When this blog got off the ground almost a year and a half ago, I set out to de-friend 500 people. In the time since the blog fizzled, I’ve come to realize that de-friending might no longer be necessary at all when you think about it in practical terms.

I guess privacy controls were in place when I started this narcissistic endeavor, but it seems like they must have been harder to access or just not very popular. A lot of people were writing about how facebook had become too much of a behemoth in their lives and how they were cutting friends or scaling back on their stalking in an attempt to limit the all-encompassing influence that was the book. Sixteen months later and it seems that a lot of these fears have been skillfully addressed by facebook itself. And yet we might not even be conscious of this. 

My biggest frustration with facebook back then was that, as much as I realized its benefits from a utilitarian standpoint, I couldn’t stand all its excess/clutter. In simple terms, the issue broke down to this: I might have wanted to peruse a long lost female classmate’s scantily clad photos for a few moments every other month, but I did not want to deal with incessant updates about said woman’s wedding planning or hear about what mediocre meal she was cooking on a given evening. I guess the privacy controls existed, but they seemed much less accessible and even if they were more accessible than I realized, they seemed to be underutilized at best.

In time, though, limiting the access of others became ubiquitous.

In what seemed like one fell swoop, people were shutting down access to their photos, walls, and status updates. Which, of course, raised a critical question: what the hell was the point in being on facebook at all? And I’m not just talking about the people who began to selectively limit the access of particular individuals. I’m talking about the people who began to limit the access of ALL of their friends. I mean, I get why you might not want your high school chemistry teacher to see that time you were 19 and tagged while rolling a blunt at Bonnaroo, but to so indiscriminately block the entirety of your virtual community from seeing anything other than a profile pic of your family on its annual ski trip and a work e-mail address seemed a disingenuous way of reducing your digital footprint. Like, if you’re gonna bounce from the book, bounce from the book, but spare us the bullshit. If I want to see that your still an accountant in Detroit, I can stalk the shit out of you on linkedin. That’s why that shit was invented.

It quickly became apparent that limiting everything to everyone was tantamount to a newfound form of virtual free riding. Because, as I said, if you really wanted off of the book, you could just get off the book. These free riders, though, still wanted to scope photos from generic hotty’s Nantucket vacation album. They just wanted to do it with the safety of not having the girls from the album realize that their virtual stalker was now engaged, 30 pounds heavier than when they were casual friends in college, and hadn’t been tagged in nine months, since their life had become way less cool. 

My theory is that Facebook figured this out and realized that to fix this problem, they actually had to make their privacy controls easier and more intuitive. Now, on the face of things, this approach would appear counterintuitive. Why would facebook make it easier for people not to see as much information on facebook? Wouldn’t that be diametrically opposed to the very purpose of the site in the first place? The short and long answer in my opinion is no. Ya see, by making it easier to limit people’s access, he forced people to be more thoughtful about who, when and why they limit access. Whereas at the beginning of the privacy control era all the rage was on a sort of all or nothing approach, now people can be far more discriminating and nuanced in their use of these restrictive settings. And this, in turn, leads to less blanket uses of the privacy settings.

Perhaps even more significantly in terms of this blog’s content, I theorize that it also led to markedly fewer outright de-friendings. 

See Zuck has gotten this whole game down to such a science now that the very concept of de-friending or of limiting the number of friends you have to begin with (ie, not accepting one’s request) serves absolutely no practical function. Because of the skillful introduction of subtle and highly specific privacy settings, Facebook has basically unilaterally bludgeoned the need for people to even  ponder whether or not to confirm a friend request. They’ve appeased the special snowflake sensibilities of their core users. Now, when presented with a friend request from that socially inept kid you haven’t spoken with since sixth grade, you don’t have to feel bad about not wanting to accept. Instead, you can just accept, strategically limit their access (maybe you throw them a bone by letting them see like one album so they don’t think you’re giving them the blanket limited profile access and instead are deluded into believing your profile is like that for everyone), check the button that ensures you never see their status updates and BOOM, you’re off the hook. If that 25 year old grows up to become a hedge fund manager, you’re still friends with them on facebook and maybe you hit them up for a donation to your non-profit. If you’d have de-friended them, the admittedly unlikely benefits which might now accrue wouldn’t have existed. 

