Nearing my one-year anniversary in a new city, I realise that some of my very strong friendships have become innocent and unintended victims of our move.
When I lived in Hong Kong, I would speak to friends on the phone, meet them at lunch, dinners, parties, go shopping or to choir with them and once the day was done, I’d contact them on Facebook where we’d have a giggle about our day together. It never occurred to me, not even for a second, that those friendships weren’t solid, based on deep feelings of loyalty, trust and love and respect.
Unfortunately, life and miles intervened. We didn’t have any dramatic fallings-out, we didn’t scream down the phone at one another, we didn’t backstab or whine. We simply moved away and life went on, as it does. I thought Facebook would save us, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have kind of super-power, dammit.
What I discovered was that some of my closest friends quit Facebook for whatever reason, and now they’re off the grid. I can’t find them. They can find me, if they want to look, but from where I sit, they’re lost forever and that’s sad.
On the other hand, some friends who were acquaintances a year ago, are now firm friends and bosom buddies. We talk. We play Scrabble. We “like” and comment. We don’t “poke”—I don’t get “poking” and think it’s vaguely disturbing. If I turn to my Facebook later and discover you’ve poked me, I will not be amused, Karen. I will however, fire a volley of weird, made-up emoticons your way until you give in and agree to stop.
I suppose that means it’s all evened out, in a weirdly karmic way. I signed up to Facebook in 2007 and now have a healthy amount of friends there; that was my goal and I’m happy with things the way they are.
One day, I looked at my news feed and realized that only about half of my Facebook friends were actually engaging in any kind of communication with me. Some of them I didn’t even know, to be honest. I think they were people I’d met at a wedding and I accepted their friendship in a spirit of something I call Too Much Champagne For My Own Good. We were using one another, these friends and I. We were each others’ trophy friends. I decided to put a stop to it and cull those who hadn’t communicated with me (and vice versa) in 6 months or more.
You’ve heard of the Clothes Cull technique? I’ve adapted it for use on Facebook. Here’s how it works:
- If I haven’t worn a particular piece of clothing in 6 months, out it goes. If I haven’t spoken to a Facebook friend in 6 months, good-bye, it’s been swell knowing you, but I think it’s time we went our separate ways.
- If I look at a dress and think, “Hmmm, I wore that dress to my daughter’s wedding. It’s special to me and holds a lot of memories. I can’t possibly throw that away, it would hurt me too much”, I keep it.
- If I look at a friend’s name on Facebook and think, “Hmmm, we were really tight at one time. We share lots of memories and even though we haven’t been in contact lately, I really want to keep her in my life”, then I keep that friend.
- If I realise I have nothing in common with a friend anymore, or if they’ve become a Klan member and think bombing women’s health clinics is a bit of a giggle, I’ll ditch them in the same way I’d ditch a dress or pair of jeans that goes out of its way to make me look hideous.
Exceptions to the rule:
- Relatives. They’re like the underwear in my drawer. No matter how much the elastic has stretched, or how grey they are, they’re still comfortable and offer me security and support. I will never let them go, no matter what they look like or how they behave.
- Some friends are like a Chanel handbag, all sleek and smooth and seductive. I love having them in my life and every time I see them, I smile. Others start out looking like Chanel and quickly reveal themselves to be fakes made in Shenzhen. They must go. I don’t buy fakes.
Culling my closet is slightly easier than culling Facebook but I think it’s worthwhile.
I don’t want 500 “best” friends on Facebook—I’ve got about 100 and I can tell you something about each and every one of them. I doubt I could do that if my list grew any longer. There’s one final exception to the rule and that’s those people who have quietly become proper, real friends in 3D. This is why the 6-month rule works so well. I believe in giving clothes—and friends—a chance.
I hope they do the same for me.
Do you also have an overflow of strangers on Facebook? How do you deal with it, or does it not bother you? I’m interested, let me know.
- How To Protect Your Privacy On Facebook (Screencast) (raventools.com)