For the past couple of weeks, I have been reducing my friend’s list on Facebook.
I haven’t posted updates on the site for some time, becoming less of a participant or even a spectator (which would indicate that I read other people’s updates), and more like a specter, the floating face on people’s friends lists, that is more of a memory.
There are several reason I quit using Facebook, problems that turned to a lack of interest, or worse yet, caring. It originally began with the constant changes to Facebook, the new looks, and the need to always recheck my privacy settings. But afterwards, it was the users (my “friends”) who made using the site a frustrating place to visit, filling the feed with spammy game invites, links, and reposted images and stories from around the web. The posts became less about people’s lives and more the world outside their lives.
Of course, I recognized all these actions because I had too had committed these social network sins. I also that instead of sharing ourselves, we outline a version of ourselves in the things we share. if one looks carefully enough, they discover who we really might be, how we really might feel, and what we really want to be. Yet, when all those single voices converge, it only turns into a headache-pounding noise.
I was no longer visiting Facebook to find out what was going because It was getting lost. I knew I could find the links and images elsewhere. I didn’t need to hear it from 400 friends over and over again. I developed the philosophy that if the news/joke/image was really important, it would find its way to me. The one thing I couldn’t out was how and what my friends and family were doing. Amidst all the sharing, they had been lost.
So, I began to delete friends.
First, it began with the offenders: the constant spammers of Facebook games and apps, those people I barely knew, and those who only reposted images from other sites.
Next came the people who I knew but didn’t really know, that may see me on the street and not even say hello. (I blame myself for this. When I first started out, I tried to add as many faces that I recognized, even if they weren’t always nice or friendly to me. In my mind, I think, I essentially tried to embrace the world.)
The third pass was more difficult. My criteria focused again on whether I spoke to these people in the real world, whether I would ever talk to them again (a lot of people add each other after only one meeting), and whether they were family or close friends. Just because I know someone through a friend of a friend, does not mean I need to make them my “friend”. On the other hand, some people, although I don’t know them well or would likely never be invited to their house, I kept around only because of the engagement and connection we have online.
Yet, as I stripped my numbers down from 400 to 300, then 300 to 350, I started to ask myself what is the number where I should stop. I started asking my wife, where should I end? What is the magic number? 25? 50? (Both feel too low.) 200? (Too high.) Also, there was the question, on a website that allows 5000(!) friends, why should I limit myself and choose only a set few.
There is the social app that I love called Path, and despite their recent privacy problems, I still like it. Unfortunately, even though I am signed up to it, none of my friends and family are, and most of them are not interested in adding another social app to their lives.
Yet what still interests me was their original mandate, to create a platform for your closest friends and family. Originally, they only allowed users to have 50 friends or family. It was the guiding prinicipal that made me consider such a low number of friends on Facebook. Then I discovered that they had increased that number to 150:
based on the research of Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist who tried to pinpoint the maximum number of people with whom others could have stable relationships. The Dunbar number, generally thought to be around 150, is a popular topic of discussion in Silicon Valley among people building tools to communicate virtually with thousands of people. (via The New York Times)
I like this number, partially because of the process of having to choose. As of this morning, I went from 172 to 165 and it is tough. Every person I let go, I wonder If I am making the right choice. Will I upset them with my choice? Will they even notice? And again what is the criteria? This final 15 has become the challenge.
And the real question is whether, in the end, it will bring me back to the platform and share again.