While Wall Street is focused on facebook for financially speculative purposes, I believe that Facebook is about to enter an era of a different sort of speculation. Increasingly, people are starting to wonder just how much their particular access to other people’s profiles is actually limited. Because, let me be candid: more and more I find myself being strategic as shit with how I limit access.

Like, I was living with this dude for a bit who I didn’t really like. We got in an argument. I subsequently limited him from seeing anything more than a profile picture and maybe my e-mail address (which he had anyway). Done, right? Wrong. I then had to do the same with his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s friend who often came over to the apartment. I didn’t want him thinking I was going after him specifically. So if he said to his GF “Hey babe. Did the writer of 500FF block your access too?” she’d say “Yes” then turn to her pal and say “Hey friend, did he block your access too?” Once the friend said yes, they’d all just assume that I limited the access of all of my facebook friends, that it wasn’t specific to them in particular and the speculation wouldn’t go past that point. None of them think I’m an asshole, but all of them would have if I’d limited the access of only one of them. Shit is just that machiavelian right now in ZuckerWorld.

I truly believe that we’re entering a speculation era of facebook where everyone’s going to be wondering whether they were the only one of their friends to be stringently limited by a mutual friend or whether the same controls were applied across the board. Zuck’s gonna have to figure this out or his stock price could take a nosedive faster than I can de-friend another 100 people (because God knows that’s going to take fucking forever).

Anyway, we’re at a point now where there’s really only one reason left to de-friend someone: the negative connotation associated with having too many facebook friends. Since I’ve clearly shown how one can skillfully accept all friendships without the burdens previously associated with that acceptance, there’s really only one reason why you wouldn’t accept a friend request and that’s the negative perception that exists toward someone who has too many facebook friends. And really, that’s what’s driving this revival of the blog. At this point, I can prevent people from showing up on my newsfeed and I can prevent them from seeing anything that would potentially incriminate me. Hence, the only reason I don’t want to have 1250+ friends is because people who have that many friends are perceived as hugely lame, insecure, self-obsessed, and delusional (all traits that partially describe me, by the way). In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if Zuck added an element to his privacy controls which allowed people to prevent others from seeing how many friends they have. Come to think of it, I actually think Twitter has sometimes struggled to attract casual users because on twitter, you achieve online alpha dog status when you acquire thousands of followers; on facebook, increasingly, you’re cool if you have fewer followers.

Anyway, I cut like six more people, but I’ll write about that later. I only cut them because I don’t want to have too many friends on facebook. 

Hopefully those six will follow me on twitter.

Who knows where this will go, but Zuck’s going public for what, 100 bil? The least I can do is honor his historic IPO by shamelessly seeking attention and axing a few virtual cronies. A pair of cuts are below. Enjoy em cause I don’t have a clue when this is coming back.

This Russian chick (might have been American born, but I’ll remember her more for her knowledge of vodka than for her time dabbling in field hockey at a posh public school in Fairfield County). I liked this girl too, but we haven’t exchanged a word since we were 19, so I’m not really sure why we’re still friends. Well actually, we no longer are. Hence, like, this blog or whatever.

Also cut this gorgeous chick who went to Penn and yet was somehow devoid of jappy qualities. And the best part was she had a Jewish last name. German Jew probably. That alone is reason enough to cut her, since I guess in the 40’s the established German Jews in America styled themselves as faux wasps and wouldn’t squander that never-actually-respected street cred on, like, shutting down the concentration camps. Ironically enough, I met this girl on a weekend get away to that most waspy of vacation destinations: Nantucket. This girl is really cool and really attractive, but I’m not sure she remembers me. If she does, I’d definitely hit confirm in two seconds if she ever attempted to re-friend me.

 

I wouldn’t be lying if I told you that part of the reason I haven’t posted in almost two weeks is because I haven’t gotten around to finding the passion to pen yet another treatise on the nature of de-friending. But another genuine reason why I haven’t written is because, at a certain point, there became no discernible difference in the significance of the individuals being cut and this, in turn, renders efforts at crafting novel, original prose really difficult. Let’s say you’re going to have a huge wedding and at your wedding, you can invite a maximum of 300 of your closest friends. After some internal debate, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to determine who these 300 (or at least who the 400 potential) pals were. Say, you were to determine this group based on existing facebook friends. In my case, after I’d gotten it down to a list of at most 400 finalists (we’ll call them the “Wedding Day 400 or WD400), I’d still be left with a little over 800 facebook friends.

