Like most people of our generation, I’m an avid user of social media. I “tweet” and I “like” as much as anyone else. In its relatively short time on the Internet, Facebook has quickly grown to control nearly every social facet of our lives. How many times have you been invited to an event on Facebook? Do you call your friends on their birthdays, or do you just write on their walls?

About a week ago, I received a text from a friend from high school: “Did you unfollow me on Twitter?!” I had to laugh because I had in fact “unfollowed” her, as she had fallen victim to over-tweeting. “Yes,” I replied, to which she quickly responded, “I was checking how many followers I had this morning and noticed that I had one less than yesterday. Of course it would be you.”

Of course it would be me? Is there some unwritten rule that states I have to follow my high school friends on Twitter? Do they have to be friends on Facebook? I decided to stop following her on Twitter so that I could clear space on my Twitter feed for significant feeds like @HuffingtonPost or @UM_GDI (of which I’m an avid fan — keep doing what you’re doing). Twitter tells you to “follow your interests,” and what somebody is eating for lunch or what the weather is like outside isn’t one of mine.

Unfortunately, our friendship, or the semblance of a friendship that I had been trying to maintain, quickly deteriorated after that exchange of text messages — not even a confrontational phone call or video chat! I don’t see any reason to follow my old friend on Twitter or be her Facebook friend if she’s going to count her followers and friends every day. Some might compare that to lining up your friends against a wall and doing a headcount, but the chances anybody would take the time to do it are slim; so too are the chances that somebody would do the same thing digitally.

Just like that, you can “unfriend” and “unfollow” someone on Facebook and Twitter. It’s far harder to unfriend someone in person — it should hurt far more to sever a friendship in person. However, today some people find it just as painful to wake up one morning and discover that their Friends list has shrunken just the tiniest bit. Have our online lives taken on that much more meaning? Is that what this world has come to? Please, don’t tell me there is a growing number of people so utterly engrossed in their Facebook and Twitter lives that they sit at their computers every night counting how many people they’re electronically connected to. Please?

How many of your Facebook friends do you actually speak to? I asked myself this question that afternoon and have since been combing through my list of friends to determine, literally, who’s in and who’s out.

By the end of this month, I hope to have deleted every Facebook friend that I either have never met before in person or have not seen in more than two years. Now, please don’t be offended if we’re no longer Facebook friends. We can still be real friends. Just talk to me in person first.

The awkward why-did-you-unfollow-me-I’m-so-hurt issue wasn’t my only digital confrontation. Last weekend, a person I had never spoken to before (I had only heard his name tossed around in casual conversation) approached me and asked why I had rejected his friend request. Admittedly, I was hard-pressed to find an appropriate response. I had never expected to have to revisit my decision, let alone in person.

“Uh … I’m sorry, what’s your name?” was all I could manage to ask. I figured it was the first step toward actually getting to know this person I had never actually spoken to. I’m still relatively unsure about how to go about handling such an uncomfortable situation.

As a society, we should focus more on the interpersonal relationships we can foster through actual, in person social interaction than on digital friendships. I fully condone attending an event or a party you are invited to via Facebook (though I still prefer a phone call or a paper invitation) if it means you will ultimately be spending time with friends that night.

So, if we’re Facebook friends, I will assume I know you. If you aspire to be my Facebook friend in the future, I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you. But if we’ve never met in person before and/or I don’t know who you are, please wait until we’re friends in real life before we take the next step and become friends online too. I know it’s a big step, but it’ll just have to do.

Foster real friendships, people. They last longer. I promise.

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