July 2024


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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Slices of Life

Counting your friends


By Jill Pertler


I lost a friend yesterday. It wasn’t due to accident, injury, death or any other natural causes. I suffered a digital loss. Not of the finger or toe variety, but of the computer kind. Facebook-related.

Yesterday, I visited the social networking site and noted I had 151 friends. Today, when I ventured back to my page, the number had dipped to 150. There could be only one explanation.

I’d been unfriended.

Usually, Facebook is associated with the acquisition of friends; which, by the way, is a multi-step process. Friendships are created when two parties mutually accept one another through a reciprocal relationship. You find a potential friend, make a formal friend request and he or she chooses whether to approve (or not) your friendship. If approval is given, you receive notice of your new friend and your automated Facebook friendship counter increases in value by one.

Unfriending involves nothing reciprocal or multi-step. It is sudden and mysterious – occurring without warning or explanation. A person can unfriend you without reason or cause. According to Facebook, ending a friendship is a solo affair. Two are needed to make a union, but only one to sever it.

I’d been severed, and the situation felt neither sociable nor friendly. Someone had left the party – my party – and the darn thing was I had no idea who the party pooper might be. My first reaction was to try to figure out the identity of this ex-comrade, so I did what any red-blooded woman would do. I checked to make sure my husband was still my friend. We were good to go there. Whew. Lucky for him.

After also confirming my friendship status with my kids and a few old high school buddies, I remained at a loss (quite literally, but you know what I mean). If you attended a party with 151 people and one of them exited through the back door without saying goodbye, would you know who it was? Me neither.

I may have 150 friends, but I’m still worried about number 151. What made him or her go by the wayside? Did I share too much? Were my posts boring? Unworthy?  Grammatically incorrect? What, exactly, made me unfriendish material?

It is a downer, losing a friend.

I tried talking myself out of my unfriended funk. So I was down one friend – no big deal. After all, I still had 150 people who liked me. Doesn’t that count for something?

On Facebook it does. Literally. Facebook counts my friends for me. Talk about a math-lover’s dream. I wasn’t blessed with the math gene; still, I loved it at first – watching my friend count rise like the sun. It was all the reward with no effort. That’s my kind of math.

Then I lost a friend and the sunset didn’t look so rosy.

I’ve never been one to focus on the numbers (as my high school math teachers would attest). Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I am worrying too much about the numerical significance of things. Facebook quantifies friends in a manner worthy of cyberspace, allowing me the ability to tell the difference between 150 and 151.

The numbers are visible for the perusing, but it’s up to me whether I choose to pay attention. As far as I’m concerned, anything over the number 50 is pretty many. I think we all can agree 150 is way more than that.

So in essence, I have way more than pretty many friends.

Now, there’s a number I can live with.


Pertler is an award-winning freelance writer, author, photographer and syndicated columnist. A new “Slices of life” will appear each Monday.

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