Well, what I’ve begun to realize over the last couple of blogless weeks was that after the roughly 315 cuts I’d made in the site’s first six or seven weeks, it became increasingly apparent that there were virtually no distinguishing characteristics which separated, say, the last wedding day cut and friend #1200. Essentially, there exists an ever-daunting, perpetually lingering “middle” group of people who I don’t have any animus towards but with whom I also don’t have a meaningful contemporary connection. Those lacking empathy or an appreciation of the political and social risks associated with de-friending will invariably respond by saying “oh, screw it, just cut em all. Who needs all those friends anyway?” Hopefully those people have vanished and are no longer wondering if this blog still exists because, clearly, they never understood the emotional turbulence associated with chronically clicking the un-friend icon. But I trust that most readers can appreciate the difficulty in determining sometimes whether it’s even worthwhile to continue the goal of removing 500 people now that the originally-intended goal of doing so in 50 days has passed me by. Certainly, a sense of disappointment occasionally washes over me when I think, for example, of how my audaciously conceived goal of a Day 48 “D Day” in which I cut 150 or more people in one sitting never came to fruition. But ultimately, I can only cut in a manner that suits me and while, I will continue to try and expedite the process, I will also have to justify to both myself and to this blog’s (currently languishing) fan base my rationale for these later cuts. That process, it seems, is more marathon than sprint.

And speaking of sports, now for the good stuff…

The bracket format of March Madness lends itself perfectly to a determining of who stays and who goes on my facebook friend dial and, ultimately, I hope to propose some agonizing match-ups to the blog’s readership. But before I get to that, I realized that one highly impartial means of determining who in the vast middle group of friends gets cut is by removing friends whose alma maters (or current, mostly grad schools) get knocked out from the Big Dance. It’s funny because, part of the reason I was so resistant to cut people this week was because I realized that having so many friends on facebook actually served one perfect function after all: organizing my annual NCAA pool. By shamelessly messaging anyone and everyone who might possibly have an interest in joining my pool and submitting their picks, I was able to round up 42 paying members in a 48 hour period. That wouldn’t have been possible without facebook and I undoubtedly contacted people who otherwise very much (and still may) represented probable cuts. In fact, I took a 2 or 3 day hiatus from making any cuts, seeing if various long-lost friends might see the link to my pool (which doubled as my status update) and, sure enough, a few long lost randos came out of the virtual ether.

But now that the first two rounds of games are complete, it’s time to start making cuts and what better way to do so than by means of a suggestion given to me (on facebook, I should add) by a Michigan alum: if a friend’s institution gets knocked out of the tournament, the friend gets knocked off my facebook. Now, that’s easier said than done. If, for instance as is the case with Princeton, I only have two friends affiliated with a school and I have tangible reasons for keeping both, I decided I wouldn’t remove either. But if a school gets bounced and I have multiple casual facebook friends from that school, I vowed I’d make a conscious effort to remove at least one from each school knocked out (provided I am affiliated with someone from that school–Arkansas Little Rock and Northern Colorado fans can breathe easy: I don’t know a single one of you). And that’s what I’ve managed to do. It’s fair, it gives me a cogent system with which to make additional cuts, and, ya never know, it might make that girl who mistreated a buddy in college and later got a graduate degree at Virginia Commonwealth’s Art School awfully nervous about the seemingly pending end to the only true Cinderella story left in the tourney.

UC Santa Barbara was spared. I have one friend from there. He’s cool and works as an assistant DA in Manhattan. I’d hate to think that I couldn’t get out of an overzealously leveled disorderly conduct charge because I axed a friend I met in Israel. Mizzou was spared too. I have a teacher friend who went there and a close buddy on his way to med school there in the fall. I still am in contact with both. I have 2 friends each at UCLA and Notre Dame and still talk to all of them and I really like all 3 of my Illinois contacts.

