Sunday, August 29, 2010

On Friends And Followers ...

On Friday, I was very anti-social.

I left the house. I even spoke with strangers. But before that, I culled my Friends on Facebook.

By the time I was through, my Friend tally stood at an even 200.

From 260.

I really thought I'd get under 200, but it seemed ruthless to cut someone just to get to 199.

Though even while I was clicking and deleting (Facebook does not enable mass deFriending; you have to deFriend each person individually), I was worried that there was someone I'd offend.

Such is the nature of Facebook. Once you Friend someone, it's easy to feel as though you have to stay Friends with them forever. Never mind that real-life friendships come and go. I'm not friends today with every person I've ever called a friend. And on Facebook, the standard for Friending is very shallow.

I know several people who view Facebook as a popularity contest. They'll accept Friend requests from anyone. They Friend all the "famous" people who have Facebook presences. The higher the number of Friends, the more popular they are, or so they seem to say with their Friend counts. Because, really, who has several thousand people they'd call friends?

I don't. Not even close.

So my Friends number stands at 200 for the moment, and some of those people are folks I know only online, who I've "met" through other friends. Some are people I've worked with. A couple are family.

But I know them. Or I've established some kind of virtual relationship with them.

And while part of the appeal of Facebook is reconnecting with people from your past, like I said, the standard for Friending is very shallow. Plenty of my Friends were people with whom I went to high school. People with whom I really had very little contact even then. Did I know them? Sure, in the way everyone knew lots of people in their class. But was I friends with them? No. So, 23 years later, why are we Friends on Facebook? Because it feels rude to not accept their Friend request?

It's not as though I'm publishing my Social Security number on my Facebook page. What I post isn't terribly private. Still, I put a lot of myself online, and I don't feel the need to share everything with everyone. A lot of what I post lately is political, and I had one real-life friend unFriend me because of that, which I found unfortunate. But, again, not everyone stays in your life forever.

With Twitter, though, it's easier to divorce your ego from your Followers number. A lot of autobots follow you and then fall away, so the Follower number is always in flux. At least, you can tell yourself that that's what accounts for any dip in the number. Though I've surely Followed some and then unFollowed them, and I'm sure the same is true for others who follow my feed.

But it's different, Twitter. Anyone can follow anyone, like anyone can read a blog. You don't have to Accept or Confirm your Twitter followers. They just follow and they just unfollow, whereas Facebook requires mutual agreement.

Early on in my Facebook existence, someone sent a Friend request that I accepted, and we traded notes back and forth and commented on each other's walls and such. And then one day, I went to show another friend his profile, and he was no longer in my list of friends. He had unFriended me. I remember feeling a bit offended, as he'd recently asked me to get together for drinks. Huh? He wanted to meet up in person one minute, and then he didn't even want to know me virtually the next?

I shrugged it off seconds later. Still, it just goes to show you how much substance we can ascribe to people who only exist in our lives as 1s and 0s.

So, to anyone whom I've recently unFriended and possibly offended, I apologize for any hurt feelings. Don't take it personally. We all use social networks in different ways.

But know that I wish everyone well.


Anonymous Alison said...

I did that a couple of months ago, and culled 40 people. Three of them refriended me, and I felt obliged to remake them a friend. But I put people in categories, and always have, so I have varying degrees of intimacy. I don't often filter things (except photos)...but...I'm thinking of doing a huge cull again. Because that girl from high school? We weren't even really friends back then, and our interaction on FB has not given us much of a relationship.

I don't know. It's a sticky thing. And I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know some people who have dated and then broken up but remain "facebook friends". If facebook didn't exist, would these couples stay in touch with each other? Probably not. So why do so many allow the person who hurt them to continue to be a part of their lives? Especially if the ex enters into a new relationship. If you knew that he was going to be at a certain theater or restaurant at any given time, would you purposely show up there to see them together? Again, probably not. So why have it thrown in your face everyday via facebook? Do you think that some people hope that person will change his/her mind about them so they want to be around if they do?

11:00 AM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I think I have over 300 friends on Facebook right now, the majority of whom are fellow bloggers (like we are); fans in the comic book, pulp magazine, horror, or film communities; comic book professionals (I've had some very cool discussions with them), and film and television professionals. Only a few people are relatives or freinds from real life. Still, I can't see de-friending anyone. I think it would hurt their feelings. Granted, I don't feel hurt when someone de-friends me, not if we never commented on each other's posts or anything, but I am so afraid of offending someone.

One thing I must say, I have made a few real friends on Facebook. Oh, we have never met face to face, but we have traded cards come the holidays and our birthdays, message each other about our lives, and one I've actually talked to on the phone! I feel closer to them than many I've met face to face. I only wish I could meet them, but, alas, we all live on different continents!

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friends on facebook are people that I actually know in some capacity whether it's from school or previous jobs, etc. When I first joined facebook, I accepted friend requests from people I went to high school with even though I didn't know them personally. They never once had anything to say to me. I quickly realized that it was about them acquiring the most friends not caring who they were. So I defriended them. I can't say for sure, but I doubt it hurt their feelings because they didn't even know me. As Beth said, I'm not putting the most personal aspects of my life out there, but I don't need people I don't know reading about my day, no matter how boring it may have been. Mercurie, I think the fact that you have made some friends on facebook is great! My experience with accepting friend requests from people has not resulted in such relationships, but who knows? Maybe I should open myself back up to the possibility.

6:43 PM  

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