HAPPY NATIONAL UNFRIEND DAY! Join us as we celebrate kicking the squares out of your friends lists on social media! Today we’re partying with funny dude and victim of unfriending Steven Chen (Twitter: @stevenchenshow / Instagram: gifilterfish)!! LET’S PARTY!!

Show Notes

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History + fun facts about the holiday

  • Urban Dictionary defines unfriending as “removing a person from your list on a social network site, i.e. Facebook (292-87 thumbs up:down ratio)
    • “Compulsive people prune their friend list periodically, removing people that they no longer have contact with. More often though, unfriending is only done when a particular friend’s updates and self-promotions become so annoying that you can no longer stand hearing about them. Or you might unfriend someone when they piss you off, however, this is not very effective since the person who is unfriended is not notified that you unfriended them and you’d be better off to keep them as a friend and plot your revenge.”
  • Mirriam-Webster claims that the first use of ‘unfriend’ took place in 2003, which would put it in the same vocabulary time capsule as baby bump, binge-watch, clapback, flash mob, manscaping, muffin top, net neutrality, and SARS
    • However, according to a 2016 article from curiosity.com and a 2016 article from interestingliterature.com, the first known usage of a form of “unfriend” took place in the Middle English poem “Brut” by Layamon. “We sollen…slean houre onfreondes and wenden after Brenne.” Here, the noun form of unfriend delineates someone who is not a friend, but not necessarily an enemy either
      • This is apparently the same poem that provided us with the first presentation of the legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, as well as the first instance of the word ‘muggle’
    • It was in the 17th century that ‘unfriend’ was first used as a verb, by good ole Shakespeare in “Twelfth Night” (1601-02)
      • His use referred more to a passive losing of friends, rather than an active one, stating, “Being skilless in these parts; which to a stranger,/Unguided and unfriended, often prove/Rough and unhospitable.”
      • In King Lear (1606), he says, “Sir, will you, with those infirmities she owes–./Unfriended, new adopted to our hate.”
    • Regardless, the use of the term among social media references still predates Facebook. The first known recorded use was on Usenet in 2003 by a user named Woo-hoo who commented, “I have been “unfriended” by somebody in the LJ world today.”LJ is LiveJournal?
    • In 2009, the New Oxford American Dictionary named “unfriend” the word of the year! According to an abcnews.go.com article from the same year, this was received in mixed fashion by Facebook users, who reportedly “erupted with commentary.” 
      • “It should be de-friend, not unfriend. I’ve been using facebook since it began and do not agree with unfriend. (and I guarantee my facebook friends agree with me),”
      • “I also use ‘defriend’ and have never heard of ‘unfriend.’ For the record, I’m 24 and use Facebook most regularly. I first signed on Facebook when I was 19, right when it opened up to my college.” 
      • “No, unfriend is definitely more lexy. Defriend misses the whole point and is both boring and uncreative. Unfriend should be compared to undo–which is in social networking exactly what one does. It’s not befriending someone and making acquaintances in reverse, it’s just undoing a function–unhitting the friend button.”
      • Ultimately, according to the folks at Oxford, “unfriend” was chosen because it’s much more common than defriend.
    • According to a 2010 nytimes article and a 2014 article from theatlantic, research done by a graduate student at the Business School at the University of Colorado, Denver, gives the top four reasons that people unfriend each other on Facebook, in the following order of frequency:
      • Frequent/unimportant posts;
      • Polarizing posts, such as politics and religion;
      • Inappropriate posts, such as sexist or racist remarks;
      • Everyday life posts such as those about children, a spouse, or eating habits
      • The student, Christopher Sibona, stated, “One of the interesting things about unfriending is that most real-world friendships either blow up or fade away. But on Facebook, users actively make the decision to unfriend, and people often don’t know why or what’s happened in the relationship.”
      • According to the study, those who initiate a friendship are more likely to be unfriended than those on the receiving end, which seems to mirror how we treat friendships in the real world. Research has shown that those who make friendship overtures tend to be of lower social status than those they court. The recipient of the overtures seems to value those relationships less than the initiator does
      • The study was done by Sibona reaching out to those who had tweeted about unfriending. He sent out over 7300 recruitment tweets, and received 1552 completed surveys. The survey asked the participant to identify the last person they unfriended on Facebook, and to classify the nature of the friendship
      • Un-friends were most likely to be a high-school buddy, a work colleague, a friend of a friend, or “other” which included “didn’t know them,” “former student,” or “enemy.”
      • Interestingly, work friends were more likely to be unfriended for their real-life behavior rather than their posting patterns