Compassionate prefacing aside, here’s whose schools helped establish a new mantra for my site: “don’t hate the cutter, hate the underachieving power conference team.”*

*BU, Bucknell= exceptions

Michigan: This one was really, really tough. I had seven people pop up as Michigan contacts. One I taught with last year and she’s in my pool, so she was safe. Another, as I noted, suggested this methodology for cutting so she was good to go. One was the chill, hot high school freshman when I was a senior. Nostalgia often wins out in the defriending racket. One was a close friend from teaching with whom I still chat regularly, so he was safe. Two were thesis-buddies from senior year of college (both getting graduate degrees of some sort) and one was a college bud and first year out of college neighbor in Brooklyn. Ironically enough, the post grad neighbor wrote me just last week about the blog. Plus she’s pretty chill. Had she not written, it might have been a tough call, but her note spared her my wrath this time around and, admittedly, probably ensures her amnesty for the duration of the process. So, it was down to the two thesis buddies, both of whom were two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but neither of whom I’ve had meaningful interaction with since graduating. Ultimately, I had to cut the one with whom I’d had the least interaction. It also appeared she was in law school and since my LSAT insecurity has occasionally manifested itself in tacit (if admittedly unfair) resentment of those who were ostensibly once my intellectual peers but who now are viewed as (or will be, provided I go to law school in the fall) my intellectual superiors, she was the easier choice. Tough, tough cut. Sweet, sweet girl.

Nova’s annual choke led to the removal of a freshman year buddy who currently is at Nova Law. We hadn’t talked since after I transferred at the end of freshman year, but I have fond memories of this kid. He was one of the few frosh year cronies who proved equally conversant in politics and chicks. He also went to high school with my high school girlfriend (who, yes, I met at a political summer camp at Georgetown. THE MAN!) and since their HS was a powerhouse football school whose graduating class featured current NFL linebacker, Dan Connor, we always exchanged quality banter about his and Connor’s purported friendship.

Speaking of Connor, he went to Penn State and excelled at Joe Paterno’s Linebacker U. Known for its quality product on the gridiron, some might have been surprised to see the Nittany Lions in this year’s big dance. I, however, had an inclination they might be good this season. My source: the Lionettes, Penn State’s famed dance team. The HS GF, today a dear and surely lifelong friend, has a sister who’s currently a senior on the squad. Ever the college football fanatic and always looking for an excuse to play the part of ‘collegian-for-a-day’, I finally got my act together and insisted that the ex GF bring myself and two of my closest college friends to State College, PA for a football weekend during her sister’s final season on the sideline. So this past November, we caravanned it all the way along the Pennsylvania State Thruway and into Happy Valley to see JoePa go for his 400th win against the ex GF’s alma mater, Northwestern. And where did we stay? In the Lionettes House, with nine senior dancers whose intelligence and maturity admittedly exceeded our caricature-like expectations. These girls were smart, funny, far more proficient at partying than we were (the intended “cool, older dude” angle actually required considerable effort), and, yes, attractive. And while I’m sure my two pals, who unlike me, are single, might have gone in hoping to return home with stories about their sexual exploits, they left with a tremendous amount of respect for the graceful Lionettes and the platonic dance parties and repeated viewings of Drunken History (youtube them, they’re great) we all shared.

As cool as these chicks were, as adept at seamlessly overcoming the notion that they were nothing more than drunken coeds, they weren’t good enough to all remain my friends on the book. One, the quietest and most clearly taken of the bunch, spent less time with us that evening after the game and we didn’t talk much the next day either, so when Penn State lost at the buzzer to Temple, it signaled an end to her run as my facebook friend as well. Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened. Probably won’t ttyl.

Also a tough decision: an elementary, middle, and HS friend who I really didn’t want to cut. BUT, she is now married, a devout born again Christian, and the person whom I speak with the least from the Cuse. Don’t blame me; blame Boeheim.

Gone too: a girl I met once like seven years ago at a Nantucket house party who copped a law degree at BU, one of my best friend’s little brothers who is an engineer at Bucknell (his sister got the axe recently too…if I need updates on their lives, I can go to the bro), a close college friend’s HS friend who went to Georgetown, a coed softball teammate from two years ago who somehow maintained her bookishness and demure southern sensibility during four years at UGA (if she could was more adept at holding down right field and batting in the 10 spot, I might have held onto her in the event I captain another coed squad), and a girl who I never actually met but who went to Vanderbilt and interned with a dear friend at the Clinton Global Initiative during the summer before our senior year of college. My friend insisted we were destined for marriage. Apparently we were destined to never meet one another and remain facebook friends for almost four years.

