Journal Relationships

We’re not friends

Written by Amber Dowler

I received some hate mail this morning.

Well, it wasn’t exactly hate mail, but it was mean and it came in the form of a Facebook message.

“I don’t know what I did to you or why you hate me…”

Whoa. That escalated quickly.


What was my crime? I unfriended an old co-worker, from Korea, whom I knew for 3 months, and would at best consider an acquaintance in real life. We barely hung out and didn’t speak much outside of work. If I were in his hometown, I wouldn’t seek him out for a tour. If he got married, I wouldn’t be invited to the wedding. And if he asked for suggestions on what to order the next time he goes out for Thai food, I probably wouldn’t respond, despite the fact that I love Thai food.

I unfriended him on Facebook. I no longer live in Korea, work with him, or know him. I never really knew him and was only obligated to accept his friend request in the first place because he brought it up one day at work.

It’s not that I don’t like him, but I don’t imagine us staying in touch online or otherwise.

He must have recently realized this unfathomable treachery, because he sent me that accusatory message without apology.

It’s as if we are playing some imaginary game and I broke the made-up rules.

I’m guilty of weeding out “friends” on Facebook so that my list more closely reflects a group of people that I have ties to in real life.

I have no interest in cyber relationships that don’t transcend into reality, and I don’t want to share my life or personal information with someone I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to on the phone.

This way of thinking defies the groundwork of social media. We share everything, with everyone. We stalk and like and comment without hesitation. We become lasting “friends” with everyone.

That girl from your biology lab sophomore year? You keep her around because her life looks so interesting from the photos she posts.

Or that guy that you barely talked to in high school? You still don’t talk, but he makes the cut because you love making fun of his ridiculous political posts.

I’ve had countless conversations with friends (in real life) about the people who are so annoying on Facebook. “Why don’t you delete them?” I usually ask.

“No, I can’t do that. I’ll just block them.”

It’s as if we’re afraid that if we somehow run into a person we unfriended, they might confront us.

Or we don’t want to see our total friends number drop because it might make us seem less popular.

We put such stock in social media without acknowledging how damaging it is.

Why do we feel compelled to share our lives with everyone we meet, share a cab with, or talk to at a party once?

Why is it rude to sever a superficial tie to someone you barely know?

The worst part is, I like Facebook. I like messaging old friends and being able to see what they’re up to if we haven’t talked in awhile.

I like sharing my life with my friends whom I don’t have the pleasure of seeing all the time.

I don’t like adhering to some obligation that friends on Facebook are limitless and we should be expected to give them an uninterrupted glance into our lives, feelings, and real relationships.

I’d much rather be grateful that technology allows us to communicate with friends at a distance, and dismiss the thinking that the word friend has any other meaning than the one inscribed on one half of a novelty necklace.

About the author

Amber Dowler

Hi, I’m Amber. I am a traveling TEFL teacher, amateur skateboarder, and puppy gazer. I’m a vegetarian, but I’m dating a hot hunk of meat, and we have a beautiful rescue puppy together named Rafiki. I’ve called many places home, but nothing compares to the Midwest.

You can follow me on my blog at

but please don’t follow me around the airport because I never dress nicely for flights and the TSA takes any odd behavior pretty seriously these days.


    • I get it, Courtney! I still think it’s a great way to stay in touch with people, but it does present a lot of problems, too. Thanks for reading!

  • Amber, Everyone uses Facebook differently, and depending on who you friended initially, you learned different sets of rules about how to play. Some people try to keep it very personal like you, while others use it more for business (myself on my biz page). Every once in a while it blows up & all you can do is take away any learning experience it represents.

    I recently had my first cyber bullying experience on Facebook, then about 15 nasty (really bad, accusing me of things like stealing the photos on my blog) comments on my blog. I was amazed at how many people had that amount of time to waste. They’re also confused as they think anything they post on Facebook is private? & protected by copyright?

    Having lived/worked in Tokyo (and throughout Asia) for 3 years, my gut says someone overseas uses their social media following for social standing among their peers. In Japan there’s a rule that you never cause anyone else embarrassment, so I’m a bit surprised at the message you got but … for me, understanding different generations is also a challenge.

    Smile, learn & don’t let this in any way affect how you feel about your time spent overseas.

    PS I’m still trying to figure out why most people don’t write real comments, LOL

    • Hi Tina,

      I agree. Facebook has a lot of different uses, and it can definitely be beneficial for business. I like to keep it personal.
      Sorry to hear about your experience with cyber bullying. It sounds like you have a positive attitude about it either way, which is impressive!
      Like you, I also encountered the “saving face” element of culture in Korea. However, the person mentioned in this article is an American expat like myself. I think he just places more value in social media relationships.
      Thank you for your optimistic outlook and thanks for reading!