Breaking Up With Friends Online…and In Life

I broke up with a fellow blogger recently.

She doesn’t know it, of course. Because I don’t know her. In that curious Online way in which we now Friend and Follow and Subscribe to many of our “friends,” you can just as easily unfriend, unfollow or unsubscribe to someone’s RSS feed and they won’t necessarily even know that it happened.

It was a weird experience for me, nonetheless – the end of this relationship. She was one of the very first bloggers that I began to follow, long before I launched my own blog. I followed her because she seemed wise and funny and edgy. Most of all, she had super-insightful tips on an array of topics that interested me concerning blogging and career change and work/life balance.

Over time, however, she began to blog less and less about these professional topics and more and more about her personal life. That didn’t bother me, at first. For starters, she has a super-interesting personal life. And she’s also got a terrific voice. And, let’s be honest, blogging is an inherently narcissistic activity. So if you don’t have a strong voice, it really doesn’t work. (Thank goodness for all of us that narcissism is no longer in the DSM…)

Still, the more I read her blog, the more I came to feel that I was going there out of some voyeuristic impulse, rather than than because I was getting all that much out of it. In other words, somewhere along the way, our relationship had changed and I didn’t feel that it was particularly healthy for me anymore.

And that was when I knew that it was time to break up.

Once she was gone from my life, I found that I didn’t really miss her. To the contrary, I felt a sense of relief. It was just like ending a long-standing romantic relationship that’s become unhealthy and unproductive, one where you can no longer remember why – exactly – it was that you first hit it off but, regardless, the chemistry simply isn’t there any more.

Which got me thinking that my Online breakup with this blogger was a bit like breaking up with friends in real life.

We’ve all been there:

*The childhood friend with whom you shared everything – even your chewing gum – but is now embracing social and political causes you can’t quite stomach.

*The co-worker whose banter was fine at the office, but slipped into something more inappropriate after hours.

*Or simply the person you befriended because he seemed cool at the time, but, upon closer inspection, turned out to have several bodies hanging on a meat cleaver in his basement refrigerator.

Sometimes those break-ups can be painful, especially if you didn’t initiate them.

Sometimes they enable you to find a new equilibrium. I wrote not long ago about a semi-unhealthy best-friend relationship my daughter got into – and out of  – last year. Once she severed that tie, I was sure that particular friendship was dead and gone. But now she and her old Bestie are friends again – albeit of a much more casual sort.

A big part of growing up is figuring out what’s important to us in a friend. But equally, it’s about realizing when it’s time to move on.

Image: The Broken Hearts Club by Chrissy Ferguson via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

  • Reply Jackie

    March 1, 2011, 8:59 am

    I think I know who you are talking about, and I experienced the same revelation last week after an upsetting recent post of hers. The reader/blogger relationship has become downright unhealthy. I loved the career advice peppered with the occasional personal anecdote, but the focus of the blog has changed, and now this blogger needs help beyond what her readers can provide. It’s sad, but freeing, to make the decision to move on — both in real life and in virtual relationships. On the bright side, cutting the cord on a less-than-ideal relationship opens up more space for something more positive in our lives.

    Thank you, as always, for your insightful posts!

  • Reply jacquelyn kittredge

    March 1, 2011, 11:18 am

    Hi Delia – I just wanted to let you know that you are one blogger that I am beginning a relationship with!

    I found you by way of Colleen Wainwright and I love your columns/insights.

  • Reply Naomi

    March 1, 2011, 4:03 pm

    As always, you’ve really got your finger on the pulse of what makes contemporary living complicated & weird. I don’t follow too many blogs (you’re in rare company, Delia!), but I’ve certainly experienced the awkwardness of reconnecting online with old friends & acquaintances who turn out to be utterly different from what they were (or how I remember them), or what I am now, or what I want or need in my life today. The Internet’s great, but it’s also given us new ways to feel socially uncomfortable.

  • Reply Lisa

    March 1, 2011, 6:00 pm

    In the past two years I have broken up with many bloggers. You are one I’ve stayed with, in part because you are so decorous, I suppose. You never have too many guest posters, or go silent for too long, or start talking about something completely outside this domain without warning:). Those I have broken up with I sometimes remember, wistfully, and wonder where they are.

