QUIT: Facebook Faux “Friends”

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

 

I have a confession to make:  I’m not a very good “friend.”

In fact, I have a shameful amount of Facebook buddies whose status updates I’ve completely hidden.  Probably a good 25% to almost 50%, actually.

This doesn’t mean very much “IRL,” but it means something in terms of my intentionality quest:  clutter, unnecessary and based on totally stupid rationale.

Most of these neglected “friends” are people I once knew during one of the many phases of my life, and I considered them very good friends at that point in time.  But since then, as our lives have gone different ways and we’ve become different people, I’ve come to realize I don’t really care enough about their thoughts and life happeningss to bother reading them.  Or even skipping over them.  So I just hide them altogether.

This is about as pointless as inviting someone over for coffee to catch up and then shoving them in a closet and putting on earmuffs so you don’t have to hear whatever it is they’re trying to say in there.  (I suppose earplugs would be more effective, but muffs are a better comical visual.  So that’s my artistic choice, and I’m sticking with it.)

Anyway.

Why are these people still my friends, you might ask?

That’s a fantastic question, with a really lame answer:  I’m afraid it would be rude to unfriend them altogether.

Not that having them listed as a Facebook friend, yet completely ignoring them, is rude in itself, or anything.

Yeah.  Ridiculous.

 

We’re Not in High School Anymore

The basic nature of Facebook might make us feel like we are:

Look who our friend is friends with!  (Why haven’t they friended us?  Are we not cool enough?)

Look at what brands our friends think are hot!  (Maybe I should check out the Swiffer Wet Jet too.  Clearly I’m missing out on something if five of my friends have already fanned it.)

But in spite of the peer pressure-y nature of it, Facebook is supposed to be a community—a chance to keep tabs on friends and loved ones and share exciting news about what’s going on in your life.  Not a chance to collect the names of anyone you’ve ever known, ever, regardless of whether you have any desire to actually communicate with them anymore.

Keeping someone on my list just to acknowledge that I once had a relationship with them is a little like passing your yearbook around to every single person in your classes—even the people you never really talked to, even the people you kind of didn’t like.  Because even if they only scrawled their name or wrote something generic like “Have a great summer!!!,” at least it was another signature that proved you knew all sorts of people and therefore existed in some meaningful capacity.

I’ll be 30 in a month.  I don’t care if my yearbook only has a dozen signatures in it, as long as they’re from my real BFFs.

So, step one:  The ruthless “unfriending” of anyone whose updates I wouldn’t actually care to read on a regular basis.

Fairly obvious?  Sí.  But something being fairly obvious has never stopped me from having to tell it myself.

Step two:

 

Whoring My Attention Out for Freebies

We all know I like a good bargain.  I sign up for a million contests, snag any free sample of trial-sized toothpaste I come across, and have no shame in “liking” a company solely for the sake of entering their “Win a trip to Hawaii!” sweepstakes.

I’m an FB tease when it comes to brands:  I will happily be any company’s friend, so long as they give me something good in return for my friendship.

The trouble is, after I’ve gotten my friendship perk, I never bother to complete the tease procedure and coldly leave them without another word.

As a result, I currently have 280 TV shows, retail brands, magazines, stores, and random “Visit Michigan!” tourist boards I’m endorsing with my friendship.  (I only have 153 Facebook friend-friends, as a point of comparison.)

If my FB identity isn’t a high school yearbook desperately coveting signatures, it’s also not a chance to rent my attention out for the sake of a few freebies.

I’ll still lend it for the few seconds it takes to sign up for a freebie, you bet your bonnet.  But then I will heartlessly sever all ties with my new brand pal in spite of its pleas to let it show me random You Tube videos in the hopes of coming across as playful and hip.

