The Unfriending Ritual
Love and Relationships

The Unfriending Ritual

How often have you unfriended people on Facebook in the recent past? If you tell me you haven’t done that, I’d find it hard to believe. Unless, you were extremely careful about who you friended or re-connected with in the first place. But it seems that friending and unfriending are so much easier on Facebook and Twitter. One press of a button and a friend can vanish into oblivion. Or so it seems, at least.

It’s never so easy in ‘real’ life, is it?

The Unfriending Ritual

It’s always difficult to accept that some relationships and friendships that meant a lot to us must end. It’s always harder when they end abruptly or without a chance to really say our goodbyes or make our peace. It’s harder to accept when we are  totally cut off from the other person by their choice. All that we are left with are memories, some good, some bad and some downright ugly and an empty space in our heart that we had reserved for that person. If only we had another chance to say our goodbyes. If only, we could meet that person again and explain our point of view. If only we hadn’t been so quick to cut them off. If only s/he had explained why we were not a part of their lives anymore.

It somehow feels like a castle in the sand you had painstakingly created. Then, before you were prepared to let it go,  a sudden wave washed it away!

I think part of the problem is that we all need certain rituals to say goodbye. When our loved ones die, we have funerals or wakes to say our goodbyes. But when we lose friends because of misunderstandings, there are sometimes no rituals involved. Perhaps some angry words, or a realization that you were being used, or worse, complete silence is all we get.

(We) need to create some kind of rites and rituals, some kinds of ceremonies that allow us to recognize the often very paradoxical sensations of leaving: the loss of it and the liberation of it, whether it’s forced or whether it’s chosen.

~ Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot from  The Endings That Set Us Free

How do I deal with such things? I have symbolically torn and burnt letters, cards and photographs in the past. I’ve had a little ritual of putting an empty chair in front of me and talking to the ‘friend’ I imagine sitting on it (shades of Clint Eastwood, you’re thinking!). I had an imaginary conversation as I told her/him goodbye.  I’ve written a letter to one friend, expressing my strong feelings of hurt and anger and torn it up without sending it. These are all symbolic gestures and they’ve worked for me.

The unfriending ritual. Do you have one?


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An inspirational writer, a creativity and writing trainer/coach, I write about life, gratitude, healing, wellness, relationships at Everyday Gyaan. I offer training/coaching to anyone looking to explore their creativity and heal through writing via The Frangipani Creative, located in Secunderabad, India. You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Bytes of Gyaan, on Substack.

71 Comments on “The Unfriending Ritual

  1. So true!
    Ah!
    Friending and Un-friending…is so obvious in the virtual world that we often miss out on the repercussions in the real world…and then it strikes!
    And when it does, we move to Youtube for comfort! 😛

  2. Yeah, so very easy to do virtually. I have lost so many friends, some pretty close ones over the years. Sometimes, it just happened; we stopped connecting. I just know that I always reached out to a friend when I knew that I made a mistake or to discuss. But, if that offer was spurned, I chose to seek solace in the knowledge that I tried. My closure ritual is in giving it a try once, writing an email, making a call or something and then letting it go!

  3. When a someone you feels is a true friend in real life and/or FB just “lets’ you go” it hurts. Friendship is also a love affair. That’s why it can hurt when you are left. Thanks so much for this! It’s so true and so needed in this quick to unfriend age of FB.

    1. It hurts so badly when you don’t know what you did to upset them and what has changed, doesn’t it? Like I mentioned in a previous comment, I used to think that you made a friend for life. Now I realize that people move on and change. But the manner of moving on is what hurts the most, I believe.

      1. Thanks Corinne…this post really helped. it seemed like a continuation of our mails from the other day. and as put in an earlier comment…i tried and it never worked so the closure should happen emotionally sooooon! And then time and distance will help.

  4. Oh! yes, I do have one…by imagining talking over and over to that particular person. Though it takes time, it helps in the long run.

  5. about a year ago i started a new ‘unfriending’ practice called ‘three strikes you’re out!’ this basically means that if someone tries to tell me how i should think, feel or behave they get three chances and then they lose access to me. i unfriended many people right after that and i felt like i had to keep explaining myself and justifying this action. but, then something amazing happened! i realized how much better my life became without those people in it. and how much less often i had to explain and justify my thoughts and actions without the likes of them in my life! and then i threw out the three strikes and started unfriending people like that on the first offense! my life has never been more easily joyful!

    if it is a close friend who truly shows signs of wanting to grow in relationship with me i am open to that. but, if they just think they have all the answers i hit the ‘unfriend button’ immediately 😉

    1. Linda, I’m perfectly okay with unfriending people. But I wonder about the unfriending process and how it works for different people. I know I too am much freer without some people in my life. But I still needed to work out a ritual. When I did, I was free!

