Facebook Friends

February 28, 2013Category: WritingTags: ,

I listened to a story last week on NPR concerning Facebook; more specifically the concept of ““Facebook Fatigue”. The idea is that people have so many “friends” on Facebook that their newsfeed contains more information than can be reasonably processed. People spend so much time trying to get through it all that they finally realize the only way to cope is just to leave Facebook, either temporarily or permanently. This story on NPR was about someone taking a different approach. Instead of deleting herself, the author deleted all of her friends and thereby gave herself zero newsfeed entries to watch.

I fail to see the point in this. Deleting one’s account and deleting all of one’s friends has, in the end, the exact same effect. And it’s really, really dumb. It’s akin to someone who realizes, ‘Woah, I eat too much food. What should I do? I know, I’ll just eat NOTHING from now on.” I think we can all agree that literally starving yourself isn’t a good idea.

The thing is, deleting everyone or just running away from Facebook is the lazy route. It’s saying that yeah I have a problem, but I don’t want to take the time to fix it so I’m just going to run away. It’s an admission that one doesn’t have the willpower to use this tool without abusing it.

The real fix is to just start using Facebook correctly. That starts by looking up the definition of friend. Merriam-Webster gives several definitions, such as “one attached to another by affection or esteem”. My own definition of friend can be shown in the form of two questions:

  • 1.) If John was walking down the street and saw me without me seeing him, would John come over and say hi.
  • 2.) If I saw John walking down the street and he didn’t see me, would I go over and say hi. (Be honest!)

Now if the answer to both those questions isn’t yes, then John isn’t really my friend. He might be my acquaintance, or my classmate, or my co-worker, but he’s not my friend.

You can set your own definition of friend; the above is just mine. For less friends, go stricter; for more, maybe your definition cab be a bit more lax. But when you come up with that definition, you stick with it. Then once you have that definition, you can start fixing your Facebook fatigue problem, the right way.

Spend some time and go through your friends list. Go through person by person and decide if said person is really a friend by your definition. Start with the easy stuff, delete anyone that you’ve never met. Maybe you added them to boost your numbers or because they added you. Either way, they certainly aren’t really a friend. Next, start deleting the people you haven’t seen in years. Your high school classmates, co-workers at a place you used to work, etc. See where that gets you in numbers. Finally start looking through people that you know currently. Maybe classmates, maybe co-workers. Just because you know someone vaguely doesn’t make them a close friend.

One thing that will make this more rewarding is by keeping track of your numbers. Check how many you have before you start, and then check after you are finished. It’ll probably feel pretty good looking at that second number and realizing how much unnecessary baggage you no longer have to see every day in your newsfeed. You could even set yourself a goal, or do this over time. Say you have 600 friends. Try to get down to 400, just remove the least connected people. Then wait a while and get used to it. Maybe you’ll be okay right there, or maybe you want to go further and try to get to 200. (Even 200 is rather huge, how many people have 200 “real” friends?) Still, take your time. Eventually, you should try to get under 50. Anything under 50 means your Facebook friends list is approaching parity with your real life friends. If you can get there, you’ll find yourself with no more Facebook fatigue. (Without having to give up Facebook entirely).


Of course as a side note, you can always change the formula. If you see one person that might not really be a friend but who is maybe useful for some other reason, keep ’em. Nothing is set in stone. Making your life better is the make goal, so if you have to bend the process, bend it. Plus Facebook now has an option to “Un-follow” a person. This lets them stay on your list, but not appear in your newsfeed. This can be a useful compromise.