion of friendship and connection, but only leave us more isolated than ever and incapable of making a genuine human connection. But, I digress ... back to Claire -- and her ubiquitous Facebook friend request:
"Hi Jennifer, Sorry for stalking you ... if you would rather not respond, I completely understand. But I would love to get back in contact with you. I've always thought of you as one of the few true friends I've had in life, and that is such a rare thing. If you'd be interested in getting back in touch, please respond. Love, Claire"
I was elated. We began sending each other long e-mails about our lives and journeys over the past 20 years. We even explored the issues that led to us drifting apart. Claire wrote:
"I have Googled you more times than I can count over the years. I didn't contact you in those early years because I was so ashamed of what a poor friend I was to you toward the end of high school when I hooked up with Joe and was incapable of having any other relationships. Thank God we're finding each other now instead of when we're 80! Now you're stuck with me for good!"
Within a week, Claire sent me an e-mail asking if she could come visit me for a few days. I invited her to stay in my home, and planned the whole weekend out for us.
We had an awesome time. She met my husband and children, I took her to my favorite restaurants, and we spent hours talking, and even sat on my sofa late at night and continued our gab-fest over a bowl of chocolate chips -- just like old times! We were thrilled that after all these years, we still had nearly identical tastes and beliefs -- from politics to social issues to music.
We made a commitment to stay connected via Facebook, to talk on the phone at least once a week, and make the effort to visit each other every few months. I felt like I had my best friend back.
I knew Claire had a demanding career and she and her husband were avid travelers, so when her e-mails dwindled, I thought nothing of it. But a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I had not heard from Claire in over a month, so I decided to check out her profile and see what was up. She was no longer on Facebook! I assumed she must have deleted her account. On a whim, I clicked on one of our mutual friends and looked at her list of friends. Lo and behold, there was Claire, on her list.
Was it possible that Claire had deleted me as her friend on Facebook? And if so, why in God's name would she do such a nasty and reprehensible thing?
I immediately sent her a new friend request, and left her a voicemail, as well as a personal e-mail. I racked my brain and tried to think of something I could have possibly done to warrant such an immature act of technological vengeance, but I drew a blank.
I waited all day and heard nothing from her. And I admit it -- I began to obsess. I e-mailed one of our mutual friends on the site:
"Hey Joy, have you heard from Claire lately? For some reason, I can't access her profile."
Joy immediately responded:
"Yeah -- she is still on. She got back from Tibet a few weeks ago -- she has some great pictures posted!"
I felt dread wash over me. Claire was still on Facebook, and for some reason had deliberately deleted me from her list of friends. That night, I checked my pending friend request to Claire and it had been ... DENIED! Worse yet, she had blocked me from her account. The message rang loud and clear: "I hate you -- get the f*** out of my life -- never contact me again!"
This couldn't be happening to me.
In our generation, deleting a friend from Facebook is the ultimate act of "f*** you." Facebook has become synonymous with popularity, friendship, and connection. People feel great pride over the quality and quantity of their "Friends List" on the social networking site. When someone is unceremoniously deleted from one of these lists, they often feel intense rejection and angst. Teenagers have been known to commit suicide over this.
But for God's sake, I am not in junior high school, I am a 35-year-old woman and I have worked way too hard in my life to get dissed by one of my best friends on Facebook -- some lame-ass site that I never wanted to join in the first place because of the ridiculous stories of public betrayal and rejection that I had heard. Stories like mine.
Right then and there, I decided that I was not going to go down in a sea of shame on Facebook without one hell of a fight!
I don't easily open up to people and let myself get vulnerable, as I had done with Claire. I was flabbergasted -- after all, she was the one who had pursued me and invited herself to my home. She even made grand apologies for the past and promises of renewed friendship for the future. And now she was freezing me out on Facebook? My despair turned to anger. This is bullsh*t -- if I had done something to upset her, the very least I deserved was an explanation.
A few more days and sleepless nights passed and still no word from Claire. On a whim, I risked being classified as a "Facebook Stalker" and messaged her husband:
"Todd -- this is Jennifer, Claire's friend. I have been trying to contact her for the past few days online and on the phone. For some reason she has not responded. I am totally confused. Please, at the very least, let me know that she is OK. Thanks."
Within an hour, Claire responded. Finally!
"First of all, we just returned from Tibet, which is why I have not responded to you -- [Really? According to our mutual friends, she had been back for weeks] I can't believe you would think I would delete you -- I would never do that! I have been trying to delete my account from Facebook -- since I am no longer getting anything out of being there, except wasted time. I think some of my friends got blocked in the process. [Then why was she on all of our mutual friends' lists except mine?] Now for the good news ... Todd and I are moving to Tibet in two weeks! It has always been our dream to live there, and we were offered a job to manage a luxury monastery for two years! I am so excited! I am going to be very busy for the next few weeks preparing for this move, and once we get there I don't think we will have Internet. But I am so happy we reconnected and I wish you all the best!"
For some reason, her response left me feeling more sad, confused, and rejected than when I thought she had simply deleted me off of Facebook. I never wanted to relive the emotionally enmeshed connection we had in high school -- clearly that wasn't healthy and wouldn't have worked in either of our busy and full adult lives.
But I expected her to treat me with compassion and dignity and be responsive when I attempted to contact her. Instead, she left me in a holding pattern for days and couldn't bother to respond to my multiple messages and voicemails, despite the fact that I was clearly upset and anxious. It felt very cruel. I believe she only replied to me because she felt backed into a corner.
Now, I wasn't being dumped for some dumb-sh*t dude, rather I was being tossed aside for a new opportunity. I was being told, "Don't bother contacting me for the next few years because I am going to be unreachable," with no mention of our commitment to stay connected to one another. By the way, I am hard pressed to believe that there is no Internet in Tibet!
Our reunion was a complete waste of time and emotional energy, and it has left me questioning our entire relationship. I also feel totally used -- like a baby blankey or some other transitional object that was snuggled up to and sucked on until something better came along.
So, I responded to her in the only way I could:
"Sounds like an exciting opportunity. I wish you and Todd all the best. Take care."
In retrospect, I wonder ... was I actually deleted as her friend on Facebook? Maybe. Was I given the ultimate kiss-off and essentially told "I'm just not that into you anymore"? Absolutely. Am I surprised? Not really. Am I hurt and angry? Unquestionably.
And if, upon her return from Tibet, she comes knocking, texting, Tweeting, or Facebooking, my heart will be closed. No matter how seductive the illusion of her friendship appears to be.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles mother, writer, and addiction specialist with over 15 years of experience in the fields of alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. After receiving her MSW from the USC School Of Social Work and MAJCS from Hebrew Union College, Jennifer served as the clinical director of a 120 bed drug and alcohol treatment facility. She also co-developed an addiction prevention program for Jewish youth, which has been implemented in synagogues nationally. Jennifer now works privately with people who are impacted by the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol and writes about all topics related to motherhood, addiction, and women in politics. Read more about her life at angstmom.com|