It seems there are two types of people online, in Second Life at least, but perhaps other places like Facebook too… deleters and deletees.
Deleters delete people they no longer consider to be friends; they become bothered by people on their friend lists who they no longer speak to; perhaps they were once people who they chatted to every time they saw them online, but now, for some reason, all is quiet; they might see them come online and disappear again and struggle with not saying hi, and they might avoid saying hi because they felt like/realised they were always the one saying hi, or maybe they did so and got ignored a few too many times.
Deletees are on the receiving end of the deleters. They’re the ones that get deleted, or, they seem unbothered by having a friend list full of people they don’t speak to any more.
From the way I describe each of these two camps you may well be able to figure out which one I am. While I have been a deletee, I’m usually in the first camp; someone struggling with seeing people who were once nice friends log in and out without a word; it feels like I sit in a cafe and a ‘friend’ walks in and doesn’t even acknowledge me – the social parts of the internet feel like a cafe to me. If that really happened in “real life” I would quickly accept who my real friends were, but online we (us deleters) busy our minds with all the possible reasons why someone may not be talking to us any more; maybe they get absconded by other friends as soon as they log in, maybe they don’t look at friend lists any more, maybe they are and they’re waiting for them to say hi just like we are, or maybe they really dislike us now and give us the cold-shoulder until we delete them.
Maybe as a quiet deleter I’d be better off talking to people straight; surely that’s what could happen in real life if someone really blanked you; some would go up to them and ask what their problem is… either things get resolved and you can move on, or you just give them one more reason to blank you again, and in real life you can’t actually delete people, not without a shovel and an alibi at least.
When it comes to deleting people online, what’s the etiquette?
I think there is no one single approach; it depends on the ‘friend’.
If they weren’t actually anyone you got that well known with then you could just quietly delete, but if they’re someone that you considered to be a good friend, surely the best approach is to contact them first. The thing is, the self-conscious person in me worries this would come across as a cry for attention, and maybe it is; maybe telling someone you’re about to delete them is a last ditch attempt to salvage something, but if you don’t think it is salvageable or worth salvaging, then why bother?
Some of us deleters have a strange sense of karma; we don’t want to live in a world where people treat us as worthless and deletable, therefore each day we silently do battle with out conscience and try an avoid just deleting people, lest people will do that to us.
I actually made a pact once with one good friend; something like: “If we ever grow apart and no longer talk, can we agree to thank each other for the friendship we shared?” We agreed on this, but sadly, when the time came, I felt so distant from that person, because we hadn’t hung out and had a good chat in so long that it seemed to me that they had forgotten our deal, and I deleted them.