  • Reply delialloyd

    March 1, 2011, 11:47 pm

    @lisa and @naomi, thanks so much for your kind words. I love the way you put it, @lisa – the wistful longing of wondering where they are even while one’s relieved to see them gone. It really *is* like a romantic break up,isn’t it? Re: blogs. One of the reason I love reading yours is precisely that the topic is quite different from most of the other blogs I regularly read and yet you transmit a warmth and welcomeness that keeps me coming back. OK enough gushing. We are about to begin an e-affair! Thx guys. Really, really appreciate it. I love blogging and reaching readers is what makes it all worth it.

  • Reply Cecilia

    March 2, 2011, 6:21 am

    Great topic, Delia. I’m going through this right now with a real life girlfriend that I got in too deeply with – now I almost want to say, “Uh, can we see other people?” Sometimes you get into a friendship and the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries. I don’t know how to get myself out of this one!!

    I too appreciate having met you via our blogs and FB. You seem very healthy to me!! ;-)

  • Reply @TheGirlPie

    March 2, 2011, 1:02 pm

    Your post hit me on two levels, over two bloggers, making me think more than I want to (ha! As your writing often does!)

    Your post exactly describes what I suspect dozens, maybe hundreds, are feeling about a fascinating, infamous blogger I read and enjoy — her smart business advice is in her subheadings, but her wild life lessons are in between. While I sense from her commenters that her personal spirals take an emotional toll on her readers, who are turning away from the roadside crash like you did in your example, I still find her writing compelling, I learn from it, so I stay.

    The other angle, the one that made me click through from your headline, is what happens when a blogger breaks up with her blog — or her audience — or maybe with just one reader.

    A popular, semi-infamous blogger I’ve loved, read, supported, paid, referred to, commented with for years — I was her biggest fan and our long off-the-clock calls, personal emails, and invite to her wedding made me think I was her friend — suddenly stopped blogging, stopped replying to tweets, unfollowed me (and a few thousand others), and won’t reply to my emails. I felt dumped, both as her blog audience and as her friend. Guest bloggers don’t suffice, seeing rare tweets to our mutual followers is worse. So the online break-up goes both ways. (I’m sure her Alexa rank was hurt when she stopped posting, though her wide-reach make her archives golden for the long-term.)

    Bloggers don’t *really* owe anything to “their public” (unless they’re under sponsored contract like some actors/celebrities are), and her business decisions have nothing to do with me. And yet… I still feel dumped, as a online reader (as well as an off-line “friend” — but that’s my thing to get over.)

    Your post was a great reminder that we, as Readers, are in control of our own feelings; we may expect too much from our Bloggers, may spend more time on supporting them than we do in supporting our own goals.

    You’ve inspired me to adopt a school-days schedule with blogs: they’ll get from Sept. to May to trade their lessons for my attention/clicks/funds, then I’ll take a summer break. Then I’ll move on to new subscriptions, new teachers, new bloggers in the following September (or renew a special few for “advanced” learning ~ ha!)

    Thanks for your steady smarts,
    and for reminding me to set my own definition of a “personal online” relationship.

    Keep up the good works,

  • Reply delialloyd

    March 2, 2011, 2:10 pm

    @thegirlpie what a fabulous response.has me thinking about so many different things. but I think what most resonated was your observation that bloggers don’t *really* owe anything to “their public”-they are just bloggers after all, and are free to go off the rails when and as they wish (just as readers are free to stop reading when they do) you’re right, of course, and I think we (certainly I) expect too much of certain iconic bloggers, especially the ones I’ve followed for a long time. perhaps I need to lower those expectations…In all events, I love the “school year” schedule you outline-think how refreshing it would be to hear a whole new cast of voices each September! – and am going to give that some serious thought.

    • Reply @TheGirlPie

      March 4, 2011, 8:58 pm

      I usually read you in my email subscription, so I don’t see your community aspect, but I doubt you need to lower expectations overall — your writing seems so personally professional, your regard for this space you share with us and your respect for your Readers inspires a “warm/pro” connection, rather than a “celeb/fan” relationship.

