Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts

Why And How I Deleted Half My Facebook Friends



It's been two weeks since I cut my number of Facebook friends in half.

In November I decided to take a social media break (I wrote a little about why here), but through the entire year of 2019, I've been slowly starting to question the role that social media has been playing in my life.  I knew I was on social media way too much, using it as a distraction from the boring moments in my day.  The last straw was when I started to find myself holding my phone, scrolling through Instagram, without consciously making the decision to pick it up.

So right before Thanksgiving I got off Facebook and Instagram, which I've never done before.  During my break, I read several really helpful books, and took a good hard look at Facebook and Instagram to figure out what role I really wanted them to be playing in my life.  Maybe I'll discuss Instagram another day.  I'm still figuring that one out, since like it or not, Instagram is kind of the place for bloggers to be.  But today I thought I'd share one thing I figured out about Facebook over my social media break, and it's this:

Facebook keeps people from fading from your life.




If you had mentioned this to me a few years ago, I would have viewed that as a good thing.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I have started to consider that maybe some people are meant to fade from your life, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

There are people who aren't really friends, just acquaintances that passed through your life for a time. There are friends that you used to have alot in common with, but over the years you've drifted apart.  There are people that you were hoping to develop a friendship with, but years have passed and nothing has ever come of it.

I've always had a hard time letting people go, and I do still think there is value in being a tenacious friend, in making the effort to keep in touch with people who mean something to you.  But it's a tricky thing to balance when social media now gives you the ability to superficially keep in touch with your cousin's-husband's-sister who you met once five years ago.  Or that one person you hung out with at camp, but really don't know at all.  Or someone you used to work with, but who you haven't seen in five years.

Fifty years ago, you would have gradually lost touch with these people, no harm, no foul.  I used to think that was sad, but now I wonder whether it was a blessing in disguise.  These days, the social norm is for these relationships to linger indefinitely on Facebook, because no one wants to hurt the other's feelings by "unfriending" them.  If you dare to unfriend someone, you have to be prepared for the possibility of a conversation when you eventually run into them...or drama behind your back.

It must have been simpler back in the day when people were just allowed to drift apart.



One day I woke up and realized that a majority of my friends list on Facebook were these kinds of relationships.  People I don't really know anymore, or never really knew at all, had all this information about everything that was going on in my life, and I had information about what was going on in their life too.  But without ever putting in the effort to be an actual real-life friend to each other.

Not everyone should have unlimited access to your life.

And some people are meant to be in your life only for a season.

As I contemplate all of this, I also fully resonated with this article about how we make unfriending too much of a "thing".  I actually think we have made Facebook interactions in general too much of a "thing". The article mentions that we have started "validating our real life friendships by our online friendships", as if we aren't really friends with someone unless we are also Facebook friends with them.  I especially liked the question the author asks:

"When we feel like we need to add someone as a friend or maintain their access on Facebook in order to substantiate our interactions in reality, haven’t we reversed the natural process?"

And yes, I think we have.  




Personally, Facebook's most valuable functions in my life have always been as a convenient platform to share multiple photos with my grandparents and aunts and uncles (and other people who care about my children and don't get to see them often), and as a tool to facilitate real-world, face-to-face interactions with people.  

So during my Facebook break, I really started thinking about how to make sure that Facebook was serving those specific functions in my life, and drawing the line there.  To a certain extent, I had allowed social media to fill other functions in my life without my conscious permission.  I don't want Facebook to be a boredom buster, a friendship barometer, a self esteem-booster (or conversely, destroyer), a platform for all my thoughts (that's what this blog is for), a tool for life-comparison, an acquaintance-spying tool, or a cheap substitute for meaningful friendships (more on this coming in another post I think).  

I want Facebook to be just what I said - a photo-sharing tool between close friends and family, and a facilitator for setting up my face-to-face interactions.  That's all.

In order to fit Facebook into the box I had decided on, I realized that I was going to have to unfriend some people.  That's a hard decision to make, because for a lot of people, unfriending is taken as a personal insult.  I was afraid that some people, people I still like and wish the very best for, would take it that way.  I know some people probably did take it that way, but I posted this before I started purging, in an effort to explain:


"Hi Guys! I wanted to let you all know that in the next few days I'll be whittling down my friends list. Since taking my Facebook break, I've realized that some people struggle with social media more than others, and I am one of those people. I knew when I came back to Facebook I was going to have to make some changes, and this is one of them.If I disappear from your friend list in the next couple days, I hope with all my heart that you will know that it is nothing against you at all! This is more about my own personal social media mental health (how's that for a made-up term?), in an effort to maintain a proper balance in my digital life. If you ever want to connect or get together with me, I would absolutely welcome interaction outside of Facebook, through a text, phone call, email, snail mail, etc!  I'm thankful for all of you, and what you've added to my life over the years! I hope we can connect in the future outside a screen.  <3"


And then I took the advice and encouragement from someone who has done this before, and I cut over half of my friend's list.



Time will tell if there will be unforeseen negative repercussions, but so far I've received mostly positive responses.  I'll continue to refine my friend's list until I've achieved the balance that I'm looking for, but for now, I feel lighter.  I'm satisfied that Facebook is now more functional as a tool that serves me, instead of the other way around.  And I'm spending much less time on it.

The hardest part for me in purging my friends list was deciding who to keep and who to let go. As I tried to make some hard decisions, I was heartened by this quote from Digital Minimalism:

"It's worth noting that refusing to use social media...to interact means that some people will inevitably fall out of your social orbit - in particular, those whose relationship with you exists only over social media.  Here's my tough love reassurance - let them go. The idea that it's valuable to maintain vast numbers of weak-tie social connections is largely an invention of the past decade or so...Humans have maintained rich and fulfilling social lives for our entire history without needing the ability to send a few bits of information each month to people we knew briefly during high school."
-Digital Minimalism, pg 155

Let them go.

So I held my breath and took the plunge.  I kept some people that I am hopeful will turn into real-world friends, but I may have to do another purge in the future if nothing comes of those relationships.  I let go of some people that I genuinely like and wouldn't mind being friends with - but I've been Facebook friends with them for years, and we never see each other anymore.

I hope those people will understand that even though we are no longer Facebook friends, that doesn't mean that I don't want real-life interaction with them.  I am hoping that anyone who really would  have liked to keep in touch with me will reach out to set something up, or send a note, outside of social media.

And for the ones that don't - well, I guess we were meant to fade from each other's lives after all.






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