Too many "friends" on Facebook, want to move on without defriending.
September 4, 2010 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Facebook Filter: I'm tired of the "digital baggage" of Facebook (friends). Suggestions for modifying or deleting my Facebook/internet use, given my particular likes/dislikes about Facebook?

I have been a habitual Facebook user and relatively active, have a reasonable number of Facebook friends but by no means excessive. I don't friend people I wouldn't have a conversation with IRL.

My primary issue with Facebook, and the reason I'd like to delete/leave:

Can't Start Anew: I am tired of the "digital baggage". I've graduated from college and high school, yet I feel forced to continue the acquaintanceships that Facebook promotes. Facebook does not allow me to continue only the relationships that I'd like--at least, not gracefully. For example, I am extremely good friends with persons X, Y, and Z. These are close friends with whom I'd hope to maintain lifelong contact, and I have--through e-mail and phone, not Facebook. These persons are also extremely good friends with persons A, B, and C---persons I have been friends with in the same social circle as a result of their friendships with X, Y, and Z but would very much prefer to leave behind now that I live far outside their context. If I defriended them, they would surely surely know.

We're Acquaintances, Not Friends: It's not that I want to block, say, a fictional girl named "Jane". Say Jane and I saw each other in the dorms a lot, and we waved and said hi. I no longer see Jane in the dorms, but she's still my FB friend. I have no desire to "defriend" her as (a) she would know and (b) she has done nothing wrong to me, it's just that I never had a friendship with Jane beyond "hi!". Facebook promotes an artificial relationship between me and Jane (we would not maintain contact outside this medium), we still have to cope with each others' digital existence. I'd like my non-essential/don't really have an interest "friends" to be like the pre-Facebook past--I would know they were out there in the world, I'd wish them well, but I wouldn't have to give a passing thought to them, not if I wouldn't reach out to them in a non-Facebook context.

E-mail allows me to choose who I want to maintain contact with, and no one need know that I've been emailing a certain person and not contacting them.

(b) Essentially--I'd like to leave people behind and not think of them again, and Facebook doesn't allow me that luxury.

I seek suggestions and thoughts on modifying my Facebook use to ONLY the people I want to contact (without the people I don't want to contact knowing) OR suggestions on deleting my Facebook profile.

(c) For whatever reason, insomuch as I've thought about it, Facebook's privacy has never really bothered me. I've never particularly advertised things I wouldn't want my aunt/coworkers to read (though I have modifications for different groups to maintain professionalism), and I don't have any questionable photos.

Challenges and What I Like About Facebook

Seeking suggestions on the following:

(1) I have an extensive collection of over 50+ photo albums that mean a lot to me. How to save my Facebook photo albums to a non-Facebook location? (Even if I choose to modify my account and not delete, I think it's time for the photos to leave.)

(2) I'm in a Facebook relationship (and real-life!) with someone. I don't want to ditch him on Facebook.

(3) I also love love aggregating my interests into Facebook--I can read multiple articles from my favorite periodicals, follow my bands and see where they're performing, follow my favorite authors and see when they ahve a book coming out etc., all in one place (without having to check multiple sites every now and then to see what's happening). Maybe Twitter (don't have an account) would be a better way to do this? I'd prefer a non-social media method, though.

Thank you so much for your advice, in advance.
posted by Dukat to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How to Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook. Check it out, see if it's an idea for you.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:06 PM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't have any suggestions for your Facebook photo albums except to tell you that you should be keeping backups of those photographs!! Buy an external hard drive and back up the stuff that's important to you regularly.

Otherwise, it sounds like you could delete your Facebook account without a lot of hassle. Just put up a note on your Wall saying that you'll be deleting your FB account within X days, and anyone who'd like to keep in touch should save your e-mail. Then delete it. If you really want to follow bands and authors using the FB method, create a FB account under a pseudonym and do it that way. (Some of my friends have FB accounts under FirstName MiddleName, which allows them to friend family members and close friends, but escape being friended by people they met in a parking lot six years ago.)

Have you tried keeping up with the websites and blogs of your favorite bands and authors using an RSS aggregator? Google has a free (very basic) one called Google Reader.
posted by shamash at 11:12 PM on September 4, 2010

You can click "hide" on their posts in your activity stream, and then Jane disappears for you without unfriending her. She'll never know that you don't follow her every move, and then you can use the site as you wish.
posted by judith at 12:26 AM on September 5, 2010 [10 favorites]

Do not fret about defriending people and having them find out and hate you forever. If you're defriending people who you really don't have a relationship with, or someone from your now-distant past with whom you don't communicate any longer, they will not immediately realize it. They may never realize it. If they were really interested in maintaining a tie with you, they would actively do it, instead of just passively being "Facebook friends". If they DO realize it and are for some reason upset about it, they need to reevaluate their own definition of friendship.