Tentative tallies to date: 327 cuts, 173 to go. Follow along on twitter @500fewerfriends. I will try to post at least once a week moving forward. Keep commenting and e-mailing…500fewerfriends@gmail.com

One-Timing the One Timers

Posted: March 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sorry for the delay in posts. Lots to come this week now that I’m back from a great, informal college reunion…And speaking of reunions….here’s the newest post.

I’ve come to realize that a surprisingly sizable chunk of my facebook friends were made in the immediate aftermath of particularly enjoyable weekend/vacation experiences. This is especially true in the immediate post-graduate years, when informal reunions take place in various different cities that are now inhabited by college cronies. Upon visiting, you might meet the roommate of your college buddy and hit it off over a shared sense of nostalgia for the collegiate years. Days later, when you see that you’re tagged with them in seven photos, you either confirm their friendship request or friend them yourself. Another post-school means of meeting people stems from trips to various beach or outdoor-type locations. Organized by one or two individuals who know one another, these events attract people from all across those two individuals’ friend zones. Once everyone gets together at that one person’s summer home, magic ensues and three days later you have like 17 tags and nine new friends.

Unfortunately, as is the defining feature of life after school, those weekends prove transient and there’s a good chance you’ll never encounter anyone you friended from that weekend again. In the almost three years since graduating college, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend weekends in some pretty sweet places and meet some pretty fun people in each of them. I’ve spent weekends at friends homes in Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket. I’ve gone to college football games at Penn State and Ole Miss. I went to the concert festival Bonaroo in rural Tennessee. I hit my second D3 final four in rural Virginia. I’ve spent one or more weekends in Baltimore, DC, Boston and St. Louis and hit weddings in Toronto and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A friend took me with her family and family friends to Turks and Caicos. And like, any good Jew, I copped the free trip to Israel as part of Birthright. I realize that by listing out essentially each road trip or vacation that I’ve enjoyed over the last almost-three years, I’m probably coming across as boasting about some sort of playboy lifestyle (man, you should have seen Heff’s place in suburban Roanoke!). In fact, take away these adventures and I’ve spent most of my time dealing with screaming seventh graders in the Bronx or angst ridden in my parents basement figuring out if I actually want to go to law school come fall.

In contrast to the challenges/boredom of my own daily grind, the epic weekends spent with those new friends end up representing a rather depressing paradox: how is it possible that the same person balling so hard with 30 year-old FBT’s at the Ole Miss-Alabama game in my facebook pictures is now stuck grading sixth grade tests on Mesopotamia or freaking out about how to spend the next 50 years of my life? But what’s even more daunting is that your interaction with the hot and poised friend-of-a-friend at a Nantucket dance party represents the ONLY time you’ve ever interacted with that individual. This, in turn, induces profound feelings of inadequacy. Someone told me that a study confirmed that there is a direct correlation between high numbers of facebook friends and anxiety and these experiences with one-time friends explain why. You know the people from these weekends only as they were that weekend and as the identity they portray on facebook. If you’re close friends with someone in real life, you can look at their tanned photos and know they’ve de-tagged the other 900 to avoid casual virtual friends from detecting their generally more albino essence. You can call bullshit on their status updates and chuckle to yourself about how their About Me completely contradicts their true self. But with the one-timers, you can’t do this because you don’t really know them and all that you do know of them confirms their dynamism, since you met them under special circumstances.

This is increasingly becoming a dilemma and in coming posts, I’ll describe a lot of these one-time friends and explain how cutting them induces great feelings of self-doubt.

I have like seven days to cut 210 people. We’ll see if I can do it in time…Check twitter @500fewerfriends and keep posting comments. I vow to be more prolific in the week to come.

