When I set out to delete all my “fake” Facebook friends, I expected to get down to 300 friends, from my initial list of 500. To my surprise, I ended up with 245 friends – less than half of my original list.
Facebook means different things to different people, and to me, in the past, it meant “the more the merrier.” But as I grow and evolve I change my opinion on things, including social media. I started feeling that I was paying a price for the relatively high number of people in my Facebook network. The quality of my Facebook experience was low, diluted by annoying posts from people who were essentially strangers to me.
It’s not that the posts were inherently annoying, but coming from people I did not know, they created clutter that was becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Even as I was pressing “hide” or “unsubscribe from posts by” certain “friends,” the software was still sending me different types of updates from them.
This was just one of the reasons I have been feeling dissatisfied with Facebook. Something else was starting to bother me – the realization that so many of us, myself included, are not truly being ourselves on Facebook. So many of our Facebook postings are “look at my awesome life” type of posts, or even “my life is better than yours.” The occasional “I messed up” post is so refreshing actually, because they are so very rare.
Another thought. Aren’t we over-sharing? Moments that used to be private are now shared with several hundred “friends,” and sometimes it almost feels as if we’re orchestrating our lives in a way that makes sure we have good stuff to post on Facebook. Beautiful moments with our loved ones, relaxing afternoons, funny things our kids say – do they even have any value anymore unless we share them online?
Sharing is wonderful, with family and real friends over brunch or email or on the phone. But sharing with 500 people, half of which you don’t even know, is pointless and a waste of time. Especially since the sharing itself is not real sharing of the real you, but of a perfect, flawlessly crafted facade that doesn’t really exist.
So in an effort to make my Facebook experience more authentic, more gratifying, I did the Big Cleanse, keeping just half of my Facebook friends. My only criteria was that I actually know the person – whether from an online interaction or a real-life one, and feel a connection to them. The 255 people that I unfriended were those that I looked at and went “huh? I have no idea who this is.” Unfriending them was not a way of saying I don’t like them – it was just a way of saying I don’t know them.
As for over-sharing or trying to paint a picture-perfect image on Facebook, I can’t make any promises – the temptation to appear perfect is powerful – but I will try to stop. It doesn’t make sense to keep posting photos of my fabulous life, because just like everyone else’s life, my life sucks. Granted, the general suckiness is punctuated by sweet moments of pure joy. But just as I have no desire to share the struggles, I am no longer inclined to share the highlights. Why? Because they are private, and this is where Mark Zuckerberg and I strongly disagree. He thinks that in the digital age, privacy doesn’t exist anymore. I think it does. I think it should.