      • Lee Siegel, the author of “Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” is quoted as saying, “Unfriending reflects the instrumentalization and commodifying of friendship on Facebook. Why unfriend someone at all? After all, in the real world,  you don’t just ignore an obnoxious relative. The very act of unfriending acknowledges that the Facebook definition of friend is different from the traditional.” 
  • Some stats and facts from wincalendar.com, cnn.com
    • As of January 2019, Facebook is the leading social network with approximately 1.6 billion active monthly users. This is in comparison to WhatsApp (1 billion), Instagram (400 million), and Twitter (320 million)
    • The average Facebook user has 338 friends. 27% of users have >500 friends, compared to an average of 100 friends for 72% of users who are older than 65
    • 36% of Facebook users strongly dislike it when someone shares too much information or photos about themselves, as well as when they post photos of others without asking for permission
    • After the 2016 US presidential election, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 13% of people reported unfriending, blocking, or no longer following someone because of political posts
      • Democrats were the most likely to do so, with almost 24% reporting unfriending, blocking, or unfollowing someone due to political differences, compared to 9% of Republicans, and 9% of independents
      • This is unfortunate, since it creates what author Eli Pariser calls “filter bubbles,” which is when we only consume content and talk to others who already agree with our ideologies 
  • There have been two movies made about unfriending: 2014’s “Unfriended” and its 2018 sequel “Unfriended: Dark Web”
    • “Unfriended” is a found footage supernatural horror film, shot as a computer screen film. The film follows a group of high school students in a Skype conversation that is haunted by a student who was bullied and committed suicide after an anonymous person uploaded  a video of her passing out and defecating at a party. The video goes viral, as does the video of her subsequent suicide. Two of the participants die, each seemingly of suicide (which we later find out was really the influence of the ghost), and then the rest of the group are forced by the anonymous user to play a game of Never Have I Ever, stating that the loser will die
      • They are forced to reveal hurtful secrets which reveal their backstabbing against each other. Ultimately, three more of the group die by ghost-assisted suicide, and the movie closes with a shot of the ghost violently lunging at the final girl as the screen cuts to black
    • The sequel, “Unfriended: Dark Web” is shot in the same computer screen film style, and follows a group of friends who find a laptop that has access to the dark web, only to realize they are being watched by the original owners
      • While on a video call with friends, using a new laptop, the protagonist keeps getting messages for someone named Erica for the original owner of the laptop
      • He then finds hidden videos, most of which are girls being tortured. The film continues on, revealing a group of hackers that threaten the main character in order for them to get the laptop back. They then engineer the deaths of the rest of the characters, including the protagonist. The entire scheme turns out to be basically a big game for the hackers
  • A cnn.com article from the 2017 Unfriend Day highlights some safety reasons for culling your friends list, stating that “Facebook friends can do us a great deal of harm in the real world. They can use the information we share about ourselves to cause us devastating physical, emotional, and financial pain.” People can post directly to your page, which may include photos of you doing something inflammatory or offensive, which can lead to greater consequences. The example they gave was dubious though. They wrote about a woman whose “friend” posted a photo of her “making an obscene gesture at Arlington National Cemetery,” and then lost her job and fell into a depression after the photo went viral. This case was presented by the article as an example of a bad “friend,” but clicking through to the source article reveals that the photo was taken as a joke among these friends, posted WITH the woman’s permission, and she even said that the photo should stay up once criticism started trickling in
    • They gave additional examples of how “friends” can betray you, including screenshotting and sharing your posts, sharing your post info with exes such as in custody battles, or stealing your identity or your shit (since vacation or other posts could reveal that you’re not home, and signal a good time to rob you)
  • Cases of unfriending gone awry–From 2013 oddee.com article by Grace Murano, entitled “9 Crazy Stories about People Being Unfriended on Facebook”
    • In November 2011, a Des Moines woman was arrested in an arson attack on the home of a former friend who had quarreled with her and unfriended her on Facebook. Jennifer Christine Harris, 30, was charged with first-degree arson after setting fire to the home of JIm and NIkki Rasmussen. Harris was a maid of honor at the Rasmussen wedding
      • The unfriending came after the two women got into an argument while trying to plan a birthday party for Harris. Harris then began to disparage Rasmussen on Facebook, so Rasmussen decided to unfriend and block Harris. 
      • The Rasmussens woke up and escaped unharmed from the fire as it began to melt the siding on their house
    • In February 2012, a woman attacked her boyfriend with a knife, a pair of scissors, and a fork after he “unfriended” her on Facebook and changed his status to “single.” William Hanz De Veyra Arriesgado, a 25 year old Filipina who is transgender but unable to change her name under Phillipine law, was then sentenced to two years in jail for causing her Australian lover grievous harm, as Arreisgado had inflicted 16 separate and serious injuries on 47 year old bank worker Colin James Peady.
