Nov 6 2010 update:
This article just became much more relevant after Facebook introduced the Facebook Friendship Page feature on Oct 29, 2010.
Most people on Facebook have far more Facebook Friends than friends they have in real life. It is for social networking, after all, not deep friendships. However, every one of those Facebook friends is watching you, in a way, with Facebook’s notifications and updating system. How many stories have you heard about people caught cheating on relationships, lying for jobs or scholarships, and the like, because of something they did on Facebook that was found out by someone else? Even some misunderstandings of your actions and/or comments can be a lot of nuisance. These public mistakes, visible to all your Facebook Friends, are so common now you might even know someone who has been subject to it! But it’s not that a person did something wrong on Facebook that was the problem. It was that it got picked up by someone else who was probably on their Facebook friends’ list. Privacy settings can’t protect against Facebook friends. Well, they can, but if you have settings against Facebook friends, you should just remove them.
Having a Facebook Friends list closer to your real friends list means you have to worry less about who might get you in trouble. You can also misbehave a little bit more without worrying much about the consequences. Don’t kid yourself if you don’t think there are potential consequences. You’ll also waste less time screening through notifications looking for updates by those you really care about in life.
Keeping your Facebook Friends list up to date is the solution to many of the potential problems previously listed. Keeping your Facebook Friends list up to date means removing people from time to time, not just adding them. It is a judgmental act to remove Facebook friends, but seriously, if you made a wrong call, it’s just Facebook friendships. If you’re real friends to any extent in life, they’ll forgive you and you can be Facebook friends again.
So which Facebook friends should you remove? Well, you choose your own criteria. But here are a few I have found useful… in no particular order, and sometimes in combination as they are not absolute.
Do I feel like removing them or care enough to keep them?
I trust my feelings on this one. If I don’t remove them on gut reaction alone, I sometimes override that with other “thinking” criteria below.
Do I know who they are right away?
Some people’s Facebook Friends lists are so large they can really answer “no” to this question for some on their list. “Facebook whales”, or people with over 1000 Facebook friends, may find this criteria interesting to try. If I can’t remember someone on my Facebook Friends list to the extent I know them right away, I chuck them.
Would they remember who I am?
Facebook whales are prime candidates to be tossed under this criteria. It only takes knowing a few hundred people’s names for someone to seem like they remember everybody, but they really don’t. This criteria is a little hard for people to answer “no” to, because it makes them seem so unimportant to someone else. I just suck it up, so if I have any doubt a Facebook Friend might know who I am, I toss them.
Can I name 3 specific things about them not recently on their updates?
Knowing who someone is, is not exactly a deep criteria. If I barely know who a person is on my Facebook Friends list, I often remove them unless I know they will probably be a useful contact for me in the future. These are the people I often added because they might be a useful contact to me in the future, in the first place. I’m not very discerning to add Facebook friends, but I am to remove them.
Do I hide their status updates or block them on my privacy settings?
This one isn’t absolute for me, but I have eliminated Facebook friends on it. With some people, they’re real friends with annoying habits I put up with cause we’re friends. What people put up with in any type of relationship is more than what they’d put up with strangers due to the bond of the relationship. So I hide their statuses but keep them as Facebook Friends. However, if I’m not real friends to some extent, and am annoyed by their status updates, I tend to remove them. I can find other ways to contact them if I really need to. Certainly, if I ever considered blocking people to any extent with my privacy settings, I remove them.
Have I had any contact with them “lately” (like maybe a year or more)?
If I haven’t had any contact with a person in over a year, I usually remove them. Contact doesn’t mean they have to initiate the contact, but that they should respond to contact I have with them. Some people are so bad they don’t do that, in which case, no need to keep them. I can still be friends if we only ever communicate in real life, but there’s no need to have them snoop on me. We can become Facebook friends again later if they appear in my life again. Technical problems I can’t understand is a good way to explain what “happened” to our previous Facebook friendships.
Do they update their Facebook profile?
The main reason I use Facebook was to be in touch with the lives of people. If they don’t update, that defeats this purpose. We likely wouldn’t have had much contact, either, in which case, off they go!
Do I have them to avoid awkwardness?
There are times when I add people to avoid awkwardness, like partners of female friends. After a while, if I don’t develop any type of friendship with those partners, I remove them. They’ll have had their “check-in” time to make sure I’m not after their girlfriends or spouse. I also know I’m not doing that so the partner’s “jealousy” becomes his problem, not mine.
Those are the criteria I have so far. I may have more in the future and will add if so. If you have suggestions, please do share.
Other Facebook issue posts on my site:
Which Were the Most Popular and Interesting Cartoons You Saw for the Facebook Campaign Against Child Abuse?
Remove 5 Facebook Friends Challenge
“Study” on Facebook Narcissism and Insecurity not REAL Research
A Few Thoughts on Facebook Friends (and some polls)
How to Cancel or Retract Friend Requests on Facebook… and Why?
The Prejudices and Privacy Perils of Facebook Quizzes
How to Get Rid of Your Facebook Past
25 Things For Facebook You Can’t Steal My ID With
25 Things You Gave on Facebook to Help Get Your ID Stolen
Una Guía de Netiqueta Práctica para Facebook
A Practical Facebook Etiquette (Netiquette) Guide
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.2