So You Want to Pare Down your Friend List

So you want to decrease the number of people in your Facebook friend list.  Maybe you’re concerned about the growing omnipresence of Facebook and have privacy concerns.  Maybe you’ve noticed that reading the feed on your homepage takes so much time that it could be a full-time job.  Maybe you’re tired of seeing everyone re-post the same viral-video-de-jour or commenting on some event that you apparently forgot was occurring.  Maybe you suddenly realized, “Wait, I’m friends with that person?  I completely forgot about him/her.”

Yes, you can change your privacy settings (yet again), or hide people from your feed, or use a drop down menu to limit who sees each particular status update, but to do that you need to put everyone in categories first– is it just me, or is using Facebook getting more complicated?

I had my own reasons for paring down my friend list that included being fed up with with myself for the amount of time I spent looking at people I didn’t have much of a connection to, and deciding I no longer wanted to be sharing not just my activities but my thoughts in this semi-publicly manner.

My friends list was small anyway (about 250), and with two exceptions all were people I had met in person.  But I still wanted to cut it down.  It was filled with people I barely knew in high school, people on the fringes of my social circle, and people I hadn’t seen in person in years but also didn’t make an effort to keep in touch with.  For me, Facebook is not about networking but about connecting with people.  So it was time to clean house.

Very close friends and family got a bye.  But I sat down with my list and one by one asked myself some questions about each person:

Do I know this person well enough that I could call him/her up right now and invite him/her to lunch?  You know, without the person going, “But, you went to school with my sister, not me.  Isn’t that kinda weird?”  Some that I haven’t communicated with in years and even if I did see them we probably wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

If I was going to have a full afternoon with this person one-on-one, would I look forward to it?  Or is this something I would just do out of a sense of obligation, or trying to be nice?  Of course you should be nice to people, but it is okay to have boundaries and not invite them into your life.  Honestly, but there are people that I wasn’t really interested in being in-person friends with – you know, the type that are like an annoying, hyper puppy trying to lick your face – but I had kept on my friends list out of guilt or as a means of keeping them at arm’s length.

Do I think honestly think this person would be interested in hanging out one-on-one with me?  These are the ones to whom *I* might possibly be the hyper puppy.  They’ve rarely (or possibly never) interacted with me; it’s all me interacting with them.  This usually lines up with…

Am I Facebook-coveting this person?  I look through their pictures and status updates and say, “Wow, I want that life!”  These are always people that I haven’t communicated with in a while, because if we were in communication I probably wouldn’t be coveting them because real people have real problems unlike the sanitized Facebook reality.

Going through everyone, there were a number of people that landed squarely in the “maybe” category.  Some I kept as friends because I find much that they share to be positive, uplifting, and/or thought-provoking.  Some I unfriended because though they’re amazing people, we’d languished in “acquaintance” land for a long time and I honestly didn’t see our relationship developing into anything more.  And a handful I didn’t know what to do with so I left them be for now.

My friends list dropped to a bit over 100.  It was incredibly refreshing to open Facebook the next day and realize that I was getting a peek into the lives of people I cared about instead of so many toward whom I just felt curiosity.

Facebook, however, is concerned about me.  A new, permanent button appeared on my header titled “Find Friends”.

Thanks, Facebook, but I’m happier connecting with a few than looking to be entertained by many.

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