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My Mission To Make Facebook Useful Again

February 12, 2012
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I just read Brad Feld’s blog post “Happy Birthday, I’m Unfriending You” in which Feld talks about trimming down his Facebook friend list by looking at the day’s birthday list and unfriending anybody whose name he doesn’t recognize. It reminded me of this awesome Burger King promo.

Feld’s post also reminded me of a question I’ve asked myself several times the past year or so: Is Facebook useful for me anymore? The answer: not really.

To give some background, I first got a Facebook account several years ago when it was opened up to high school students. And while I was probably never the most obsessive FB user, I have racked up a pretty substantial profile (800+ friends, 500+ photos).

In college I relied on Facebook to keep up with various event invitations and campus-sweeping memes. But these days (and maybe it’s because I am no longer in college) I just can’t think of many ways in which Facebook proves useful in my life. Here’s why I think this may be:

First, like Brad Feld, I have a lot of “friends” whom I just don’t care about, and thus the majority of the content on my Facebook is more-or-less meaningless to me.

Second, all of my close friends have at least one (and probably two or three) ways of getting in touch with me besides Facebook. Most would text or email me before they’d Facebook me, so the majority of messages I receive on Facebook tend to be spam.

So in essence, for me Facebook has become a place for receiving updates about things I don’t care about from people I don’t really know — with added benefit of making about 150 embarrassing photos from my college days available to the general public. Great.

But even in writing this post I am realizing I haven’t address a third “in between” group of people I communicate with on Facebook. They are not close friends, but are also not strangers. They are the old friends with whom I’ve fallen out of touch, or a friends-of-a-good-friend who want to reach out but don’t yet have my email. These are the relationships that Facebook actually helps me maintain or establish.

To give an example, I just exchanged messages with Joey, a guy I studied abroad with but have not seen in well over a year. I realized Joey lives in New York, we connected via FB, and next week we’re getting drinks and catching up. Thanks Facebook!

But sadly for every Joey-like reconnection, there are a thousand spammy and unimportant things that happen on my Facebook. And I’m only now realizing this is entirely my fault for letting my list of “friends” get completely diluted with non-friends and randos.

I have tried to unfriend people in the past, but never had much success. I would click on the profile of a “friend” whose name I didn’t recognize and after a little digging realize, “Oh riiight, Sarah. My cousin’s sorority sister who I met at that one party two years ago… Well there’s no way I can unfriend somebody as important as Sarah.”

But no more! I’m taking a stand, starting with Feld’s Happy Birthday strategy. Sure I may get jeered for having a relatively small number of friends, but if it makes Facebook useful again for me it’s worth it. I guess this is one of those cases where quality really is more important than quantity.

I’m happy to say I’m only 365 days away from a better Facebook experience. Now if only I could bring myself to delete all of those embarrassing pictures from college…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Fly Alchemist permalink
    February 12, 2012 10:40 pm

    First unfriending complete. Sorry Ashley K. I will no longer see status updates about how cute your dog is

  2. February 13, 2012 5:03 am

    Haha nice. Agreed – there are a lot of useless things on FB like cute dog status updates. I’ve played with ideas like this before, and have pretty much given up on the idea of only having “true friends” on FB. I’m thinking of it more as a medium for keeping up with and pinging people in my extended social network a’la Never Eat Alone… it’s been useful for me a few times, and I figure those cute dog status updates might just be the price I pay to be able to ping people living on other continents…

    Anyway, cool post :)

    • February 13, 2012 5:23 am

      Thanks Austin. I agree that Facebook may just become my “catch all” social network that takes care of the weak ties and people who I would never follow on twitter or connect with on LinkedIn. Even still, I’m sure I could unfriend 10% of my current FB friends and never miss them. And that’s what I’m doing. Cheers =)

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