When to Delete a Friend

This isn’t one of those posts. I have no complaint and no one has slighted me. Quite the opposite in fact.

Technology and social media has drastically changed the way we live our lives, most noticeably in how we communicate with people. I’m connected with friends and family on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, blogs and email, not to mention the phone and actually getting together in person.

I was on Skype over the weekend and when I scrolled through my list of contacts, I realized that one name towards the bottom of the list is a friend who died almost two years ago. We used to catch up as she traveled between Vegas, Chicago, and the various countries she’d visit to dance tango. Seeing her name brought all that back, much the same way looking through photos would.

Part of me feels like I should delete her as a contact, since clearly I won’t be calling her anymore, but it feels like a slight. I would never throw away her pictures, and I still have a few emails saved from back when we used to dance together, so why does it feel weird to keep her there?

I have other friends who’ve died and their Facebook accounts have been turned into memorial pages, but she didn’t have that. Aside from her email address, this is my only online evidence that she existed.

I realize there’s no right answer, but I’m curious what you all would do.

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


  1. bigwords88

    As long as the contact means something – and in this case it clearly does – then it has value, even if that value is an unquantifiable one. Markers signifying the existence of a friend or family member who has passed can not only tether their existence, but strengthen the memories which remain.

    I’m not the best person to ask on these matters, as I have lots of things stored digitally which have no real usefulness any more. The fact that I still have plenty of links to sites which haven’t been updated in over a decade probably states something about my feeling on these things. The human instinct to preserve the past, and in some way to bring it back, is very strong.

  2. ab

    I have a hard time doing that too. Still a few in my e-mail that I can’t delete. No harm done if you want to leave it. It’ll probably make you smile some days & make you want to cry others. They’re your memories – keep ’em however you want ’em.

  3. Allen

    (Different side of the equation. Act accordingly)

    Part of the healing process when losing a family member is the job of packing up the old clothes and disposing of them in a proper manner, whether you put them in the attic, give them to Good Will, or actually dispose of them. Taking the time to go through all the belongings, spending time sorting and remembering, begins the process of healing and learning that life is a continuation, a beginning and an end to this earthly life and a start of another adventure that the ones left behind can only imagine.

    I often counsel those in this situation to begin the process by sorting through the contact list on the loved ones phone, computer, and PDA, and send each one a message, just to make sure everyone knows, then delete the accounts.

    I say remember the good stuff. Keep the contact in your heart where it belongs.

    just a naked thought… Allen

    • Allen, I always appreciate your thoughts.

      I agree about letting go and moving on. I’ve been doing a lot of that for other reasons lately. In this case I have very little to remind me of this friend so I’m thinking I’ll hang on to her for a bit longer.

  4. Nadine

    I’d keep it until you’re ready to delete it. When I lost my best friend in 2001, I kept calling his pager just to hear his voice. I think it was only valid for 60 or 90 days before the number was reissued. I would have preferred to have kept the voicemail for a little bit longer but for the time I was able to call, it was very meaningful.

  5. Laurie Comadena Edwards

    Have the same problem. Still have my grandparents numbers programmed into my phone. And even the hospital number from when my Grandma was there. Just can’t bring myself to delete them even though I’ll never use them again. I say leave it up. No harm.

  6. Becky

    That’s a very hard thing. I have the same issue with my father-in-law on my cell phone. I say leave her on there until you are ready to take her off. So that it doesn’t feel like a slight. If you can ever think about deleting when it doesn’t feel that way, then it’s time.

  7. This is a great post! It is a timely topic too. Discussions have already begun on “ownership” of internet “life” after death. Do what feels right to you. I tend to delete with a fond farewell, and only keep the memories. Reminiscing isn’t my nature because I get depressed when I think about the passage of time. That said, I do keep photos so the kiddos can know who their grandmother was. (I just don’t like to pour over them. It makes me melancholy, a feeling I don’t enjoy.)

  8. Penguin

    I agree with Aimee, you mentioned you do not have many photos of her.
    The way you remember things is a bit different. This is like a photo to you because when you see it you remember everything else about her, same with the emails.

    I would say keep it,…..of course this is coming from a person that does not keep sentimental things around.

  9. Follow your heart. You clearly feel bad (that’s not quite the right word, but it’s 3:20 AM, and the right word just isn’t coming to me) with the thought of deleting her from your list. One day you’ll know it’s the right time to delete, or you’ll leave her there. If you leave her there it could be your subconscious way of reminding yourself to think of your friend every so often. Could be that you know there could be a time when you’re feeling down, and you just might happen across her name and it will pick you up.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

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