Sunday, February 20, 2011


A while ago, I noticed that the population of my Facebook friends list was approaching 500. Since 500 is a rather nice, round number in base 10, the thought occurred to me that it might be a grand thing to reach that number. However, as those of you who follow my every move on Facebook, don't I have an inflated notion of my own importance, might know, since the new calendar year I have shed a large amount of my friends list, it is a fair question to inquire what precipitated this alteration in priority.

Part of the explanation lies in the sense of alienation that I experience, to a greater or lesser sense, each time I return to Michigan. If my existence is often characterized by a deep sense of loneliness, then an overstocked friends list is, at best, a cruelly ironic joke, and at worst an attempt at self-deception. Paring my list down to include a higher concentration of people with whom I actually feel a social connection, whether only on Facebook for the most part or also in real life activities, allows me greater social satisfaction from my Facebook account. It is replicating socially what one does nutritionally when one cuts empty calories out of one's diet, except in this metaphor empty calories don't actually taste very good, once one realizes that the superficial satisfaction of appearing "popular" does not translate into the more substantive enjoyment of feeling "well liked."

The other satisfaction I obtained from the exercise was the enjoyment of better ordering my affairs. This is the same satisfaction I get when I utilize vacation time to assign my students grades or to straighten up my personal E-mail account. On a related note, during the vacation I spent an afternoon curled up on a friend's couch, in Oregon, working out what grades students had earned the past semester, that was a very fulfilling afternoon.

I suppose that if you are reading this, the odds of you being one of the people I removed from my friends list are rather slim, but I felt like explaining why it is that I did what I did, and may continue to do.


elfarmy17 said...

I'd say that the odds are 0%, in my case. :)

My friend-count is significantly lower than 500 (more like in the slightly-over 100 range), but I have the same issue. When I first got my Facebook, my state of mind was "OMG, FACEBOOK! FRIEND EVERYONE I KNOW!"
This extended to accepting friend _requests_ from most people who sent them my way as well, assuming I actually knew them.
But this year I started hiding people from my feed and I realized that if I didn't care what their status was, and I didn't talk to them at all, what was the point of being friends?
So one of my real friends and I got on Facebook's IM client and had an un-friending party, which resulted in my feeling more genuine about my profile.

Kenny said...

I first got on Facebook when it was a social site for college students only pretty much. You had to have a .edu E-mail to sign up and everything! I think it was better back then, the relative homogeneity of the audience lent a certain simplicity to the social interactions that occurred; which is just a highfalutin' way of saying that drunk pictures were less likely to come back an haunt you ;)

Anyway, living in the dorms for 4 years led to me knowing quite a few more people than I did previously. Purging the friends list is somewhat cathartic!