      If the school year thing works for you (and for @Elizabeth, too), it’s thanks to your post for inspiration. And a Spring Cleaning (per @Patricia) or a Spring Break in my case, from the RSS feed seems VERY adult — see what you’re doing here? Getting the best out of us! How dare you~!

      Next, I need to apply your earned wisdom on “letting go and moving on” to ending a 30-year connection that I’ve willfully misunderstood all this time… *sigh* …I’ll be digging through your archives so I’m sure to skewer your ‘search term’ results — ha!

      Thanks (I think?) for holding up that mirror I’ve been avoiding~ ! Hope the feedback and inspiration-witnessing makes all your work a bit more fun for you, too.

      • Reply Delia Lloyd

        March 6, 2011, 9:45 am

        thanks so much, @thegirlpie. the comments and community are what make blogging worthwhile. without that, it really is pure narcissism, even if well-intentioned. i am delighted to have inspired you to take a concrete step forward in life, just as the comments inspire me to carry on blogging and sharing with all of you.

  • Reply Elizabeth

    March 3, 2011, 12:13 am

    I think I am too new to blogging (or else too distracted) to have cycled so completely through the relationship as you describe, but I still love the school year calendar idea too!

  • Reply Savvy Working Gal

    March 3, 2011, 3:02 am

    I know who you are talking about too and I’m pretty sure which post caused you to unsubscribe. She has become a train wreck & I feel sorry for her and her kids.

    She reminds me of a friend I had in college: smart, edgy, artistic, and passionate about living to make a difference. She too was a train wreck. Once I graduated and got a real job her care-free chaotic hippy life-style no longer meshed with my 50+ hour work weeks and we drifted apart.

    I recently found her daughter on-line and from what I see my former friend is still all the things I loved about her plus she now has 4 beautiful kids. I am so tempted to reconnect. In Wisconsin we can access the court records of individuals on-line. Naturally I looked her up and found she’s had a few issues including another divorce and serious money problems. I asked my husband what he thought. He said absolutely don’t do it. You drifted apart for a reason. Reconnecting won’t end well. I know he is right.

    As to the infamous blogger I still subscribe, but don’t read every post. Lately, I find myself skimming what she writes looking for the professional advice. At this stage in my life I would prefer if she stuck to “tips for adulthood.”

  • Reply delialloyd

    March 3, 2011, 12:05 pm

    @savvy working girl- I agree with your husband. There’s a sort of morbid curiosity about such things (same with exes, I think) – which is natural, but it’s just not healthy to go there in any serious fashion. Love your last line – LOL!

  • Reply Patricia

    March 4, 2011, 3:55 am

    I am so happy I found your new blog site and I like the renovations. It looks very professional. I truly wanted to reconnect, because you write so well and make such interesting connections on your site.

    I just this week spring cleaned my RSS feed. I just cut down on all the blogs I am following, because there was no relationship at all developing – though I stuck with them since 2009. I few of the male bloggers I kept, because they never write comments, but share very interesting things, but I could not say that about any of the women I was following who do not comment on my blog. ( only have 16 subscribers after 3 years, but 350 readers a week…I do not think they connected with me at all)

    One person I miss terribly already and was disappointed because I thought there would be something there, but most of the rest just feel like a release.

    One of my daughter’s friends mothers came to my door one day 15 years ago, and said it was great our daughters were friends, but that she did not really care for me and did not want a friendship with me other than connecting our daughters together. I had a wee cry, as it hurt my feelings, but you know I found the honestly refreshing and I liked the cleanness of her style. We still smile at the grocery store, and we know where each other stands.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply delialloyd

    March 4, 2011, 6:09 am

    Hi Patricia! Nice to see you again. Love the concept of a “spring clean” of my RSS feed. Must do that post haste. I’m so sorry about what your daughter’s friend’s mom said-how painful. But I love how you have embraced it as something positive. Stay positive…thanks for always reading.

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