I try to set a good example for my children in my social networking. Rule one is to avoid friending people you don’t actually know in real life. I’ve friended a very small subset of people I’ve met on message boards or even in mutual Facebook discussions, but overall they’re people I know (at least Facebook – Twitter is expressly for following people you don’t actually know). The second one is to be willing to let go.
Why am I so quick to unfriend? Simple.
Social media has changed the concept of what a friend is, and not just by making it a verb. In life, we meet hundreds of people who we would normally lose touch with or even outgrow. This is a normal part of life. Or at least it was. Now, we tend to hold on to those connections longer thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Ello or what-have-you.
And it’s not just the casuals; I’ve unfriended people I’ve known for decades when it became clear the friendship wasn’t healthy (say, you spend all your time arguing). I also block, especially if someone crosses my parental boundaries. And, yes, I do it in real life too.
This is a skill all our children need. My daughter was in 3rd grade when she stood up to a class bully by saying “You think you’re my friend, but you’re not; friends don’t act this way. If you want to be my friend, act like it and I’ll be there. Otherwise, I’ll be over there.” My daughter just graduated 8th grade and the aforementioned young lady just reconnected over Instagram, wanting to start fresh. Will they stay friends? Who knows. But if it does not work out, I am confident that my daughter will know when to click the button that disconnects them.
Remember, your feed/wall is your digital home. If you see that someone is not someone you’d want to invite to hang out in your real house, why would you invite them into your virtual one?