The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Community News Network

May 15, 2014

The joy of losing friends on Facebook

WASHINGTON — Did I just unfriend you? I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. But I'm not sorry I did it. In fact, I did you a favor. I'm on a Facebook cleanse, and it's making me fall back in love with the social network I couldn't stand for years. You should do it, too!

For years, I'd been frustrated that Facebook felt useless to me. The signal-to-noise ratio was way too high. I was a victim, of course, of my years of promiscuous friending and friend-accepting. I'd long been an easy lay on Facebook: If I met you at a reading or worked with you or emailed with you or laughed at your comments on someone else's Facebook post, I'd send a friend request; if you sent a friend request to me, I'd accept, unless you were a fake Serbian teen whose posts all read "I'm lonely ;) click here for more." After all, wasn't the point of Facebook to forge connections with friends old and new, near and far?

Sure, in theory. But in practice it meant my feed was overwhelmed by randos: publicists I'd met at parties years before, comedians with whom I'd shared stages in 2004, siblings of high school classmates, readers I'd friended or accepted friend requests from in hopes of Building My Brand. Oh, it's that former co-worker who was always a pain in the rear — how nice that she took a vacation to Bali! Wow, that guy who was a senior my freshman year sure has a lot of kids!

Facebook lets you hide friends from your feed, of course, or create "lists" representing different kinds of relationships, and I did — but the very fact that we were "friends" stuck in my craw. Why were we "friends"? We weren't friends. I felt certain that as annoying as I found their family photos and political gripes and Upworthy links, they found mine just as pointless. They didn't care about me any more than I cared about them!

But the idea of going through my Facebook friends one by one and judging their worth seemed both onerous and callous. What am I, too good for them? Also, who has the time?

Then one day I opened up Facebook and noticed that I had seven friends with birthdays. I wished a good work pal happy birthday! I wished an old college roommate happy birthday! And then I hovered over the next name in the list, a person I'd encountered during an informational coffee in 2006. I remembered that she seemed perfectly nice but that neither of us made any impression on the other. I didn't care about this woman. I didn't want to wish her a happy birthday!!!! or a happy birthday!!; even typing happy birthday seemed like too much. If she wished me a happy birthday, I'd think, This person couldn't care less about me.

Reader, I unfriended her.

The quick burst of guilt I felt was immediately replaced by a wave of relief. It was so easy! And now we were out of each other's feeds forever. I unfriended a couple of other tangential acquaintances on the birthday list, wished a happy birthday to my best friend from high school, and signed off feeling like a new man. I'd cut my friends list from 1,642 to a much more manageable 1,639.

The next morning, I did it again. And my great Facebook cleanse began.

It turns out that the Facebook birthday alert, located at the top of the site's news feed, doubles as an incredibly efficient way to cull your friends list. Every day I am presented with two or five or eight friends who have nothing in common with one another but the date of their births. One by one I go through them and ask myself: Do I actually want to wish this person a happy birthday? Would this person care if I didn't wish him a happy birthday? Does this person mean enough to me to be worth engaging in the barest minimum of niceties?

If so, great. If not: unfriend. No worrying about whether I might alienate a career contact or sever my fake connection to a now-famous person or hurt a fellow Tar Heel's feelings.

I'm about nine months into my Facebook cleanse, and I'm down — after a couple of satisfying unfriendings this morning — to 1,079 friends, a 34 percent reduction. Of course that's still far more "friends" than I have actual friends, probably by a factor of 10. But sometimes I miss a day. And some people haven't listed their birthdays on Facebook. And I've learned over the past nine months that there are people whom I've never met — people with whom I've only ever had online interactions — whose virtual friendships I treasure, or at least enjoy enough to wish them a happy birthday. So they make the cut. But plenty of others do not.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Furry Roommates: Dorms Allowing Cats and Dogs Chase Rice Defends Bro-Country 'Jersey Shore Massacre' Pokes Fun at MTV Series Raw: Wash. Mudslides Close Roads, Trap Motorists DC's Godfather of Go-Go Honored Ukraine Calls Russian Convoy a 'direct Invasion' Girl Meets Her 'one in the World' Match Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks Japan Landslide Rescuers Struggle in Heavy Rain Raw: Severe Floods, Fire Wrecks Indiana Homes Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Ukraine Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you think heroin is a significant problem in Madison County?

Yes, it has surpassed meth as the problem drug
Yes, but meth is still a bigger problem
No, this was an isolated case
Not sure
     View Results