So here's a question: Would you rather be "defriended," or "hidden"?
I assume you know this, but there's a feature on Facebook that lets you "hide," meaning eliminate, the status updates of any given friend from your "news feed." Unlike the phenomenon of unfriending, the implications of this feature have not been properly scrutinized. The deceptively simple act of hiding a friend allows you to do something strange and new: participate in the public signaling aspect of friendship, without participating in the basic hassles or bothers of friendship, such as caring about your friends' lives. This strikes me as one of the most amazing, and depressing, innovations in the history of personal acquaintance.
Yes, as I assume anybody using social media has figured out, with so much information to filter, not all your friends, followers, or contacts catch your every blurt. The "hide" option responds specifically to this challenge by identifying you and your information as part of the problem: It's a cold filter, and your online presence is the bothersome debris. Thanks to this feature, then, there is a fresh middle ground of friendness: "Yes, yes, we can be friends in the sense that we declare a relationship in public, but I would prefer never to hear anything you have to say."