verb: to remove someone as a friend from a social networking site

the word 'unfriend' has been around since the rise of social networking sites, and the oxford dictionary even declared it word of the year in 2009. the definition is in the title of this entry, and it is a real word, not just something mark zuckerberg suckered us to say, even though microsoft word, or even the livejournal client i'm currently using (semagic), underlines it in red. people get unfriended on facebook, or unfollowed on twitter, or unloaded elsewhere, for a variety of reasons. CNET did this survey on the top 5 reasons people are removed from a list, and i agree completely. i once pruned my list because i got tired of all these inane posts about games and virtual farms or restaurants and imagined gangs or mafias and horoscopes and tests that i felt were trivial and petty. i'm happy reading about status updates, but could not tolerate what i've just mentioned above.

that was in facebook's old page layout. although i have some beef about its current look, i am getting less updates about virtual cities and corporations now. also, after i cut real friends from my list because of their insensitive online habits, i decided to adopt a less draconian approach and just hid them from my newsfeed, or just hid the applications that i found irrelevant. however, i had to do some weeding out recently because my friends list breached the 1,000 mark. i did so because i felt the list was unmanageable, and that in reality, some of these guys ended up on my facebook due to some random or chance encounter that isn't likely to be repeated. i want to nurture relationships, not establish connections with complete strangers. so i took out a few people from my list recently just to stay below my threshold. and i am not done yet.

the thing is, unlike other people, i don't make a big deal out of this unfriending business. in the first place, i don't generally facebook people (apparently the north american way of saying to add someone to a list -- this one is still not a verb). they add me, and i confirm. i've rejected many invites for a variety of reasons: (1) i do not know the person adding me; (2) there is no likelihood i will be meeting this person ever again; (3) despite having more than 50 common friends, i do not have any recollection of having an actual conversation with this person -- and i have better-than-average memory; (4) i have a professional, rather than personal, relationship with that person. i approve friend invites because i would be interested in following a person's life through his or her posts or updates, or i would like that person to be prompted everytime something is taking place in my life.

so i offer no apologies if suddenly someone finds that he or she isn't receiving any notifications about me. nor do i expect any if anyone thinks that he or she should jump the gun and unfriend me first. that person will probably not notice anyway, since we've shared nothing real, nothing substantial. nor will i notice. the thing is, i am not sensitive about any of these things. i have had an online presence since 2004, and been blogging without expecting any real responses (and i was never constrained to just 140 characters). i didn't even care if no one read me. i exist in this social networking universe mainly for my own personal pleasure. and what great pleasure i get.

it is not that i am unfriendly. quite the contrary, i can be too friendly that people probably expect that we have something special -- that maybe partly explains why i have more than 50 pending invites (i am still awaiting a reason to approve them, although i've flatly rejected well over a hundred). just send me a personal message. that will probably goad me in the right direction. but really, i don't see the point of raking in thousands of friends. social networking has really diluted our understanding of the word. have you ever asked: which of them are for real?