By Years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote an insidious bestseller called How to win friends and influence people. It was a manipulative book for an upwardly mobile society. This piece is a mirror inversion.
Friends exist in different ecologies. Face to face, the body becomes critical. Body language is a tough ritual to follow and unfriending demands a performative distance, and usually a third person. Face to face encounters are difficult. But friendship on networks is different.
The advantage — you can terminate contact impersonally. Unfriending is a new art. Especially in groups where you don’t know who your friends are initially. You cast lines everywhere and realise that relationships are made of serial friendships. The ones you meet in the beginning are often not the ones you retain. There is always a stalker — obsessed with image, not the body. Unfriending him is tough.
An old flame is always embarrassing. He stands between aggression and nostalgia and is a master of ambush. Unfriending may require more integrity than befriending. Knowing who you don’t want to be with is a part of growing up. Achieving it is a sign of maturity. It’s a pity there are more befriending handbooks than unfriending ones. A trusted colleague or friend as mediator is often the best solution. You have to realise your limits in sentimental situations because Unfriending can often turn into a soap opera. Honesty is important because unfriending requires that you recognise you might’ve made a mistake and must apologise. One thing to be wary of is college folklore which valourises bindaas individuals who abandon relationships like chewing gum. One wishes that the halo around such creatures is removed because one has to understand that relationships is an act of honesty where one must recognise the vulnerability of individuals.
The writer is a sociologist and former senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies