Reflecting on 1000 Friends

I recently hit a social media milestone – 1000 facebook friends (I think my current count is up to 1002). Once when someone asked me where I got my Facebook t-shirt, I told them that Zuck sends it to you when hit 1000. But now that I’m there, it seems much less rewarding.

In fact, it seems like the perfect way to show the futility of social networking. Do I really have 1000 “friends”? Certainly not all of the people I am connected with on Facebook are friends. Some are co-workers, some are (current and former) clients, while others are people I knew briefly back in high school (at least one is a girl I went to kindergarten with and then never saw again) and haven’t spoken to since.

I’ve found myself hiding more people from my newsfeed lately too. Once their hidden from the newsfeed, what’s the point of being “friends?” Is it because I don’t want to appear rude by de-friending them? Am I naïve enough to believe the illusion that I have a relationship with someone I haven’t communicated with non-digitally in 12 years and who I am SO uninterested in that I don’t even want their updates in my newsfeed?

Recently I spoke with a friend about this. I had tried to tag him in a post or a picture or something the other day and couldn’t find him. So I  IM’d him and asked if he had deleted his Facebook account. He had, in fact, dactivated it. He claimed it was a waste of his time, taking away his attention from his real friends and relationships and (in his words) only good for “promoting your business and perving on girls.” He decided he just didn’t need it anymore.

And while I don’t see myself going that way, it is rumored that many others in the US are (although this is hotly disputed by Facebook).  So maybe I need to do a little pruning on my friendship tree, dial things back to a more manageable level. Maybe Dave Morin and the folks at Path are right – you really only need 50 friends to share with.

Or is it the opposite? In a (digital) world where the is no scarcity, where list management is easy, is there any reason to worry about having too many friends? It’s not like I’m filling up some finite space with unused friends. Is it okay to accept someone’s friend request, only to relegate them to a limited profile and then hide them from your newsfeed? If that’s going to be the extent of the “relationship” is it even worth responding to their request?

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, facebooker, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

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