The Art of Unfriending

How many stars are there in the sky.

How many stars are there in the sky.

The great Facebook purge of the 21st century began during the most recent presidential election and has continued virtually unabated since then.

At one time I had more than 2,500 friends on Facebook which is a number that sounds ridiculous to me.

Do You Really Have That Many Friends?

About four years or so ago I had a business idea that I wanted to pitch to Zynga, the maker of Mafia Wars, Farmville and a bunch of other games you might be familiar with.

Most of those games were set up in a fashion that rewarded players who recruited the most partners or teammates and so I figured the best way to be able to pitch the company was to have a full understanding of how the games were played.

So I started playing Mafia Wars and visited the pages in which you could recruit other Facebook members. Those efforts in conjunction with the various efforts made by different alumni organizations I belong to made sure my friend count sky rocketed.

Unfriending Begins

The pitch to Zynga went so well they used my idea but didn’t pay or thank me for it. I am not bitter about that, things happen.

Anyway, one of the first things I did was divide my friends into lists of real life friends and those I didn’t know. I then adjusted the privacy settings so that only real life friends could see pictures and “important information.”

Eventually I stopped playing but I didn’t start unfriending en mass because I didn’t pay attention to most of the people I played the game with. That changed when the election came and my feed was filled with all sorts of political rhetoric.

I am not a shy guy and I have never been one who surrounds himself solely with people whose opinion reflects my own, but some of the stuff I saw was ridiculous and over the top.

It seemed silly to me to let my feed be over run by people who weren’t really my friends so  I started nuking contacts whose political insight was filled with racial over tones (it covered both Democrats and Republicans) and people who were conspiracy theorists.

Real Life Friends/Muting

As time passed I found occasion/reason to unfriend some real life friends and/or mute others. My rationale was quite simple:

I don’t need any more negativity in my life. I don’t want it and I have to accept it.  Our Facebook friendship doesn’t provide you with license to fill my wall with your political rants either.

In some cases I found the best way to create peace of mind was to eliminate the person that was wrecking it.

I didn’t notify any of the people I unfriended because I didn’t see the point. If  we weren’t “real world” friends I didn’t feel like I owed them anything and in truth never saw the upside in emailing someone to say I was letting them go because they are bigot.

Conversation and Debate

In some situations I tried to engage some friends in a conversation so that I could understand why they felt a certain way. Some of them made a compelling case for their position and I found that we could agree to disagree.

But if we couldn’t reach that place and the dissent got ugly, well we don’t have to be friends, or at least not on Facebook.

What do you think?

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  1. Mary Stephenson April 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Josh

    That reminded of that commercial about the girl having 600+ friends on Facebook and her parents only having, I think it was 17 friends. And she thinks she is living and her parents are the ones that are actually going out and being with their Facebook friends.

    We label many as friends, but in actuality we know very little about them. I think we definitely need to unfriend some who are nothing more than self-serving and add no value to our lives. Of course we can have many friends for different phases in our lives, where as they hang out on the internet but not in your own backyard.


    • Josh April 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Hi Mary,

      I couldn’t have said it any better. I don’t accept every friend request I receive because we don’t need to be connected to everyone. The older I get the more interested I am in strengthening the existing friendships I have and focusing on the people who matter most.

  2. Lori Gosselin April 10, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Hi Josh,
    I think that on Facebook, as in life, we have full right to surround ourselves with people who are positive and uplifting. Friendship isn’t a numbers game. I wonder what Rod McKuen would say about the hundreds of “friends” we have on FB. His quote: “One can never have too many friends. Only too many to properly take care of.”

    • Josh April 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Lori,

      Life is just too short to be surrounded by people who don’t add value, help us or make us better people. I think that McKuen’s quote is spot on.

      Time doesn’t always lend itself to making it possible to take care of many friends.

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