  6. I toast a drink, and drop my internal wall. For me, the silence between us is the best ritual there is. Well said, it is a topic most people do not brave, therefore they are left with all that baggage….thank you for sharing.

  7. Easier said than done Corinne!

    Oh yes – it’s so much easier to unfriend people on Facebook and twitter and they just vanish from our newsfeed and we no longer hear from them. But such things aren’t really possible in real life and if so, they do leave a mark on us somewhere or the other.

    I was never able to really say goodbye, and am still bad at them. It was tough when my Mom left me and it still is tough when any near one passes away, because it’s really not easy to let go of people who matter a lot to you – isn’t it? Yet, such is life and it must carry on and so must we.

    We are somehow able to carry on with the other smaller rituals and even if friends leave us sometimes, as they do, we do overcome their loss if they weren’t all that close. I guess we find new ones. But where a life loss is concerned, that’s something that can never be replaced.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Harleena – sorry it’s taken me ages to respond to your comment. Thank you for sharing your experiences of losing loved ones. Like you said, letting go of those loved ones who’ve passed away is always very hard. I’m not sure how I will handle the loss of my parents when the inevitable happens. But I do know the loss of ‘friends’ has been hard enough already – because of misunderstandings and the resultant bitterness, at times.

  8. I have never really thought about it before but yes, I do have a ritual. I get rid of all trace of that person. Tearing up and burning pictures and things like that. Then I force myself to forget and go on. Some I just avoid and go into the silent treatment. On Facebook and twitter, I delete or block. I have never deleted or blocked a friend that I can remember only in-laws and supposed family.

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

  9. This is a big topic because so many things can cause a real life or virtual break up. For me, I have to make that one more try to ‘fix’ it, if I want it fixed. Sometimes, I just don’t want it fixed at all. I recognize that having said person out of my life is actually a better thing.
    One more call, one more letter, one more email, whatever feels right. If it gets resolved, that’s good. If not, movin’ on!

  10. I think when you meet people online it’s very easy to “unfriend” them. You’ve never sat across from them, looked into their eyes or heard their laughter or tears. A Facebook or Twitter “friend” who you only know online is not truly a friend. They are someone you are only friendly with. I think for most of us it’s easy to cut someone off who we are only friendly with when they say or do things to us online that make us angry or uncomfortable, but if you’ve ever had to unfriend a real friend, someone you spend time with in your day to day life or someone you’ve been intimate with it’s a little more involved. Not only are you cutting them out of your life physically, but the online relationship is severed as well. That can be pretty painful. I believe in closure and the airing out of problems and misunderstandings and things can really be misconstrued online. Sometimes things that are written come across more emotional than we intend so to cut someone off without having a discussions seems premature. But, as we live a lot of our life online the rules have changes and we have to go with the flow I guess. If someone can cut me off so quickly without a discussion then the “friendship” probably wasn’t that strong to begin with.

  11. I have also written letters to them / typed mails but never sent… this removes the hurt I guess. The latest I had a guy befriend me on FB just to get to know someone whom I know more closely. The day I came to know I unfriended that person…. people have so many ways and means to hurt us…and we also keep on coming up with new ideas to let of that hurt 😀

  12. The end of a Friendship… ah, this is a very difficult subject for me, part of me wanted to skip this post of yours, but I admire your perspective, so I pushed through my trepidation over this subject. I ended a long time friendship, almost a year ago, fairly abruptly… we were close and close for a lot of years. I’m having such difficulty getting past my indifference… I’m not sure where to go from here, so I wait!

    As far as Facebook, when I first started my Blog and the FB page for my Blog, I knew, I wanted them separate, so I have my personal FB with family and friends, and my Blog Facebook… I like my Blog Facebook better than my personal; what I find most interesting Facebook posting revealed things about my friends and family that had been either hidden or unseen, where as with my Blog Facebook there were no misconceived notions or thoughts of that person being a certain way in real life and portray themselves differently virtually. Although, at times, I guess I do the same… the internet can be a nice escape from reality.

    I am so glad that I stopped in for a visit; once again, your words have touched me and given me lots to think about!

  13. To answer your question – no, I don’t have any “unfriending” rituals. I recently had an online friend (past best friend, shall I note) block me on Facebook without an explanation (I guess there is an explanation – we always argued, no matter the topic; it was getting tedious). I didn’t e-mail her or try to get on her profile otherwise. I just accepted the way things were and just let it go. If she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, then I respect that. No rituals or anything. That would be just a waste of my time, I think.

