Unfiending: the gentle art of losing jerks on Facebook

Published in Time Out Sydney on Sept 4 2013. Art by Robert Polmear

When you can no longer be friends with someone on Facebook, but don’t want to be one who cuts ties, there can be a third, wonderful way…

Dear The Internet,

Do you like this person outside Facebook (no/no)?

Do you like this person outside Facebook (no/no)?

The English language is the largest of all of the human word-things – partially because of its playful versatility, partially because we just gank words from other languages whenever we fancy it, and partially because of the Oxford English Dictionary’s new policy of getting headlines by officially adding any word that gets used more than twice in The New York Times.

And yet there are still vast tundras of human experience as yet unmapped by intrepid lexicographers, which is why I so often find myself forced into creating my own words. Like an infant trying to build a cathedral by bashing bits of Lego together, I struggle, cry and often end up wetting myself – but dammit, I shall never waver in my passionate commitment to making our rich and supple language be heaps more awesomer.

With that in mind, English Language, I present the following:

UNFIENDING (verb): Passive social media exorcism; the liberating experience of discovering you’ve been unfriended by someone about whom you were feeling ambiguous.

See, we’ve all got people embedded within our social media networks that we would never put up with if we were sitting at a bar.

Maybe they seemed nice enough at work and you realised too late that they’re a conspiracy theorist. Maybe the subject of whether or not they felt vaccinations were a brilliant and effective population health measure or a way of putting curses and ghosts into babies didn’t come up at that perfectly pleasant dinner party. Or maybe it’s someone who can’t get enough of trolling everyone else you know as part of their ongoing public descent into madness

Either way, the crazy content of their brain is now leaking out into your Facebook feed. Perhaps you’ve already gently suggested that they be a bit more circumspect, or perhaps you’ve just blocked them for your own happiness. Even so, it feels weirdly aggressive to actively de-friend them yourself – why, you’re a Hail Fellow Well Met sort who understands how these social niceties work in 2013 – but you’re thinking that maybe theirs was a friend request you should have left quietly unaccepted.

And then a mutual friend will post on their wall and you will discover – to your surprise and genuine, unfettered delight – that even if you wanted to add a comment of your own, you can’t. They’ve unfriended you! You’re free!

That is the act of being unfiended. You did nothing, but now you never have to bother with them again

Even better, you now have TOTAL MORAL SUPERIORITY. They can’t even get all sulky about what a jerk you are, because they’re the one who dropped the bomb. It’s like coming home and discovering your shittiest housemate has moved their stuff out and left a note on the fridge saying they’ve gone back to their mum’s house: any possible inconvenience is outweighed by the sense that this person’s vast, poisonous tangle of problems is now no longer yours. And you didn’t have to lift a finger.

Unfiending. The greatest gift a jerk can give.

And hopefully, they’ve given it ahead of the election…

Yours ever,


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