Etiquette (2)

Say what you want about online friendships, but many of them are as important and as real as any other friendship or relationship in our lives, even if we have not yet met the person in real life. When these friendships end, it can be as upsetting and as the end of any other relationship, though sometimes more baffling because you may find yourself unfriended, unfollowed and blocked with no warning and no way to get in touch.

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Dear Amy (32)


Dear Amy:

I recently had someone I considered a friend, and a rather close friend, unfriend and then block me for no particular reason. I’ve been told that my friend may have been the victim of someone who took advantage and even posed as others to test my friend’s will. And now, that person is out of my friend’s life. Is there a way to re-approach my friend without alienating them to learn what the problem is?

Upset and Unfriended

This is a really tough one. Online even moreso than in real life, reaching out to someone who’s blocked you or unfriended you can seem stalkerish – particularly because there are limited avenues to do this, and the person may have gone to great lengths to block communication between the two of you.

First, I’d always say that you should give it some time. If this person went through an emotional trauma, as it sounds happened in this case, there’s always the chance that people who were collateral damage during the trauma will be re-approached.

So let’s say you give this friend space for a month or two, even three – everyone takes a different amount of time to get through an emotional trauma. Then what? You’re unfriended and blocked. Probably blocked on more than one channel, too. That makes things more difficult – especially because we often don’t even have friends’ emails anymore because there are so many other ways to get in touch.

But thing is, everyone has email. And everyone still checks her email (you know you do). If the loss of this friendship really hurts you, then go that avenue. Send an email, and don’t hide that it’s from you. If you send it from an unfamiliar email address and your friend opens it and sees it’s from you, he may feel misled. If you’ve never exchanged emails and your email isn’t obviously from you, even mention in the subject line that it’s you, so there’s no surprise.

The subject line is going to be the key. Be very open, and courteous. Something along the lines of, “Extending the olive branch” or “I miss our friendship” or “I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry.”

Even if you don’t really know what you did to be unfriended, the person who blocked you seems to have a good idea. Maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe there was foul play, maybe you did something and really didn’t realize it would have the impact it did. You’re apologizing that your friend was hurting enough to unfriend you. In the email, be honest. If you know why your friend blocked you, apologize and admit it. If you honestly don’t, say that – but say that you know something happened, and would like the chance to understand it and make amends.

Of the options above (and these are certainly not the only options), “I miss our friendship” has the biggest chance of being misconstrued as being “stalkerish”, for lack of a better way of putting it. It depends on your relationship with that person and, potentially, why you had the break.

Keep the email brief. Don’t bring up the emotional trauma your friend went through. This is a first, tentative step to see if you can be friends again. Don’t ask why you were unfriended and blocked. Just say you are sorry for any ill feelings and that you’d welcome the chance to talk about it whenever your friend is ready.

And then give your friend even more time.

If your friend is ready, he or she will respond. It is possible that your friend won’t even open the email, will just send it straight to the trash.

But when and if your friend is ready to let you back into her or his life, the fact that you gently reached out and put no other pressure for an answer will make that more likely to happen.

If your friend does not respond, or if he or she responds and asks you not to reach out again, you just have to respect that. Don’t reach out again. While you may feel you deserve an answer, that doesn’t really matter. Sure, we all “deserve” to understand why others act certain ways toward us. It’s just that sometimes it’s difficult for them to explain. It may be too painful or too stressful. Or maybe this person really just doesn’t care enough to bother.

We have to be able to let go. To reach out with the hand of friendship, and then respect that friendship enough to give some breathing room and allow your friend to take his or her time. You might find that two years later, your friend reaches out again. I’ve had friends unfriend and block me for seemingly no reason, and discovered that these friends did that to a slew of people at the same time. Sometimes the unfriending and blocking is about what’s happening in their lives – and has nothing to do with you.

Not knowing is hard, I know. Hopefully, you’ll get the opportunity to find out.

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