“I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.”
― Charles M. Schulz
Are you tired of today’s overhyping of a socially connected life? Do you look at your Facebook account and wonder how you accumulated so many “friends”? Are you convinced that a disconnect exists between your real life of a few friends and several acquaintances and your online relationships of a thousand friends? Do you despair of the movie “The Social Network”? Then you need to partake from the elixir of “Unfriending”. In this short piece, I may not be able to address all your social network concerns (a therapist is highly recommended), but I will guide you to the joys of Unfriending.
Of course, Facebook is a great place to start a business network and stalk people, but it’s also an easy place to clutter up your emotionally stressed life with additional emotional garbage—disguised as “friends”. Just as you regularly clear out your wardrobe and irregularly clean the house, you should find time to clean-up your Facebook account. As a general rule, I recommend a clean-up exercise once every three months. Some people already do this. However, the problem with most approaches to Unfriending is: people tend to weed out “friends” in a haphazard manner and therefore turn a healthy and life-giving exercise into a doubt-filled double-checking cyber nightmare. If you are ready to tackle the unneeded friends in your life, and spend quality time on Facebook, the following paragraphs will guide your steps in a way that really keeps people in perspective and makes Unfriending a lot of fun.
1. The Ghost Friends
Our first set of so-called friends shouldn’t take a lot of time to clear out of the way. Just do a quick scan of your Facebook friends. Anyone whose face or name you spend more than 5 seconds trying to recollect is not worthy of your friendship. Neither are you worthy of theirs. You have to kick hopeful possibility and nostalgic feelings out of the way and be honest with yourself. This relationship is deader than a floppy diskette. You could sit with these “friends” in a bus and still not recognise them anymore than you recognise a moon rock. You don’t give a care in the world about the person and you know it. Just press the Unfriend button. Even if you recollect the name or face in five minutes, it’s too late already. If you both met in the hypothetical bus, the person would have long gotten off before you got a feeling of someone familiar. Save yourself from the embarrassment of a re-introduction, you’re probably also not memorable to the person.
2. The Complimentary Card Friends
Back in the pre-Facebook days, when you meet some dude or lady at a party or business meeting, you each dropped your complimentary card and promised to call sometime soon. Promptly, when you get home, you tossed the card into a box to join a growing heap of similar stationery and you forgot about the person. You don’t feel bad about the card tossing, because the other party has certainly done the same to your card. Life goes on and you live happily ever after until you bump into the person again and repeat the process—after you both apologise for losing each other’s cards.
In this age, such antics are difficult, but not totally different. After a party or a meeting today, you both cheerfully give out your Facebook names and maybe even add each other on the spot. And then you promptly forget each other’s existence. Meanwhile your “friends” get swollen by another joker you don’t care about. These one-off people are the next group you have to Unfriend. Unlike the Ghost Friends, you recollect these people, it’s just that you don’t have any more dealings with them. In plain language: you don’t need each other. Don’t be fooled by social axioms like: everyone is important someway. Your random meeting in a party was not destined to be, and will never amount to, the next great friendship. You’ve not so much as messaged each other since the famous party. So, be honest and say goodbye to your hasty promise of eternal poking and tagging. Unfriend.That.Clown.
3. The Memory Circuit Friends
This is where you find all the people you knew from childhood, primary school, high school, college, university and depending on your age, work. This is the drag-along and tag-along crew whose sole connection with your current life is the shared past. These people insist on burdening your memory with “the good old days” and “back in those days” ideologies. They start messages by launching a time capsule: “Hello, I was in school with you, I used to sit by the window” (Roll your eyes appropriately); “Remember Jane? She’s now married with two kids!” (Roll your eyes some more); “Do you remember Mr John the Economics teacher? He died last year!” (Just keep rolling it). Some of these folks you can’t even recall. Those whom you remember are too remote to be of any use to your life, even as some form of moral support. They only make your Facebook lists more time consuming. Besides, you don’t need all of the bad memories, just start with the Unfriending button and get on with the pruning. Of course, if you’ve made it to the top of your world (unlikely) and you have more than enough to boast about (even more unlikely), and you think you can handle a show of envy (very likely), then instead of Unfriending them, get them to Unfriend you by reminding them constantly, and in the most obnoxious way possible, how you’ve made it in life and how your life is so far better than whatever you both shared in the faraway past.
4. The Miscellaneous Annoying Friends
When you’ve cleared out the characters in the previous categories, you should have enough breathing room to spread out an online football field. However, if your surplus is still more than your deletions and you still feel a bit choked up, there are a few more categories of people I have tagged as miscellaneous—as their uselessness is subjective and varies according to your ability to tolerate bullshit. First, the “Non-Users”: these are the friends that set up an account five years ago and still don’t have a profile picture or a status update. They think being “on Facebook” is all about the registration—their interaction with you is strictly offline, please put them out of their misery and Unfriend speedily; Second, the “Annoying Names” who think of the most insufferable way to disguise their names—so you get John as “Jawn” and Jane as “Jhayne”–and you login one morning to see that Jawn “Jhayne” ThawMoss is now your friend, Unfriend the hell out of him; Third, the “Unsocial Friends”: are the people you hate in real life but are your “friends’ on Facebook, it’s bad enough that you can’t stand them in flesh, why suffer their online presence? Fourth on this list, are the “Relationship Unpotentials”: those people you added only because they were single and who are now “in a relationship”—what are you waiting for?
Keeping in sync with Murphy’s Law, a “friend” that you haven’t interacted with in three years is going to send you an angry message the next day after you Unfriend him. Don’t get rattled or apologetic. Just explain calmly that you have this Unfriending Software, you know, that automatically zaps off people who don’t meet certain criteria, you know how software is, right? Promise to add such meddlesome interlopers again and then let the Unfriending Software do its work in another three months.