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The word friend used to be reserved only for people close to us. This word used to be special for people whom we trusted and shared our lives with, had many things in common with, including our values. Friends were people we did things for and with. But not the word friend means something different on social media. So what if we decide we want to unfriend them. Is that unchristian? Keep reading to see what God says about this situation.
Today, this narrow definition of friends and friendship has shifted with social networks. We all fill out profiles with personal information. Have you ever thought that we sometimes share too much with strangers?
These days the word friend references anyone we connect with online, whether we call them friends, followers, or contacts. We don’t have to live in the same city or even in the same country. We don’t have to know much about these users whom we call friends. We’ve come a long way, but to what?
What is the result of this paradigm shift?
The “Unfriend” and “Block” buttons have made it easy to give in to our tendency to dump relationships when sin complicates them, or communication goes haywire because of misunderstandings. All it takes is a few clicks, rather than hours of sharing and building up trust through conversation and doing things together.
When a connection (friend) you have online uses curse words, or constantly gossips about others you may not want to keep them as a connection but you worry about how it looks to others and you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by dumping them. What do you do?
Frequently, in my own Facebook experience, I will see statuses like this: The user will announce that “I’m going to purge my friends list and get rid of people who don’t fit my criteria of what to do to stay on my list.” For many, it will be sharing the user’s passion or values, or keeping in touch with the user.
My suggestion is to announce that you want your page to be about either your hobbies, honoring families and friends with happy and uplifting thoughts. Maybe let people know that most of your church congregation is on your social media and you want no foul language that might offend anyone.
If this doesn’t work then you have every right to unfriend the person. You could even private message the person first and try to work with them before unfriending. God tells us in the bible not to associate with people who have coarse jesting (bad jokes), or bad words coming from their mouths. The word tells us not to be gossipers or complainers either. You have God’s laws to back up your unfriending people. This does not mean you should quit praying for them.
Why do we “add” people, in the first place, who may not share our passion for God or for our cause, who may not care if we live or die, and whom we don’t even know?
I think (at least it was for me) we fall for the online notion that the more, the better. While we “add” people, hoping that they will come to support our cause or come to know God, we need to bear in mind that quality beats quantity. Whom we keep company with online will affect our attitudes and characters as surely as it does offline.
My “Unfriending” Experiences
I have used Facebook for a long time but not as often lately. I have seen what I estimate to be hundreds of “friends” come and go out of my networks. I have been unfriended myself and that is their right.
Some have deleted me because they took offense at my Christian posts. Many have dropped me because of misunderstandings and conflicts that led them to believe that I wasn’t a “friend.” That’s why you must be careful what you put on social media. Be sure you are clear in what you are saying.
To unfriend or not to unfriend, that is the question…
Yes, I know that there are times where it is wise to cut certain people out of our networks just as we should keep certain people out of our offline lives. People who pose a threat to our lives or the lives of others we touch, should be cut out of our lives. This makes sense even to us Christians. So we should definitely hit the “Unfriend” or “Block” button on any user who is suspected or known to be predators or criminals.
In most cases, however, these do not include users who are merely annoying or offensive. When we “delete” people out of our networks, we end any opportunities to share God’s love and truth, and any needed future help and support, with them. If they are very offensive you must delete them but if they are just annoying, you may still be able to witness to them.
But what about deleting Christians? When we “delete” a brother or sister in Christ, we’re violating the principles of unity, forbearance and forgiveness. I have found getting “unfriended” by fellow Christians to be far more hurtful than any other unfriending. We ought to apply the same Biblical principles to our social networking that we do to our in-person social relationships.
Guess who is behind every computer screen and who Christ has called us to love as ourselves? When you think of them that way it puts a whole different light on the situation. Pray and use good judgment before unfriending anyone.
What are your thoughts? Should we unfriend? Do you think we should treat Christians differently than others?