50 Days to shed 500 Friends

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

I often come up with what I think might be clever ideas for a blog and then neglect to follow up with those ideas. Lack of time, lack of vision, and a host of other factors end up preventing me from following through with what could have been a fun project. So if this project ends up the same way, I guess, blame me. And you should also know going in that I’ve made a couple executive decisions from the start about how this blog (provided it gets off the ground) will function: 1) spontaneity will rule the day. By that I mean that I’m not intending to stick to any consistent rules or style. I find that, when I do, I end up bogged down by the minutia and unable to continue pumping out prose (which, after all, is the goal of blogging). 2) Be aware that I may retract and regret statements and that I will likely alter course repeatedly throughout this project.

So what is this “project.” In short, it’s an attempt to un-friend 500 people on facebook within a 50 day period. I’m not sure if this idea will gain any traction and if it doesn’t, well then, I’ll just be devoid of 500 miscellaneous people I taught, went to HS with, went to college with, worked with, went to camp with or met randomly at some point over the last 6+ years.

Why unfriend?

A number of months back, a close college buddy posted a status update which boasted about how he had just gone through his roster of “friends” and gotten rid of a bunch. He said it felt rather cathartic. I looked at my own numbers: 1643. That made me depressed. It’s essentially an unwritten rule that the more friends you have on facebook, the fewer you have in real life. I consider myself to have a lot of real friends. I’m a very social person and have long sought new friends whenever I’ve been in a new place. But there was no way I could even be casually acquainted in any sort of meaningful way with over 1600 people and so, like my buddy, I began de-friending. At first this was easy. Randoms I’d exchanged maybe 4 words with in HS and who had, over the years, friended me were automatic outs. People I’d bantered with at a bar or friend’s college on a weekend visit only to never speak with again were gone too. But eventually, it got a little harder. An attractive girl you were friendly with in college, but no longer see: that one’s less easy to remove. Maybe you’ll run into them when visiting another old friend, maybe their father could get you into law school, maybe you just wanna scope their pics from time to time (full disclosure, I have a GF, but I don’t think occasional facebook stalking is wrong; we’re all human and don’t lie, you know we all do it). Also difficult to remove are the sentimental favorites: long-lost sleep away camp bunk mates, freshman hall mates, and, in my case, students I taught during my two year stint with Teach for America (don’t worry, they’re all on limited profile).

Over a handful of months, I’ve been able to cull the herd down to 1513 at last count and for many in my generation, that figure is not nearly as egregious as it sounds. Facebook emerged during my freshman year of college, so it’s come of age in tandem with my so-called formative years. Between HS classmates, friends from two colleges (I transferred after a year), friends from Teach for America (my first job after college), students I taught, family friends, summer camp pals, parents of friends, and any of the various other subcategories that exist, 1,500 isn’t as unfeasible as it sounds to the facebook novice. And while, of course, I realize that to be a friend on the book, you don’t need to be a friend in real life, I also realize that having 1,500 friends is bizarre, if potentially dangerous. What if I run for political office? I don’t want an unflattering wall post being taken out of context by someone I may have mistreated 20 years earlier. Or, less ambitiously, what if a future boss has a common friend who I assailed in a campus newspaper article and still holds a grudge? There are countless reasons why limiting your friendships to 1,000 people represents an important goal on the way to becoming a more fully formed adult. The spirit and purpose of that goal is difficult to fully articulate, but it’s time that I at least embarked on the journey and gave it a go. And, as is sadly befitting of both me and my generation, I’m going to do this publicly. And promote this effort publicly. On Facebook.

I don’t anticipate this being easy and I may fall short of my goal, but I figure, it’d be worthwhile to limit my online footprint to people with whom I actually interact and, as gregarious as I am, I can’t think of 1,000 people with whom I regularly interact. I’d imagine I’ll defriend very people that I just outright dislike and if people want to re-friend me and show a real reason for wanting to, I’ll gladly accept. Indeed, I’m sure I’ll friend many people as well along the way. I also suspect that at least a handful of people will get wind of this blog and preemptively de-friend me. If they do, that will count as part of the 500, but be aware that I may try to re-friend you. I don’t want to de-friend people; I just think it’s a bit unhealthy to put your life on blast for people who don’t know you anymore. Anyway, enough of my internal monologue and indecisiveness. From this point forward, I’m going to attempt to cut virtual ties with 500 people in 50 days and I hope you’ll enjoy my description of the journey. I also hope you won’t de-friend me. Chances are if you’re reading this at this early stage, I like you and want to remain virtually connected.

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