With this process now having entered its 33rd day, the emergence of discernible patterns in my cuts have grown clear. In what is ultimately nothing less than a self-commentary on my conscience, this post is about what I’ve noticed (and includes a bunch of cuts toward the bottom). Take the post with a grain of salt and honestly challenge yourself to make the claim that you would employ more ethical tactics when making cuts. I bet 99 percent of you can’t and at least 1 of you will use this as an excuse to create a false morality play about your own lack of narcissism and altruistic friending patterns.

For me anyway, people who often manage to avoid the axe generally can be grouped into one of the following categories:

-I genuinely like them and maintain a legitimate friendship with them at this point in my life.
-I harbor a certain sense of nostalgia for them (we might have been legitimately close at one point in our lives and there’s no reason to cut them now).
-I feel sympathy for them for any number of reasons.
– I fear they will think I cut them because they possessed a trait that would make one feel bad for them.
-I admittedly fear that they never liked me in the first place and that they would use their cut as a means to galvanize public opinion in their current social orbits against me.
-I find their status updates interesting.
-They are an unmarried female whose pictures I find attractive.
-They are an FBT.
-They are in a branch of the armed forces.
-They have expressed an appreciation for or even just an awareness of the blog in one form or another.
-They are related to my girlfriend

Predictably, people who get cut very often fit into one of the above category’s logical opposites. It’s also not uncommon for an individual to be cut, however, who fits into one of the non-cut categories, but doesn’t fit into another. For instance, tonight I cut my freshman year roommate, who I like and still talk to. I cut him, however, because he essentially doesn’t ever post on facebook, nor does he post photos or potentially relevant contact information. Thus, he serves no function for me on the site and since our relationship is not at all facebook-oriented, I’ll continue to call him. And won’t feel bad about cutting him.

The downside of all this is that a whole lot of perfectly decent folks get cut who, very loosely (and unfairly) can be classified as matching one or more of the following descriptors: emotionally secure, professionally unspectacular, average looking, not power hungry/dangerous, quiet, or part of an industry that I’ll never get into (LOTS of engineers have been getting the axe of late). I suppose a political scientist might view these cuts as being part of the vast and often forgotten “facebook middle.”

The political observer in me speculates that in my attempt to make myself feel better about my sense of self/maintain a conscience, I keep around a lot of people who I (admittedly rather arrogantly) feel “need me,” as if my facebook identity is akin to some paternalistic social media safety net for the struggling, ugly, or unable. Meanwhile, I don’t quite have the balls to drop a lot of the power players either. So even though they might be lending their skills toward the creation of exotic financial instruments that bankrupt the taxpayer, I’m standing idly by as their political pal and this is akin to providing them with massive bailouts under the fear that if I didn’t, they’d run a hard-line shill against me in the next election and use the blog’s words in a distorted way to make me look like a cruel proponent of de-friending.

And while I have moments of self-doubt about being embroiled in the seedy underworld of de-friending, I also realize, like all politicians, that this is the arena I’ve entered and I’m going to have to deal with the consequences, some of which will lead to the creation of both enemies and alliances with various special interests. Sometimes, altruism or principled leadership will come into play (and like politicians, I’ll be sure to roll out an epic p.r. campaign to make what is probably a fairly token form of boldness appear transformative), but at the end of the day, most decisions are tactical and play to the mood of your constituents. And with that, I present you with a handful of the perfectly decent folks who I had to cut over the few days. Just like America’s middle class, these good people got screwed.

A former star guard on my high school’s girls basketball team, a super chill printmaking major who I spent an enjoyable car ride with on the way to a Jewish sorority’s annual Valentine’s Day bash at a bowling alley three years ago and haven’t really spoken to since, the bar that everyone went to on Tuesday night’s in college (yup, it had a facebook profile), a childhood acquaintance’s mom who’s a prominent realtor in my hometown, a teacher with a strange last name, only one of a pair of twins from childhood, one of the greatest high school football stars I’ve ever seen (also an essentially non-existent facebook profile), a middle school buddy who could have been a great high school football star if he weren’t hobbled by injuries, and a really unique girl who I did the carnival play with in college and who worked at a sex shop throughout college.

Goodbye, gang.

Somehow I still have 256 people left to cut. And, by my original timeline, only 17 days to do it. Keep following on twitter @500fewerfriends, leaving your comments, and spreading the word.

