Hail to the Losers: 500 Fewer Friends Does March Madness

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

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

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