[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.)
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.
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.
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
Never miss a post! Sign up here and get a free copy of Your Guide to Calling It Quits.