UPDATE: THE CULPRIT HAS BEEN DISCOVERED. This post was not penned by the actual cut. Fortunate for him, unfortunate for my chances of truly going viral.

So yesterday, I discussed the tricky dynamics involved in trimming the fraternal herd (“cutting the bros” to put it more forwardly). I got two comments on the post, but you’ll notice I’ve only approved one (my first truly negative response actually–thanks anonymous hater at 1:09 AM!). I bring your attention to that point not because I want to toot my own horn about my thick skin, but because I didn’t want people to think that the reason I’ve yet to approve the aforementioned pending comment had anything to do with an aversion to criticism. Criticism makes for good reading. What might not make for good, or at least true reading is a post from someone pretending to be someone who got cut.

In short, I woke up this morning to a comment awaiting my approval that seemingly was to good to be true. I was going to approve it (if someone posts in the comment section, they’re expecting it to get put on the site) but then I realized it might have been fake. I’ve been torn all day about whether it’s legit or not and I’ve decided there’s only one thing to do: put it to a vote/discussion. So I will post the comment below (changing the name of either the impostor poster or the real poster for the sake of protecting their identity and keeping with self-created 500 FF rules) and let you all decide. I encourage you to comment with real analysis. By the way, if this is real, it’s an absolute gem and complete affirmation of what initially was a semi-difficult decision…Here it is…(stars denote names used in comment–yes, I keep my name anonymous; a number of readers do not know me and while I make a point of promoting this site, I don’t need to be overly exposed)

Why did you defriend me [******]? I know for you this is just a fun game, but for those of us that religiously read your blog it’s genuinely hurtful.

First, I was involved in the house – I was in the play, which only 2 other seniors were in (********* and *****). Involvement in the house – check.

Also, I was and am debaucherous. I still drink and party on the regular and I could probably drink you under the table. Again – check.

Check + Check = checkmate.

__ __ __,
Brother **********

I have many, many thoughts, but I want to open it up to you all first. So lets hear what you think? Is he that unaware that he feels the need to boast of his debauchery and play the 11th grade “I could probably drink you under the table card?” (I’m sure you could, BRO!!! THE MAN!!). Or, is this the work of a huckster and fellow bro from my collegiate years? You be the judge.

***__ __ __= a three letter acronym which members of my fraternity sometimes ironically or seriously use in lieu of “sincerely.” I have omitted it in the admittedly unlikely event that current members of the fraternity catch shit from higher-ups at the national office about this blog (some of the brotherhood is eternal types in their 70’s really don’t mess around).

More cuts coming soon…Follow along on twitter for the latest updates. @500fewerfriends

In an earlier post, I talked a lot about the valuable childhood lesson I learned with regard to racial stereotyping (not all 6’5″ black 6th graders are good at basketball). In college, I learned another valuable lesson on this same subject: fairly flamboyant gay men can proudly be rednecks and members of southern fraternities with reputations for being white trash. I only learned that lesson because at an early-year barbeque sponsored by the Greek Life Office (GLO), I got to talking to my college’s then-brand new Greek Life director and he matched the above description. Other than that unique biographical sketch, he’s only relevant for one reason (and no, he’s not a facebook friend and probably never would be). That reason is a statement he made to me at that barbeque. Amidst our casual and ultimately highly political banter (GLO directors are the people who determine if your house gets taken away when some idiot freshman invariably pre-games too hard and then pukes upon arrival at your kick-off party, so it’s important to be on their good side), I raised the question, “Were you in a fraternity?” The director shot me a rather quizzical glance and quickly responded in a corrective tone, “what fraternity am I in…Brotherhood is eternal.” Yup, he dropped the eternality bomb.

At the time, I recall going back and using that line on my more ironically-inclined friends–fraternity brothers and non-Greeks alike. The remark was just the sort of thing that would have dissuaded me from going Greek at schools whose populations consisted of people whose sense of humor and perspective proved less sophisticated. Indeed, comments resembling the one uttered by the strangely-bearded, woefully-dressed (as I said, my man broke all sorts of stereotypes) residential education professional were the very sorts of things that sensible bros are careful to debunk when presenting the counter-narrative to non-believers in defense of their own, post-modern Greek experience. “We’re like, a frat for guys who wouldn’t join frats anywhere else,” is a common argument employed in the defense of one’s decision to join a house at more intellectually prominent institutions. There’s also the full-throated defense of brotherhood in which you regularly go shirtless and talk overtly and at length about the cruelty and homoerotic nature of your initiation process, but simultaneously use subtle hints and an ironic tone, to ultimately convince your skeptical interlocutor that you understand the sadistic and societally-maligned excesses that have historically been associated with Greek Life in the minds of the broader culture.