I've unfriended people (someone I vaguely knew in high school but didn't actually talk to ever, some random dude I met to that one time, etc.) before and never looked back. It's liberating, it feels like you're taking back control of your own Facebook experience, instead of being subjected to a bunch of nonsense from people you don't actually even know. Try it!
posted by illenion at 12:42 AM on September 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

For the passive aggressive, there's also an obscure feature on Facebook's privacy settings that you can use to hide most parts of your profile from acquaintances. Just put all the people you don't like into a group, go to Privacy Settings -> Customize, and for each profile setting click "Custom" and type in the name of the group under "Hide this from".
posted by shii at 1:11 AM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Don't think that because you are Facebook "friends" with these people, that it implies some kind of deep, profound relationship. Honestly, being FB friends with most people (high school/college acquaintances, remote coworkers, etc) is roughly the equivalent of saying "hello" to those same people in the hall in between classes. It weirded me out too when I first got on there two years ago and started getting friend requests from people whose name sounded familiar, but only vaguely. I accepted them all, just because, and actually it has led to the renewal of some real friendships that I never would have regained without FB. That being said, I never, EVER post anything, photos, status updates, comments, that are not 100% sterilized. Meaning, no booze, half-closed eyes, inside jokes. Pretty much anything beyond "The weather is nice today!" is too personal to post to, basically, a billboard.

Getting to your actual question, I'm not really sure what you mean by "contact." You can message people in private, and that's what I would consider "contact." Other than that, just don't put anything personal on your status, or don't ever post at all, and no one will even remember that you are on their friend list. That "articifial relationship" is actually no more artificial than you and Jane waving to each other in the dorms. It's just that you can now wave at each other in perpetuity.

One problem I've had with FB in the past is actual (IRL) friends of mine tagging me in pictures that were taken at bars and such. I actually had to sit someone down and explain to them that posting pictures of me with a beer in my hand was NOT cool, just because of my job and the fact that my students will find that shit and be all like, "Ms Sunstar! You go drinking with Ms. Friend!" They agreed, hadn't really thought of that angle before, end of story.

I guess what I'm trying to say here, in essence, is to treat Facebook as you would a hallway at work or at school. It means literally nothing that you are online "friends" with Susie from class ten years ago - it just means that you are now nodding acquaintances on the Internet rather than outside smoking cigarettes in between classes. You can "hide" people whose updates are obnoxious, and they'll never know, just as you would be in "a hurry" every time you saw that person IRL. You control what people know about you, just as you have the choice not to tell Between-Class Susie that you just broke up with your BF and you might have gotten too drunk last night. It's a virtual hallway.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:15 AM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, illenion has it, I think.

I believe you're probably overthinking or overemphasizing the defriending process. Yeah, it may seem like defriending somebody is going to be like kicking them in the teeth, but in point of actual fact I've found that 99 out of a hundred people simply don't care that they've been defriended on Facebook. I think that's because Facebook is sufficiently trivial in the eyes of most people that they rightly understand that it doesn't mean that much; it certainly isn't a token of actual dislike, not among adults.

If you're still hesitant because you're worried about how people will feel, then you can also just prepare yourself with a stock answer in case anybody asks. In this case, the best one is the truth: you went through and unfriended a whole bunch of people you are perfectly friendly with just because you wanted to simplify and cut back on how much you were using Facebook. It's just a thing where you wanted to cut back; it's not your relationship to them. That's all. And I think that's perfectly reasonable.

(By the way, a friend of mine recently made the mistake of announcing a few days ahead of time that she'd be defriending a bunch of people for the same reason you are - because she needed to cut back a bit. That was fair, but it just lead to this long, annoying thread of people saying 'keep me! keep me!' In the end, I didn't say anything, and she ended up defriending me, too; which doesn't bother me much, since I haven't actually seen or spoken with her in at least a decade, anyway. But actually saying it made it a big deal, and a conversation, and an annoying thing, I'm sure, for her to face and deal with if anybody she'd been planning on dropping started begging or making a federal case out of it. Whereas I have a feeling very few of us would even have noticed if she'd unfriended us without saying anything.)

So, yeah: go ahead and do it. Your reasons are perfectly valid. If you have to explain them to people, then I think you can, but I have a feeling people will be more understanding than you expect them to be.

One last thing: the photo albums that you like. I've never used it myself, but I've heard the Facebook Export Photos app works great for this.
posted by koeselitz at 1:24 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be ruthless. I have set myself a maximum amount of FB friends and, as I have reached that number, in order to add someone I have to delete someone else first.

While you think you will hurt someone's feelings for deleting them as a friend, trust me, you won't. If you have not real need for them on there as you never see them or speak to them, then the chances are they have no real need to have you on their either.
posted by SecretsKill at 1:32 AM on September 5, 2010

Just defriend people facebook is a tool. A useful one. Cull the people that don't matter and it can be very useful. I assure you-- you are not so important that if you defriend some distant acquaintance from days of yore that they will care. Use it for what it is and deflate your self importance
posted by wooh at 2:05 AM on September 5, 2010

I hid all the "friends" I don't really know well or don't want to keep up with, drastically restricted everyone from my info except the small group who are actually in my real life social circle, locked down my privacy settings, and changed my name to Firstname Middlename. And I'm not afraid to defriend, although people do find out (especially if fb later suggests you should be friends!)
posted by yarly at 5:05 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can make a default filtered setting for your posts and pics etc. and hide people's status. As for photo albums, there's a Firefox add-on that will gank entire albums off simply. Can't remember its name offhand, will look later or you can.
posted by ifjuly at 7:01 AM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: You're seriously overthinking this. What's the worst thing that can happen if you defriend somebody? They will probably not even notice, especially if they are Facebook friends with people they aren't particularly close to. If they do notice, they will probably not bother to contact you, as that would require finding an alternate method (email, phone). If they do contact you, you are not under any obligation to make excuses. "I need to keep my contact list to a manageable size and I wish you well," is more than adequate. If you're nervous, just pick a small handful of people to trim from your list and see how it goes. I think you'll be surprised and relieved by how non-dramatic it will be, honest.

As for news aggregation, you probably want to look at proper RSS readers. If you have a Google account, Google Reader is easy to use and doesn't require any software installation.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:17 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with trunk muffins -- you are overthinking this dramatically. Defriend the people you aren't interested in really keeping in touch with, and be done with it. If it just some random acquaintance they are a) unlikely to ever notice that you defriended them, and b) if they did somehow notice, not care in the slightest.
posted by modernnomad at 7:58 AM on September 5, 2010

Response by poster: Re: defriending. What I was trying to say was perhaps more in references to the close friends I have had, but have had falling outs with over the years/am tired of their drama and wish to end our post-college relationship. They would know if I defriended them, and they are very interested in stirring up drama (which is why I'd like to end it with them in the first place!). I suppose I could defriend them and not look back. Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by Dukat at 8:30 AM on September 5, 2010

Before I quit Facebook entirely (due mostly to their hatred of privacy and user data) I went through a phase where I hid updates from all but about two people.

Quite nice to check Facebook and only find 1-2 updates waiting for me. And no one knows when you've hidden them.
posted by ErikaB at 10:16 AM on September 5, 2010

Limited Profile! I have a semi-elaborate web of group privacy profiles that allow close friends to see everything and non-close non-friends to see very little. If you don't want to defriend someone, just put them on lockdown where they see virtually nothing about you.
posted by emkelley at 3:31 PM on September 5, 2010

Best answer: Let me put my vote in for deleting your profile.

I was just like you. I had a Facebook for years, collecting friends and occasionally deleting them. I let people add me, knowing they would never talk to me. I saw annoying advertisements for things that I knew they were somehow finding from my emails. I saw relationship updates, unflattering pictures, and learned day-to-day activities of my friends which I never wanted to know about. It kept prodding me to become friends with my sister and my mom. It sucked the life out of my day because, whether I rationally wanted to or not, I kept coming back to the old ball & chain.

People, I think, figure that when you're a Facebook friend, they don't need to talk to you as much because you're "always there". I did that too, actually. I didn't feel as much of a need to meet with my friends because, well, they wouldn't forget about me; they see my status updates! They know all about me; we don't need to catch up!

I deleted it because I knew that I couldn't go on thinking of my friends as a collection that I had to "keep up with" (if they're vibrant enough that I really want them in my life, they'll inevitably be there without the aid of Facebook). I also realized that I'd moved 1,000 miles away from my old friends and didn't need to "keep up" with them, no matter how many times we chatted back when I lived near them. So, I let the few people that I actually talked to online that I was quitting (they were shocked, appalled, and told me I'd be back), gave them my email address and phone number, and deleted my Facebook.

This was about two months ago. I've never been freer. And guess what? My real friends still talk to me. You think you need Facebook, but you really, really don't.

I hope other people have more practical suggestions—this is just my life story.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 4:23 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let me put in a vote for keeping your Facebook account. Facebook's a tool that's exactly as useful as you want it to be. Have friends you don't want to cause drama with but don't want to hear updates from? Hide them from your news feed. "Friends" you haven't spoken to in 10 years? Go ahead and delete them, and don't think twice about it.

I recently purged a bunch of people from my friends list, and it was great. Most of them were people I barely spoke to in high school a decade ago. But one of them was someone in my current circle of friends who I deleted on a whim, mostly due to news feed pollution (I know I just could have hidden him, but I never really liked him anyways and I was feeling vindictive). It's been over six months and if he's noticed, he hasn't mentioned it to me or any of our mutual friends.

Also, I've had people delete me who I thought I was still pretty decent friends with. I've never responded by anything more than mentioning it in passing to a mutual friend or two. If I ever saw them again I certainly wouldn't think any less of them – I just try to remember that despite all Zuckerberg's efforts, Facebook doesn't actually define your friendships.
posted by auto-correct at 11:55 PM on September 5, 2010

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