The Unfriending of 2013: It's Not Me -- It's You.
Fire hoses make poor substitutes for water fountains, yet that is what Facebook had become for me.
A week ago, I had 324 "friends." I put that word in quotes because, while that is what Facebook calls connected individuals, many of these folks would likely never pass any measure of friendship. Still, every day there they would be in my "feed," offering dispatches of varying import designed to satisfy my hunger for staying in touch.
There was just one problem. Lately, I'd lost my appetite.
I am not alone at this anti-
banquet table. There has been a spate recently of articles and tweets and - ironically - Facebook posts from others signaling that they are getting way too many signals in their lives and are thus dialing back. Some say they are feeling the bite into their privacy. Others suggest the forum lacks "contextual integrity" - lying, bragging and too many invites to send others electronic cows and other digital detritus for games.
Others are waking up to find they've been spending way too much time on the site while their real lives atrophy in the background. A year ago, a study found that many Facebook users were on the site seven hours a month.
Duck your head 'cause here comes the pendulum. A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 61 percent of Facebook users have taken a voluntary multi-week break from the social network at one point or another. Here's the real meat: 27 percent of Facebook users reported they plan to spend less time on the site in the coming year. Only 3 percent planned to spend more time.
I have been a member of Facebook since 2008. At irregular intervals - sometimes several times a day, sometimes not for weeks - I would post "status updates." Wow, just typing that makes it sound Star Trekian.
Like eyeing all the full liquor bottles at an open bar, the power and potential of Facebook were intoxicating and limitless. I found and friended individuals from throughout my years: grade school, high school, early career, current career.
It was like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a coat you hadn't worn in five years: "Hey! Sam! I haven't seen him since those crazy fraternity days! I'll friend him."
I friended people who friended me because - well, because who doesn't want a friend, right?
Over time, the trickle became a stream. Streams are fine and quite brookable until they grow so swollen and pressurized they don't convey so much as blast you downstream. That is what Facebook had become to me: a stream of updates and suggested readings and "sponsored stories" and banalities and vanities and shared photos of "funny" things that weren't. Whew. What had I done to myself?
Well, what I had done could be undone. Not easily, mind you. It is vastly simpler to add a friend on Facebook than delete one. But I'd come to the realization that having a high quotient of friends wasn't elevating or enlightening me. It was time to lighten the load.
So one night last week, with a hockey game on and the kids in bed, I opened the laptop and commenced my own Unfriending of 2013. Haven't talked since fourth grade? Gone. Never really hung out together in high school? Gone. Former source I don't even use anymore? Gone. Person who only ever sends me requests for insipid Facebook games? Gone.
When the clicking and deleting were done, my list of 324 friends was now down to 161. I had it down to 140 before I realized there were a number of you here, relevant to me now, whom I figured I needed to add.
Facebook - all of social media - is a valuable tool. But you don't need an impact hammer to hang a picture; sometimes you can have too much tool for the job.
We live today in an always-on, media-saturating age that is growing only more connected. Within the year, you will be able to wear Google Glasses that essentially turn everything you see into the Internet.
I don't fear these things; my unfriending was not so much unplugging as it was scaling. A fire hose surely will quench your thirst. It will also leave you a soaking wreck, in need of drying out.
Contact John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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