 

The Bottom Line (a.k.a. I Like to Invest Significance in Things)

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t suppose it matters all that much if I keep my Facebook friends list huge but largely hidden.  I don’t think anyone’s feelings are being hurt when I don’t comment on a wall post I never saw.  I also don’t think anyone is scrutinizing the list of brands I’ve clicked “yes” to and reading it as some statement on who I am as a person, like that guy who drives that ridiculous Red Bull car with the huge mounted can on the roof all over town.  (I have to admit, in full disclosure, that I’ve had moments when I’ve considered how well that might pay.)

Conducting my FB “friendships” the way I’ve been doing ultimately results in the same streamlined news feed I’ll have after my lengthy and tedious purge.  But for me, it’s the principle that matters.

This is just one more way of reclaiming my attention.  Of refusing to let my mental space get cluttered up.  Of being intentional with everything I do.

 

Postscript:  The husband, who is not the self-improvement junkie I am, made the I suppose valid point that keeping people on your Facebook friends list while not subscribing to their thoughts lets you still speak to them.  For instance, if you should ever need a kidney, maybe that the camper you counseled in 1998 will see your desperate wall post plea and wind up being the match that saves your life.

The husband was, of course, mostly joking about this.  But I just wanted to demonstrate how seriously Cordelia takes her quest for integrity.  I’m risking a kidney for it, people.  I take this shit for reals.  🙂

Image: Megan Leetz / Flickr

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  • I’m so glad you wrote this. I’ve been having the same dilemma lately. I want to not hurt anyone’s feeling but I also don’t like a lot of them to care if they called me out on deleting them or not. If I didn’t use Facebook as a way to promote my blog or projects, and also to channel my boredom into Facebook games, then I would delete my profile right this second.

    • It’s all about moderation.  Use FB for the things you like, don’t bother messing with the things you don’t care about, and you’ll be alright.

  • Agreed. I have to admit that I “had” to friend certain people, but immediately hid them from my feed. I feel no harm, no foul, as I didn’t hurt their feelings and didn’t clutter up my own space. As for all the other “likes,” I’m very selective and only have a few companies that I really am intersted in getting updates for. I keep things very simple and minimal at all times, often to my own detriment.

    I don’t use FB for anything other than normal friendly interaction with my personal account and actually really like it for my blog page. It’s a way to connect with readers and a way for me to separate my personal life from the blog, as I can “like” other blogs on the Abby Has Issues page instead of my personal one. It’s a great way to keep things secular.

    •  I agree that I love using FB as a way to keep my personal and blog lives separate.  There are plenty of inspirational things I love sharing with my readers that my friends and family would get sick of seeing after a while.  There are also plenty of un-PC things I know my IRL friends will get a good *snerk* out of, but I don’t think would be quite appropriate for Cordelia to endorse.

  • I recently did the same thing. I went from over 400 connections to close to 100. The only people I kept that I may have hidden were family members. Because although I certainly don’t want to see another Bible quote from my sister in law, I’d love to see pics of my nieces and nephews growing up so far away. 

    Facebook has a new subscribe feature that allows people with more public personas to allow people to subscribe to their public updates. I use that with contacts I make in the blogging community but don’t necessarily consider offline friends. One other thing to remember is that If you unfriend someone, they are still subscribed to your updates so remember that if you ever post anything public, they can still see it in their stream. 

    • Excellent point to keep in mind.

  • CMurph

    This is the reason I deleted my Facebook altogether!  I started hiding friends, making lists of who could see what, and then said, “If I don’t want to see these peoples’ crap, and I don’t want to be rude and unfriend them, what am I even doing on here?!”  So I DELETED!  It’s been totally freeing.  I have a business account to update our company Page.  And I’ve been using email, text, and *gasp* phone calls to keep up with friends and family.  Quality vs. quantity.  My life is already better.

    •  Sounds lovely and relaxing.  FB is a lot of “noise” most of the time.  I think getting back to good, old-fashioned means of communication (phone calls do seem oddly archaic now, don’t they?) is a great way to get back to relationships that really matter.