Call me odd, call me rude, but I find there’s something hugely satisfying in hitting the unfriend button, en-masse. It’s like a spring clean, but for the soul. When I hit the delete button, I feel like I’m inching closer to the hypothetical tabula rasa, somehow cleansing myself of anxieties and obligations.
It’s not that I dislike the people I’m getting rid of. It’s more that I really don’t know anything about them and, in most cases, I never really did.
You know the people I mean. You probably met them at a party one time when you were 17, or they’re the ex of a friend you haven’t spoken to in four years. Maybe you went to school with them for a decade but they wouldn’t even say hi to you in the street these days. You know nothing about them on any real level, nor they about you, but yet your Facebook feed keeps you fully-versed in their stance on the Tory government, their housing situation and where they went on holiday this year.
It all adds up to noise. Extra stuff that we carry around, needlessly, in our minds, taking up the space of far more important things, like wondering who the hell “Becky with the good hair” is or if you should cut your fringe back in (the answer to the latter is always no).
When I was younger, having a small number of friends on social media made me feel somehow inferior. But how many people can you ever really, truly know? To really understand someone takes time and a real level of emotional investment. You simply can’t do that with every one of your thousand friends. Let’s be honest – if you can do it with more than ten, you’re doing pretty well.
Having so many people literally in the palm of your hand, as you scroll through a feed on your phone, can be distorting. It’s all too easy to kid yourself you’re connecting with someone because you took two seconds out of your day to like their photo but, ultimately, the whole act is meaningless. It’s the online equivalent of smiling at an old friend in a bar, but then not bothering to go over and chat. I’d rather see far fewer people in an online environment and create more headspace for those who I can connect with in real life.
It’s almost seen as a sin to delete someone from Facebook. It’s apparently utterly taboo if you ever want to be successful in business. But life isn’t one big, mercenary business plan. We are allowed to be picky about who we spend time with online, just as we are allowed to in day-to-day interactions. We don’t need to collect people from our past like relics and stay tethered to those who we are probably better off without. Sometimes we drift apart from people, or have nothing in common, and that is totally OK.
Ask anyone in their thirties or forties what they wish they’d known when they were younger, and scores of them will lament the amount of time wasted stoking the fires of multiple acquaintances when all they really needed to do was feed and water meaningful relationships with a handful of true friends. We all have a finite amount of resources – be they time-related or emotional – and it makes far more sense to use them on those who leave us feeling bouyed and positive after each meeting than those we see or speak to only out of perceived responsibility to do so.
At this point in my life, I guess I’ve just realised that having a bunch of acquaintances holds no real value. I no longer derive any sense of self worth from how many people I have in either my online or my real-life circle of friends and I don’t feel like I have to stay Facebook-friends with someone anymore, just for fear of bumping into them in the future. In fact, if I do bump into them, I’ll at least be able to have a proper chat to them, without pretending I don’t already semi-know what’s been going on in their life, thanks to sporadic status updates.
There seems to be a certain arrogance attached to proclaiming you’ve culled people from your online accounts, but I think it’s less arrogant simply to accept that someone has drifted from your life than to keep them there just in case they’ll be of use to you someday.
You can keep your 2295 Facebook friends and I’ll keep my 150.