    And, yes, I am often not very careful about adding people on social networking sites. I “unfriend” people very often because of this. I even have my own monthly “unfriending days”. I just remove people I don’t talk to anymore.

  14. When I resigned from my job years several ago, there were people who I thought were my friends on FB who just dropped me like a hot potato. No explanation. No nothing. It really hurt, and it took me a long time to process this, especially when I knew other persons in the workplace who had it in for me must be influencing the thoughts of these people. That they valued the opinion of another in order to make a judgment of me convinced me that they had never been trusted friends in the first place. Still, a sad thing to have to realize . . . Has made me more cautious, I can tell you that!
    Have I unfriended anyone? No, but I’ve blocked some whose posts were so pervasive or constant that it was difficult to wade through it all.
    Great post, Corinne! Thanks for making us always think and reflect. Blessings!

  15. Hi Corinne, commenting here after AGES! I really have a lot of catching up to do on your blog!

    On this subject, I think my attitude comes to my rescue. 🙂 There was a time, some years ago, when I’d feel bad (really bad!) if a friendship was not reciprocated or was ended abruptly by the other person. I’d try to analyse what went wrong, whether I did something wrong…

    But over the years, I’ve become more blase about it all. Not that I don’t care or I want to lose friendships, certainly not! But I’ve realised I am who I am – and people who care about me, accept me as I am. They don’t need to be in regular touch with me, some of them catch up after years, but I know they’re there for me. And vice versa – I am there for them too, even if I’ve not been in regular touch with them. Either you care – or you don’t. And if you don’t, it’s not a friendship worth losing sleep over. 🙂

    So, in a nutshell, I don’t have any unfriending ritual. I just move on.

    On the Facebook friending bit, I don’t get many friend requests. And I don’t accept requests unless I’m comfortable with having that person as friend. Which may probably explain why, to date, I’ve never had to unfriend anybody.

    I’m a bit more casual with Twitter. I have unfollowed a few people who I didn’t know anyway, but thought they’d be interesting. Turned out they weren’t quite as interesting as I’d expected them to be. I guess that’s par for Twitter. Facebook is very different in this respect, I feel.

  16. No I dont have a ritual ! I end up replaying how the friend hurt me again and again in my mind and in the end I damage myself more because of it. I think writing a leter ritual seems perfect to me. Its a sort fo release even if you don’t post the letter.
    Do you remember that scene in jab we met when kareena kapoor tells shahid kapoor to burn the photo of his ex girlfriend. Jala do saali ko yaar she says 😛

  17. In the initial days of fb I used to search for classmates, neighbors anybody whom I remembered. Only to find out (often) that he/she and me were different individuals now and hardly had anything in common. Time, circumstances, understandings do change our perception. I have accepted that and now it does not hurt anymore. If someone is not able to connect with me, its ok. Peace 🙂

  18. I keep doing that all the time, friending and unfriending on FB but you are right it is not so easy in real life. There were two people with whom our friendship ended very badly. For years I gave myself a hard time, often waking up in the middle of the night. I wanted to set things right before I die. I managed finally to connect with one, who is now in Washington and I am so happy we are in touch. But the other woman, till date I really dont know why she stopped talking to me. At one time I tried making peace with her but she was so rude and insulting that I gave up then. But even today if I get a chance I would like to make peace though I have stopped obsessing about it. Sometimes it is better to let go. I have realized if it is meant to be it will otherwise life goes on. Your idea of talking to an empty chair sounds interesting. At least you purge all the negative feelings by talking even it is to an empty chair. Thank you for sharing this, my friend

  19. I was feeling a little disappointed and depressed about losing some old friends recently. There were odd thoughts about something I did or something I did not do to maintain friendships. I was in the self analysing mode.

    I don’t have any rituals or an unfriending process. I take time to get over friends. It takes me a while to let go and move on from old friendships. Maybe I will try your trick one of these days and see if it works for me 🙂

  20. This got me thinking about my friends and how blessed I am to have friends over the years. Others, who I guess are not that important, just fall by the wayside. I don’t really have an unfriending ritual though I have blocked a few whose posts have become so negative or overly critical of things. I guess I just don’t like too much negativity hanging around me. Great post Corinne!

  21. I’ve only “unfriended” once on FB and that’s because this person was spamming everyone – stole the identity of a classmate and posed as that person. I don’t think I’ve unfriended anyone in real life – I choose my friends carefully. And those who no longer want to keep in touch with me – that’s life. I just let them go and move on. Wasn’t like this some years ago but the last 4.5 years I have grown spiritually and therefore simply believe that all events good and bad are a result of some karma. Works for me anyway.