      • The couple first argued about Peady’s Facebook status while in a pub at Duston Road. Peady returned to his rented Sunhaven condominium in Changi (Singapore) alone. When Arriesgado, who was on a social visit pass (basically prohibits someone from engaging in employment of any kind), reached the home, they began arguing anew. Arriesgado grabbed a knife with a 20cm long blade, then proceeded to stab and slash Peady repeatedly.  He was left with stab wounds to his abdomen and cuts to other parts of his body, including his face and eyes
    • In 2012, 36 year old Billy Payne Jr. and his girlfriend, 23 year old Billie Jean Hayworth, unfriended 30 year old Jenelle Potter on Facebook. Jenelle was upset, but not as much as her 60 year old father, Marvin “Buddy” Potter. He was so angry when he learned about the unfriending that he and 38 year old Jamie Lynn Curd, who reportedly had romantic feelings for Jenelle, went out and murdered Payne and Hayworth. The couple is survived by an 8 month old baby boy, who was found unharmed in Hayworth’s arms
      • In the weeks leading up to the murder, Potter, who is also Payne’s cousin, had two separate verbal confrontations with Payne. The year before, Payne and Hayworth complained to police that Jenelle was harassing them over the phone and internet after they unfriended her on Facebook
      • There is a lot more to this case that we won’t get into for the sake of time and relevance, but Jenelle was essentially caught catfishing basically everyone, including her father, and engineered this entire situation because she was a jealous, feral, immature hermit of a human being who just super sucked
    • A government minister in Venezuela, a country that offered asylum to Edward Snowden back in the day, urged her countrymen to cancel their Facebook accounts lest they be targeted by US snooping
      • “Fellow Venezuelans: Cancel your facebook accounts, since you unwittingly have worked as CIA informants! Look at the Snowden case!,” prisons minister Maria Iris Varela said in a tweet
      • She also said that victims of “gringo espionage” should file lawsuits to demand “fair compensation” and bankrupt the US government
      • This lady sucks. According to Wikipedia, she condoned and pushed for police violence against protesters during peaceful protests that took place in April and May 2017. She’s been the target of sanctions by several countries, including the US, Canada, Panama, and Columbia for various offences including money laundering, financing of terrorism, financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the rupture of Venezuela’s constitutional order
        • In August 2018 and in response to Venezuelans growing increasingly concerned with the nation’s economy, Varela tweeted telling people that all they need to do is share with friends and that they shouldn’t speculate or doubt, otherwise “they will end up worse off that Requesens, [where] they won’t be able to speculate.”
        • This refers to Juan Requesens who was arrested as a suspect of the Caracas drone attack, an alleged assassination plot on the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. His arrest and detention are controversial, and have been condemned by the National Assembly, as well as international diplomats, politicians, and organizations. His family and fellow politicians have stated that he was in fact arrested for criticizing Maduro
        • Suffice to say that Requesens has been treated terribly while in custody, to say the least, and Iris Varela is in charge of the conditions of his incarceration and care. Requesens’s case is considered an example of a forced disappearance
    • Paul Baier, a research consultant in Boston, paid his then 14 year old daughter $200 to keep her off Facebook until the end of June 2013
      • The two even wrote up a contract, stating, “I ______ agree to deactivate my Facebook account from 2/4/13 to 6/16/13. In return, my dad, Paul Baier, agrees to pay me $50 on 4/15/13 and $150 on 6/26/13. He/she will have access to my Facebook to change the password and to deactivate the account. This will prevent me from reactivating the account in the future. I plan to use the money for the following purposes: stuff.”
    • In August 2013, Charlie Cooper claims that his Ecstasy addiction (you’re getting some wack X, dude. It’s probably cut with meth if you’re addicted to it) led him to rob the houses he cleaned and eventually get caught by the Canterbury, England police. After a local newspaper published the story of his arrest with a photo of him, Charlie started complaining about it to the paper on Facebook. He whined that the paper didn’t ask him if they could take a picture of him
      • Charlie’s mom saw the post and decided to give him a good dressing down, commenting, “They don’t need your permission to take your picture if the courts have given them permission to be there to do so!” To which Charlie angrily responded, “They do, I don’t want my picture taken. End of.” Mom then retorted, in all caps, “IT DONE NOW. THAT LADY DIDNT WANT HER JEWLERY TAKING BUT YOU DID IT ANYWAY, END OF.”
      • Charlie then threatened to block his mom, replying, “ This is why I didnt have you on facebook mum, you say things like that, im blocking you ok”
      • Other folks followed up to confirm the mom’s assertion that the newspaper indeed did not need Charlie’s permission to publish his photo since he was arrested for the crime

