Back in 2001, long before Facebook made online social networking an obsession, the writer Lucinda Rosenfeld asked a poignant question: How do you dump a friend?

Facebook, of course, has made that dilemma oh so much more complicated, and yet simpler, to solve. Yes, we can “de-friend” our ex-buds with the click of a button, but deleting someone in our online network carries existential baggage – questions like, why did I ever become Facebook friends with this person in the first place?

So leave it to a fast-food chain – the epitome of convenience – to make our lives easier (and at the same time garner a heap of publicity). Burger King’s new Facebook app, the Whopper Sacrifice, proposes that you “de-friend” 10 people in exchange for a free sandwich. In the process, you’ll let the dumpees – and the friends you still have—know what you did when Facebook announces on your news feed that “Joe Shmoe sacrificed so-and-so for a free Whopper.”

“Who,” the application declares menacingly, “will be the next to go?”

"It's asking the question of which love is bigger, your love for your friends or your love for the Whopper," Jeff Benjamin, executive interactive creative director at the ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which came up with the gimmick, told Adweek. (Benjamin should know: he’s got 736 “friends” on Facebook, according to the trade pub.)

The app might appeal to Facebook users concerned about having loads of "friends." A Penn State study found that users with 800 or more “friends” appear insecure—not popular, confident and attractive.

But it’s probably helpful for those of us who are just chicken, too. “In the more passive-aggressive arena of adult life, the weeding process is typically accomplished via unreturned phone calls and the chronic cancellation of social engagements 45 minutes before they're due to take place,” Rosenfeld wrote presciently in her “how-to” essay in The New York Times. “This is because, at heart, adults are huge wimps.”   

Image © iStockphoto/Andrew Johnson