There was a time not so long ago when we all engaged in a social media arms race. We indiscriminately added friends on Facebook and followed accounts on Twitter with reckless abandon. But we, the early adopters of these new technologies, were young, and we didn’t know better.
Now we’ve matured and settled into these platforms. We know that it’s not the quantity of contacts you boast online but the quality of the conversations you have. It’s time to cleanse our social media pages of their hurried pasts.
Today I want to focus on Facebook. That clunky behemoth we’ve collectively decided is essential but is gradually revealing itself as anything but (and, at times, outright dangerous). Where we once made entire photo albums for one summer vacation and played Farmville.
I’ll be honest: Facebook serves me as a glorified calendar at this point. The only times I log on are when I need to remember a birthday or the date of an upcoming event. I don’t read your diatribes or watch those cleverly designed recipe videos, and I certainly don’t post any of my own.
And to get even honest-er: if your birthday comes round my notifications and I don’t feel compelled to call or text you, I’m deleting you.
It’s not that I feel any ill will towards these forgotten acquaintances. I’ve simply learned that it’s important to nurture the relationships you maintain in real life and to let go of the ones you don’t.
I was on one of these mini-purges today when I thought, “Why remove friends day-by-day?” I knew my collection of friends was saturated with people with whom I’d lost touch, and so I decided to run with it and clean up this list in its entirety.
I was amazed by how many names I’d completely forgotten as I scrolled through my “friends.” There are many people worth keeping in your contacts, but these don’t make the list:
- That guy who was your partner on one class project freshman year
- The friend of a friend you met at a bar and added because that’s just what we used to do
- Pretty much anyone from high school with whom you don’t still talk at least once a year
As I unfriended person after person, there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind: “What if you have a reason to get in touch with these people in the future?”
But there is already a platform where reaching out to distant acquaintances is not only normal but is actively encouraged, and it’s called LinkedIn. Facebook is just a place that reminds you why you didn’t want to reach out to them in the first place.
And what of the fear of offending the folks cast aside? First, if you’re deleting people with whom you’ve ceased all interaction in real life and on social media, then it’s highly unlikely that they’ll care. However, if they do, are we really so scared of saying to another human being, “I was tidying up my online connections. Would you like me to re-add you?” It’s just not that hard.
My 10-year high-school reunion is approaching, and a number of people have asked if I plan on attending. My answer, to this point, has always been, “I already know what everyone from high school is doing because of social media.”
Today I reflected on that mentality, and I realized how sad it was that I felt that I could replace real human interaction with an electronic imprint left online. Perhaps if I go I’ll be bored listening to stories of babies and of marriages, but I truly believe that those in-person connections would be more valuable than keeping these people as part of some strange digital collection.
I’m deleting people because I care.
When I started clearing out my Facebook friends list, I had about 700 friends. I’m now down to about 430 — which is still far too many. I’ll probably have to do another purge sometime down the road; but for now I feel reasonably comfortable in thinking that I’d at least want to wish a “happy birthday” to the ones who remain.
I haven’t been an active user of Facebook for years, but now it feels like a better facilitator for those real-world connections that are worth strengthening.
It’s funny to think that I also exist on the other side of this equation. I’m sure that I still have Facebook friends who see my birthday pop up once a year and don’t feel close enough to me to send a note but keep me in their list of friends nonetheless. If you are one of those people, do yourself a favor and delete me. You’ll feel better. I promise.