  22. How true Corinne. Virtual life is easier than real life and perhaps unfriending rituals are necessary to put certain relationships to rest. Thanks for this sage advice.

  23. I agree with you corinne that there must be a ritual to say Goodbye to someone who means a lot to you and this may be tough.I think expressing your emotions,the pain,hurt,anger, loss and regret by writing it in a piece of paper and then destroying it is a good idea according to me. :).This is a great way of liberating yourself. We can then move on in life keeping in mind that certain people come into our lives as lessons and we must move on remembering the good times .

  24. Hi Corinne,

    I have ‘unfriended’ people, especially ‘family’. It took me weeks of thinking about it…. it was the ‘silence’ that did it for me. I always wondered ‘why they thought I accepted their friend request for them to never communicate with me… never answer me when I saw their activity on Facebook constantly’.

    I am a for-real good person… and I don’t like to hurt people… I think I have because I ‘unfriended’ … but, the ‘family friends’ would ….never answer. They wanted to be there to see what was going on… hope I’d forget them… they weren’t there for the reason I accept the friend request… I wanted ‘real family to care about’…. they weren’t there for that.

    Anyway… your words gave me pause to think about it…. I thought I’d share it with you. :)))))))))))))) Oh well… I really do wish I were perfect… it just won’t ever be… I feel too much in my heart. Granny Gee/Gloria

  25. HI,
    This is my first visit here.
    Honestly,with life having come on treadmill,people have stopped taking serious issues not seriously.Those who lose fiends,realise how important we’re they in thier life.
    But,FB is a different and a new story

  26. Corinne, I have unfriended a couple of people because their posts were so vile. One was a family member. Actually, I think I only blocked her. Anyway, I have a few rituals for dealing with loss. Just last week my daughter and I sent up a blue balloon for my great-nephew Gavin who’s earthly life only lasted a month. I’ve written letters and burnt them, screamed at chairs, and simply cried. I think silence is the most cruel way of breaking up a friendship. Cutting someone off without any explanation. Silence can be interpreted in so many ways and it leaves the person wondering why. I believe in communication because it often leads to understanding and acceptance. Even if you still end the friendship at least that person knows why. Just my two cents worth this Monday morning. Have a great day!
    Sending hugs today Corinne. <3

  27. Writing a letter, uncensored, and then not sending it is what works for me. Then I don’t spew all my negativity onto the other person only to regret it later, but I still get to vent in a way. It’s good therapy.

  28. I just did unfriend around 5 or 6 of them before the last weekend. I was wondering how many friends I have on fb, and how many of them are really in touch with me or communicate with me? Those who don’t even once, I felt have no meaning to stay in the list. I know some don’t access fb that often, but there are few who do. They are doing nothing but stalking your life. I felt relieved once I got rid of them. I know it’s hard to do the same on their face in real world. I don’t follow any ritual though..the only method I follow is bury them deep inside one pocket of your brain which you don’t open.

      1. Corrine,
        Thought it was obvious since we were like minded this week. I was so excited that you wrote this. It felt validating that I wrote something others wanted to talk about. I think we should have divorce rituals, break up rituals, and unfriend rituals.

        My first thought was to say that I never unfriended anyone on fb. But you said you wouldn’t believe me. It is true non the less. I also like your idea of kinds of rituals you can do!
        Love,
        Jodi

        1. Oh yes, I’ve been thinking of rituals a lot for the last two weeks. It was sparked of by what another blogger wrote about losing a pet. About FB, I said if you’ve been careful about adding people, good for you! Do you know of anyone who has unfriended you on FB though? Just wondering…

  29. Corinne, in the past I found it very difficult to do unfriend anyone. Even if I have lost touch, I like to see what they are upto. But somehow, accumulating people who are friends does not seem the done thing and so I have also started doing some spring-cleaning in the virtual world. When it comes to the real world, I have not done any unfriending. I have very few friends and now and then we keep in touch. Perhaps, I am for myself most of the times.

    Quite a thought-filled post, Corinne.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    1. Susan, I always believed we made friends for life. But age and experience have taught me otherwise. Perhaps, you’ve been wise and careful in choosing your friends online and offline. I rush headlong into new connections, unless I get a strong negative feeling about the person.

