I currently have 935 friends on Facebook. Till last week,the number was well over 950. This is not a claim to the Miss Popularity title,its more that Im not very discerning when it comes to adding friends. When somebody sends me a request,as long as I know them and theyre not acknowledged psychos or murderers,I think,why not? So Ive amassed an unrealistically large number of random virtual contacts,most of whom Im unlikely to meet in this lifetime.
I knew it was time to do a clean-up on my Friend List when I couldnt recognise people whose updates kept popping up on my news feed. I have to actually go to their profile to jog my memory and,sometimes,I still cant place them. My list can largely be divided into school and college classmates,colleagues,family,neighbours and acquaintances. Weirdly,I rarely message the people closest in my life,on Facebook. With them,I pick up the phone and call. My school had 45 kids in six sections,all of whom are on Facebook,and most,I suspect,on my list. But now that Im on a serious unfriending and decluttering drive,it has given me time to evaluate many old relationships that had fallen by the wayside,but which sparkled again,thanks to Facebook. But even if somebody was important to me in 1995,Ive decided I dont want to know the details of their lives in 2012. From now,my Friend List is only going to have people I know well,and still like.
Facebook is a little like high school with constantly shifting alliances,some backbiting and simmering resentments hovering right below the surface,or rather,under the like button. The fastest and most deliberately cruel way to make it clear to a friend that he or she is no longer part of your group is to tag photographs of a night out,where the person concerned was pointedly not invited. Its a little sad when 30-somethings behave like this,but it happens all the time. A particularly bizarre example was when the daughter of a superstar flipped out over a friends comment on a film,in which the married superstars love interest looked especially beautiful. Crazed messages flew around while the rest of us laughed at the heated exchange which ended,predictably,with explosive unfriending.
Im embarking on the task of removing people in no particular order but with a certain amount of ruthless relish. Im keeping the randoms in my life who post interesting news stories from obscure websites,which I would never go to on my own,but removing a close acquaintance whose last status update was about menopause. Friends who use the network for ceaseless self promotion and to profess undying love for their spouses/significant others are ousted immediately. Same goes for those with political views: Ive noticed and am amazed at how the Anna Hazare movement has given so many unemployed people a purpose and bragging rights,what about,Im not quite sure. I no longer want to coo over anybody elses babies or pets and Ive decided Im not going to inflict my own on my friends. Ive removed previous close friends with whom Ive not been in touch,but for nostalgia reasons we figured in each others online lives. Facebook is no longer a confusing new toy but a part of our digital lives,which needs serious pruning.
My unfriending drive has also made me aware of Facebooks perverse ways to keep you hooked. Whenever you go to the Remove Friend tab,the network becomes maddeningly slow,so you eventually give up,or dont end up removing as many people as youd like to. A friend of mine,who,years ago,was on Facebook for a brief two months and bowed out because he feared it was taking over his life,told me how they kept his account on hibernate mode,and if he accidentally logged on even once,it became active again. Weve reached a point where we have to choose our friends carefully,in the real world of course,but even online. firstname.lastname@example.org