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History/fun facts about the holiday itself

  • According to abc.com, the inaugural holiday took place on November 17, 2010 when Jimmy Kimmel was inspired to create a holiday “to celebrate the act of getting rid of those Facebook friends you no longer need.” When he launched the initiative, he said, “Let’s say, on Friday, post a status update that says, ‘I’m moving this weekend and I need help.’ The people that respond? Those are your friends. Everyone else isn’t.”
    • He’s also quoted as saying, “I encourage you to cut out some of the friend fat in your life. A friend is someone you have a special relationship with. It’s not someone who asks which Harry Potter character you are.”
  • Jimmy Kimmel initially  offered three criteria by which to judge whether to unfriend someone:
    • Friends who post too often
    • Friends who don’t use correct grammar often enough
    • Friends who post too frequently about the weather, their kids, politics, or working out
  • In 2011, Kimmel updated and expanded the criteria and created a point system:
    • Change their profile picture more than once a month: 5 points
    • Took their profile picture in the bathroom mirror using their cellphone: 5 points
    • Posted more than three photos of food: 5 points each
    • Posted the phrase OMG, my friends are the best: 5 points
    • For every picture of a pet: 8 points
    • Said the word yum in a status update: 10 points
    • Posted a picture of a sunset: 15 points
    • Uploaded an embarrassing picture of you from Jr. High and tagged you in it: 15 points
    • Posted their opinion on gay marriage, no matter what it is: 30 points
    • Invited you to see their band play more times than you’ve talked in person: 30 points
    • Used the phrase amazeballs: 40 points
    • If the person is your Mom: 50 points
  • In a 2014 video, Kimmel released a video with a FURTHER updated list of criteria, which contained the following additions:
    • Not spell-checking
    • Writing about how you slept the night before
    • Complaints about traffic
    • Identifying with certain “Frozen” characters
    • Tagging loved ones in photos where everyone appears “unflattering” except for the poster
    • Too many images from vacation
    • One too many body pictures
    • Photos of feet, or your feet on vacation
    • Throwback Thursday posts
    • People who ruin television shows before others have had a chance to watch
    • Questions that can easily be Googled
  • A 2014 cnn.com article outlines 5 more types of friends that you should eliminate from your account:
    • Third-grade classmates
    • Oversharers
    • That friend of Ricardo’s you met two years ago at that party
    • Exes
    • Those irritatingly fabulous couples
  • The Facebook page for National Unfriend Day gives three additional “simple” guidelines
    • If you wouldn’t loan someone $50, unfriend them
    • If you wouldn’t invite them to your birthday party, unfriend them
    • If you wouldn’t cry if they got hit by a bus, unfriend them
  • Huffpost.com goes on to further outline 7 types of people you should unfriend on Facebook ASAP
    • The Political Ranter
    • The Negative Nancy–since research shows that stress is a contagious emotion
    • The Attention-Seekers–the ‘vague-bookers’ et al
    • The Braggart
    • Anyone who makes you feel really crappy about yourself
  • According to infomedia.com, the point is not to create a homogenous list of friends who are carbon copies of you, but to create a space that doesn’t annoy or potentially anger you every time you log on.

Activities to celebrate

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  • Use #NationalUnfriendDay on social media
  • Binge the Unfriended movies
  • Wincalendar.com suggests going through your privacy settings on Facebook to control who can see your content; deciding who you’re going to unfriend; and reviewing your posting habits
    • They also suggested watching movies about friendship, such as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Good Will Hunting, The Social Network, and As Good as it Gets, which would provide a healthy balance to the Unfriended movies, I guess
  • If you decide to observe the holiday with a friend purge, cnet.com gives a list of things to consider beforehand, and the one I can most get behind is to avoid posting a status update to the effect of, “If you’re seeing this status update that means you made the cut!!!!!!” or anything similar. It’s arrogant and annoying, and might just get you unfriended yourself


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