  30. I have un-friended people on Facebook a couple of times. I am not ashamed to admit it because I treasure friendship and if somebody betrays me then that is the end of our friendship. I still have some `friends` who hang around my facebook page like parasites, always looking but never commenting. I also found a cure for those people – put them on a separate list and allow them to see only what you make public. They cannot feel offended because I haven`t un-friended them…yet. I am honestly past the stage where these things bother me. I have a small circle of very good friends, whom I trust and love and that is what is important to me. Great post Corinne and very insightful thoughts!

    1. Your comment resonates with me, Nelieta. While I’ve unfriended a few people on FB, I’ve felt even better about some toxic people I unfriended in ‘real’ life. Like you say, it doesn’t bother me and long as I have love, trust and positivity in my life. Thanks for sharing.

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  32. If the person doesn’t communicate with me at all, I ‘unfriend’ him/her. I think it’s like a trend in ‘Twitter’. People come and go when they are not followed.

    I actually write a person if I need to cut the string. I just did with one and he understood and gave me space. I take time off to ‘heal’ but I don’t stay out too long.

    1. I know what you mean about the Twitter stuff, Melissa. One woman followed me, and when I followed her back, she unfollowed me! I challenged her and asked her if that was her way of collecting followers. Of course, she said it was all a mistake! 😉
      Writing to a person is a good way of cutting off too. I’ve done that several times – sometimes the other person has not bothered to reply. But I think that’s okay too.

  33. I don’t have that kind of ritual yet, Corinne. Maybe it’s because I haven’t experienced times when I really totally severed my friendship with another person. Somehow, I have kept an open door for future reconciliation for those who have really been close to me. As of this moment, there have been people who have indeed entered that door and re-kindled friendships I once thought would fade away.

    1. I’m glad you’ve had positive experiences of people coming back, Joyce. I’ve made some deliberate choices not to let certain toxic people back in my life again. It’s those kind of relationships I was referring to.

  34. Nice write-up. I have unfriended people (at times impulsively and ruthlessly, only to regret the harshness later) and have realized that as you grow, you realize who your true friends are. Sometimes, you don’t even need all those people in your life..

    1. Thanks for sharing. I don’t recall unfriending anyone and regretting it later, but I can understand you doing that in a fit of anger perhaps. Oh yes, time does reveal your true friends. For me, the best discovery was that my best friend was ME. 😉

    1. Silence can be healing too. I guess, it took me a long while before I realized that it was ‘normal’, Aditya. Do you think that it’s a generational thing? As in are people more ready to unfriend others than they were in the past….wondering?

      1. while personally I don’t feel that in this generation people are more ready to unfriend others, because that is not something normally anyone would want to, but people tend to ‘move on’ in a sense because of many distractions thanks to social media, technology and real life events. Besides one who is a loner who has ‘been unfriended’ or done did it might not actually reveal it so you can never know. In the end it doesn’t matter as one finds other people anyways, while in the past where people actually met in real life more often, its hard to debate

  35. I can truthfully say that I have never ended a friendship in real life. And being new to social media and still a novice, I have not unfriended anyone there either. But when someone cuts me off, I try to find out if it is something I did to hurt them and make amends if it was, by explaining the situation that was misunderstood by them. And like Rachna, I try more than once and then give up. It hurts, but it was not my choice and so I tell myself that I am better off without their friendship or whatever sham it was.

  36. Those are creative ways to say goodbye when the person you wish to say goodbye to is no longer available. “Talking” to them (in the form of an empty chair) reminds me of what I’ve read recently of shadow work…It can really bring about some realizations and healing and closure.

    I’ve only unfriended a couple of friends so far. One was someone I wasn’t nearly discerning enough about before I friended. He was a pastor overseas and as soon as I friended him he inundated my message box with requests to send money for his ministry. While I’d love to help out, I just couldn’t in the way that he wanted, and felt that his endless requests would never cease and that others no doubt had the same issues. Not only that, I’m not sure exactly how genuine his ministry was. Another fb friend I unfriended was a former friend of mine. We saw eachother at the grocery store recently and when our eyes met she looked away and kept walking. I figured if she couldn’t acknowledge me in public what was the point in being fb friends…

    I think this was a really thought provoking article. It touches on something most of us involved in social media face at one point or another.

  37. I was unfriended recently and many times before.! Either people don’t comply to my school of thought or they expect me to play the brainless laugh track or smile track when something really meaningless is thrown at me.! Even the strangest of friends with whom I just had a talk once or twice going away from my list, replays in my mind for quite some time.! Facebook is a crazy place, one can’t judge what sort of people are sending you requests and should you ever accept them into your profile.! Thanks for this idea.! I was planning to do a post to let out my thoughts on this unfriending process myself.! You sparked my muse.! 🙂

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