My husband was never that into Facebook. He reluctantly signed on and, even then, didn't want to friend too many people. He's a very friendly person, but is also very private. He had little interest in corresponding with people he had barely spoken with in high school, let alone since.
I, on the other hand, was all over Facebook. Facebook just made it easier for me to do what I had been doing all my life -- making connections with people. A friend of mine once dubbed me "Annettework" and it's a fitting moniker. I am a prolific networker and have a knack for maintaining contact with people from every facet of my life -- public school, camp, undergrad, grad school, jobs, acting classes, theatre companies and random people I've met on trains and planes. Yeah, I'm that person. I come by it rightfully. My parents are notorious for making and keeping friends wherever they go. In 1975 they met a Punjabi flight attendant in London and still correspond with him. For years, whenever he flew through Detroit, he would drive the 1.5 hours to our house and cook us dinner -- he makes a mean curry!
To date, I have 964 Facebook friends; my husband has 155. Correction: My "soon-to-be-ex-husband" has 155. We have been separated for over a year, but are not yet divorced due to state budget cuts and a shortage of Supreme Court justices who could file our case.
After I discovered my husband's affair and announced our separation, I was surprised that many of my friends did not immediately unfriend him on Facebook.
When I say my friends, I mean the friends and family members that I brought to the relationship, all of whom fell in love with him as I did. They were unanimously shocked and dismayed at his choices and silently withdrew their friendships with him in real life, so why hadn't they done so in virtual life? After all, unfriending someone on Facebook is so much easier than in real life. There is no need for awkward conversation, no overtly hurt feelings. You just click a button and "poof" they are gone!
A small handful of my friends did unfriend him. The first did so immediately and defiantly. "How could I stay friends with him after what he did?" she insisted. Her sister soon followed suit and a few others quietly departed over time, most not telling me. And some confessed to maintaining their friend status to spy on him and look for inflammatory comments. Thankfully, he never made any.
It even took me a couple months to unfriend him. I thought if I stayed friends, I would have a glimpse into his life and he into mine. I wanted him to see pictures of me moving on Gloria Gaynor-style despite him. I wanted him to read the subtle pot shots I made at him in my status updates. I wanted him to wonder about the attractive new guys making comments on my wall. But I eventually decided to save myself from obsessively looking for details about "the other woman" on his page. It was an unhealthy pastime and unfriending him was the only way to put an end to it.
But what about the others? Why were so many of my friends still friends with my ex? I had wanted them to drop off his friend list suddenly and without warning, the way he had dropped out of our marriage. And I had wanted to castigate him, to cut him off from this extraordinary group of people who had become his own friends and family. If he no longer wanted me in his life, he could no longer have them in his life -- we're a package deal!
I asked a few close friends why they hadn't unfriended him yet. Immediately, one responded with a sincere mea culpa, saying that she simply hadn't paid attention and then promptly unfriended him. (That wasn't my intention at the time, but I can't say I minded.) Another informed me that she also remained friends with him due to negligence. She noted, however, that I was still friends with her ex! I offered my mea culpa and promptly unfriended him. I guess I'm like most people and guilty of not doing habitual Facebook maintenance.
Perhaps my friends' continued presence in his virtual life is a greater punishment than if they were to unfriend him. He recently saw a post about my friend's new baby. "How is she doing?" he asked with genuine concern. I imagine how much he must miss some of the faces that light his screen like ghosts. I envision him sitting quietly, like a cat on a sill, watching their lives pass by without him. It's heartbreaking.
Lately my desire to penalize him has diminished and I no longer feel the need for my friends to take any action. Friend him or unfriend him, I really don't care. What matters to me now is that I maintain my own virtual community -- this amazing group of people who daily lift my spirits. Through their funny pictures, "likes," curious links and loving comments, my "Annettework" has given me more than just online amusement; they have given me very real support. And for that, I am truly grateful.