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Lessons Learned From a Week With No Facebook Friends

Zero Friends

Late last Wednesday night I unfriended everyone on my Facebook account to see what life on the Social Network would be like without being social. I’ve used Facebook exclusively through interactions with Pages for a full week now, and it’s cut out all the things I didn’t like about Facebook, but it turns out that it’s cut out a few of the things I did like about Facebook as well. Let’s look at some of the drawbacks.

Communication

Facebook is one of the most efficient means of communication ever created. You can easily broadcast information to a large network, but you can also connect with individuals with minimal effort or engagement. It’s arguably too easy to share information over Facebook, and that’s largely what I didn’t like about having Facebook friends. I just didn’t care about most of the information I was receiving.

In my follow-up article over the weekend about whether or not having zero Facebook friends means I have zero friends in life, I admitted that I like that it’s a little harder for people to contact me. Someone posting about what they had for lunch on their wall may reach hundreds of their friends, but it doesn’t reach me. If you want to tell me what you had for lunch, you have to go out of your way to tell me personally. I like that.

What I don’t particularly like is that it works both ways. It’s harder for people to contact me, but it’s also harder for me to contact them. When it comes to my close friends and family, I’m fine with that. When I need to share a piece of information with as many people as possible, that’s a problem.

I have a comedy show tonight, and my usual means of marketing it is to post on Facebook a few times, and invite the friends I think would like to come to the show. Now that I have zero friends I can’t invite anyone, and because of how Facebook throttles Page traffic, only a fraction of people who like my comedy page will see an update about it.

The bright side of this though, is that this week none of my comedy friends have been able to invite me to their shows through Facebook, and they’ve actually had to come up to me in person.

Besides self promotion, Facebook is good when you have something useful to tell a lot of people at once. This weekend I had two tickets to a concert I was trying to give away on short notice. When I had hundreds of Facebook friends, if I posted about having two free concert tickets I probably would have gotten a response from someone and some of my friends could have gone. Instead, the tickets went unused.

There might be some benefits to having Facebook friends after all, but I’m still not convinced I should I have 369 of them.

Explaining Why I’m Not Friends With People

In the last week I’ve had at least a dozen conversations with people about why I’m not Facebook friends with them anymore, or why they shouldn’t bother sending me a friend request. This has been exhausting because I don’t like repeating myself. A variant of this is that people assume that I’ve seen something they posted to Facebook.

Not having Facebook friends now is like not having a cell phone five or so years ago, or not having any phone in the 90′s. (I’m assuming everyone has cell phones by now, especially someone who reads Geekosystem.) Not everyone uses Facebook, but enough people do that it’s safe to assume you can send someone a message on it.

Being in the group that’s more or less inaccessible through Facebook might require more explaining in real life than it’s worth.

Everyone Missed My Birthday

I turned 30 recently, and I got zero messages about it on Facebook. Of course, that was my own doing. This actually happened before I unfriended everyone, but last year I got annoyed with all the birthday wishes from people who only knew it was my birthday because Facebook told them so that I took my birthday off my profile. Obviously, having zero Facebook friends would also result in zero birthday greetings from people you went to elementary school with or met at a party once, so I’m including it here.

Personally, I didn’t mind the lack of Facebook birthday greeting, but I know other people really like them so I’m including it as a drawback recognizing that I’m most likely in the minority here.

What was bittersweet is that my birthday was on the same day as a family funeral, so I did get to see most of my family and a lot of my friends in person. (Side note: Giving a eulogy is a weird thing to do on your 30th birthday.)

Boredom

When Facebook launched Home, Mark Zuckerberg said that people spend 23% of the time on their smartphone using the Facebook app. I don’t think I spent quite that much time on it, but I did check it regularly. When I unfriended everyone, I also deleted the Facebook app from my phone. That meant I had one less thing to check when looking at my phone.

That has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, I waste less time on my phone. That also meant when I have nothing else to do but waste time on my phone I have one less avenue with which to waste it. I realize that I can still use the Facebook app to check the Pages I like, but there aren’t that many of them where I need to constantly be checking them for updates.

Conclusion

I was right that unfriending everyone would solve all my issues with Facebook. This week has been delightfully void of game requests, invites to things I won’t go to, and vapid updates from people I barely know. I knew at the time there would be some drawbacks, but I might have underestimated them.

Before I unfriended them all, I had 369 Facebook friends. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I wasn’t really friends with all of them. One of my real life friends told me that after a week I’d add everyone again, which I told him them was absolutely not going to be the case. Even if I decide to go back to having friends on Facebook, I won’t be refriending everyone.

When I first signed up for Facebook I had a self-imposed limit of 100 friends. I can’t maintain 100 real-world friends, I thought, so why would I try to maintain more than that online? 100 is an arbitrary number, but what I’ve decided to do is to keep a much tighter list of Facebook friends.

On my last article about my Facebook experiment, a reader calling themselves “togo” commented:

i like to think my facebook has to be like a house. who would i actually enjoy being close with?

I think that’s a good way to look at it, but I’m considerably less social than most people. While I would probably let most of my 369 Facebook friends into my house, I might just add back those that I’d let into my bedroom or home office. I haven’t really come up with an exact criteria, but I’m ultimately going to be a lot more selective of my Facebook friends.

It might be a little more difficult to explain to casual acquaintances or distant relatives why I don’t want to be their Facebook friends, but I think it might be worth it to have Facebook friends again without (hopefully) having to deal with a bunch of meaningless information streaming my way.

I’m not exactly sure who I’ll be adding as a friend again, but I should probably start with my wife so she can at least list me as her spouse again.

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