Conversations like the one I had that day with the Greek Life Director can be relayed in all sorts of ways as just the nuggets necessary for convincing both yourself and the doubters in your European Intellectual History seminar that you transcend the prototype associated with the average frat bro. Yet, in truth, there are moments in my college experience and in the now nearly three years since graduating that I have wanted to believe in some of those supposed stigmas. I’ve wanted to believe that there was some bond shared with each and every guy I encountered in my time in the frat. I’ve wanted to believe that if I ever ran for political office, 75 of them would show up on the weekend before the primary and hold up lawn signs around the district. I’ve wanted to believe that our times together would have been so formative that thirty years from now my kid would have no problem getting his first job out of college. I’ve wanted to believe, for lack of a more worldly term, that brotherhood was eternal. At the peak of my romanticization, I even wanted to convince myself that I’d help someone who wasn’t associated with my particular chapter of the national organization.

But, let’s be serious. Most of the time, my head inhabits a more realistic and critically-thinking universe and while it is true that an overwhelming majority of my closest college friends came from that fraternity, it is also true that there were individuals associated with the house whom I didn’t hold in the highest regard. The common bond of a pledge process and shared rites of passage on campus made it heard to loathe anyone and if there was a person I genuinely disliked, there’s a good chance I never friended them in the first place. That being said, among the roughly 150-175 brothers I associated with in some capacity in my three years on campus, there were certainly a bare minimum of I’d guess 20-30 who I didn’t consider friends in any way and whom I certainly don’t consider friends now. There were younger pledges who seemed annoying during the three times we spoke. There were older brothers who had essentially disassociated from the house and didn’t seem all that cool to begin with. The list could probably go on at some length.

Overwhelmingly, the house produced quality guys and I don’t regret for a second joining it. It remained perhaps the single most important and positive influence on my college career. It’s for that reason, I suppose, that I was so reluctant throughout the first month of this process to lay the de-friending axe on old-time bros. But now, as I’m on the 30th day of this experiment with 260 or so cuts left to make, hard decisions have to be made. And the reality is that if I was closer with a dude in another frat, he’s sticking around and the one I didn’t have much of a relationship with in my own house is getting thrown off the virtual plank. That may seem obvious to the non-Greeks out there in particular, but for many of the same reasons I’ve discussed in the past, it’s not. I’m biased, but my house in particular attracted an inordinate amount of likely FBT’s and 25 years from now, I suspect I could drop the eternal connection bomb (albeit in different terms) with some success. My hope is that if I do so, they won’t ever have found out about this blog. I will still give bros a close look when making cuts, but I have come to the executive decision that they will not be unequivocally spared from this process and today I cut my first one.

He was two years older than me, not very involved with the house, and frankly lacked the necessary sense of debauchery that I sought in a second semester senior. We did a play together for the carnival that occurred on campus each spring (I believe I’ve referenced this in different posts) and that was my only association with him really. SInce he was the lone senior in the production, he somehow took it upon himself to play hero and police myself and fellow younger brothers who apparently had a bit too much fun and lacked the necessary focus that the director, a senior from our sister sorority, sought to instill during rehearsals. His hero complex in the lead-up to that one act kids show will, unfortunately, go down as his lasting legacy in terms of my memory. Prior to it, he was a perfectly decent, if slightly bland, dude. He might have even stuck around for another couple hundred cuts, but at this point, I need to make hard decisions. My facebook page, like the global economy, has really entered an age of austerity and cuts need to be made. So, heroic amateur actor bro, you’re gone. Oh, and just so no one feels left out, the director of that show, yeah, she got unfriended too.

Cuts (I think): 234. Cuts to Go: 266. Follow along on twitter @500fewerfriends, continue spreading the word, and keep your feedback coming. Many cut descriptions forthcoming. Be on the look out.