Have I pruned my facebook friend list too much?
July 10, 2011 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I've pruned my facebook friends list quite a bit. Am I going overboard or should I "refriend" some back?

At this point, I mainly keep facebook active so that I can be somewhere accessable. I've defriended a sizable portion of my facebook friends as of late. The reasons include:

-General inactivity with said friend, unlikely to speak with/see on a regular basis again.
-Using feed to post things on religion/politics that I am uncomfortable with (I am fairly liberal)
-Bragging on much of their status updates
-(for some high school friends) Wasn't friends with all that closely IRL, or they were enablers/thought of me only as one-dimensional roles I long grew out of.
-People with "inflated" friend counts (kinda a tiebreaker if they have been inactive with me)

And probably others. Plus I have been into minimizing my belongings more than ever. I'm also at the point where I don't do status updates of my own.

I'd like to keep facebook and make it into a small, positive aspect of my life. And I'm in the quarterlife stage where I am having struggles with my social life (let's not focus on that, it's just a point). Should I just add/readd anyone who I like and am on decent terms with, even if the odds of reconnecting on a regular/IRL basis are slim (and do more news feed hiding)? Maybe there's a networking possibility or such out there. I almost wish I had a "fan page" and "personal page".

And if I do refriend, I'm tempted to do the "add a personal message" so that I'm not blindly readded just to build someone's count. Probably other layers to peel, but let's focus on the site.
posted by lankford to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing says "I unfriended you!" like, uh, sending another invitation. I never notice someone defriending me unless they pull this. I'd just leave it. You unfriended these people for a reason, no? Do you have any real reason to connect with them?
posted by kpht at 6:40 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

For future reference, Rather than unfriend the individual, I just hide their feed. I also think very carefully about whether to friend them in the first place (or accept their friend request). This has helped to really manage my friends and who's updates I get.

For those who you have unfriended, just leave them. You pruned for a reason. They probably won't figure out who unfriended them, but like kpht said, they will absolutely know if you re-friend them.
posted by Leezie at 6:55 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is one of the advantages to Google+. It's an excuse to reevaluate your facebook friends list on a brand new social network without hurting anybody's feelings.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:55 PM on July 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

No. Most people have grossly inflated facebook lists from the get-go. One relative of mine has three hundred-odd "friends" and doesn't really remember half of them.

Small is beautiful. If they can't be bothered to click on the occasional "like" button or if they still relate to you as if you were seventeen years old, fuck 'em. Move on and fill the list with people who actually do mean something to you in the year 2011.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:59 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I will, more or less, add anyone who I've interacted with in some capacity (if it's not in real life, we've exchanged coherent e-mails and know who the other person is). But I only have about 100+ friends. A few people I've hidden -- mostly high school friends and such that I don't really interact with anyway (and those people -- I like them but we don't need to have too much of an exchange).

So really, chances are, these people you unfriended probably haven't even noticed. Unless they're weird and obsessive about that. And in that case, I'd rethink being their friend anyway.

I'm a big fan of social networks being exactly what you want them to be. If someone wants to be a "friend" to everyone they've ever met in their entire life, that's good for them. If someone wants it to just be people they like or are interested in on a regular basis, that's cool too. You sound like you want to be the latter, so more power to you there.
posted by darksong at 7:08 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

At one point I had 500 or 600 Facebook "friends", and I pruned the list down to about 200. The people I pruned off were work contacts (I was a business development manager for a large geographic area) and "friends" from high school. The remaining folks are close friends from my university days (I'm 40 years old), close friends from other parts of the world (I used to live in Japan), and Japanese translators, many of whom I have never met in real life.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:36 PM on July 10, 2011

I know someone who got a little too prune-happy with his facebook friends list and wound up facing some minor embarrassment because of it. He unfriended all of his fiancee's friends (for a couple of the same reasons you've cited, i.e. not being an "active" enough friend, and having too many friends), failing to consider the fact that he would continue to see all of these people on a regular basis for quite some time, assuming he marries my friend.

At a get-together a the topic of a friend's vacation photos came up. My friend's fiance wanted to see them and was told the photos were up on facebook. The fiance searched for them for several minutes before realizing, red-faced, that he had unfriended pretty much everyone in the room. Though no one took facebook seriously enough to be offended by the unfriending, it was unnecessarily antagonistic and felt a bit snobby. Some folks were already not too keen on the fiance, and his unfriending faux pas definitely didn't help to endear him to anyone.

I'm not saying this is the case with you, just be careful to consider whether the unfriending will be rather obvious to the person, and whether you care what that person will think if/when they realize they've been unfriended. If the person is at all on friendly terms with you, even just as an acquaintance, realize that the unfriending may be interpreted as an expression of your dislike of them and result in alienation. Unfriend enough people and you may find your social circle shrinking rapidly.

And yeah, I wouldn't try to re-friend anyone for the reasons already cited above. If you're going to unfriend people in the future, don't count on being able to refriend them.
posted by keep it under cover at 7:55 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a few people I have absolutely no desire to interact with again, but it would be awkward to flat-out drop them because we grew up together or whatever. I not only hide them from my feed, I hide my updates from them by default.

They're effectively gone, and if they give it any thought at all, they probably just think I never update or keep my updates very private. (The thing is is supposedly so revolutionary about Google+ absolutely exists on Facebook. It's trivially easy to control who does and doesn't see your updates.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:04 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I trimmed my Facebook friend list about 3 months ago. Best decision I made ever! When going through the list I based my criteria on a few different things, one was if I even spoke to them in the last year (I had recently graduated college and felt if they didn't care to keep in touch, de-friend them. Second criteria was chances that I would actually see the person IRL again. And last was who did I want to know about me and be in contact with still and who I didn't.

I also read somewhere that the human brain can only handle about 150 names or people at a time (don't quote me here). Therefore, I made my friend list limited to 150 or less.

Over the past few months I've noticed that now my Facebook page is more personal and exclusive. I'm a pretty private person so this fit me well.

One thing I did see was anyone who I defended and noticed asked to be friends with me again. For one of these it was really an "Oops..probably shouldn't have done that". At the same time I think this person realized that obviously I de-friended them and they maybe should make more an effort to keep in touch with me. So I guess you can look at it as a positive "friend" reinforcement as well.

Chances are, as other people also said before, they won't notice. If they do, they'll make the action to be back in touch.
posted by melizabeth at 8:17 PM on July 10, 2011

You're "in the quarterlife stage?" So, 25ish?

I'm 40ish and I'm telling you that 25ish might be too early to say you're "unlikely to speak with/see on a regular basis again" or otherwise make lifetime social decisions based on high school. Have you even had a high school reunion yet? You're making the dumb mistake of saying you've changed, while assuming they're the exact same people they were then.

You know what Facebook is? It's a dumb gadget that lets you keep loose track of people you don't see enough, so that you don't have to ask them for their life story every time you see them. Don't be "that guy" who makes overthinks it by acting like everybody has to be your best friend in the world before you care to be reminded they exist. Nobody likes "that guy."
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 8:47 PM on July 10, 2011 [18 favorites]

I pruned someone once who I thought wouldn't notice (we barely knew each other and she'd moved out of the area shortly after we met). She noticed and refriended me and commented about how I'd defriended her.

I also noticed someone pruned me once.
"You went to [rival high school]? I dated a guy from there during high school."
"Really, who? Hmm, sounds familiar, what does he look like?"
"Here, let me show you his FB picture... Oh, I seem to have been defriended.........." (Ouch. For the record, I did not refriend.)

So, expect someone to notice. Only defriend if you don't care if they notice and if you're willing to say "I don't really know you at all and now you live far away". Or whatever is true for you. In my case, I keep as many people as possible and do a lot of news feed hiding and group filtering.

If you just pruned, this is your only chance to readd, because you can lie and say that you clicked the wrong button or otherwise didn't actually intend to defriend them. If it's been more than a day or two, though, you're out of luck.
posted by anaelith at 8:57 PM on July 10, 2011

I don't understand why you would have unfriended these people in the first place — unless they're writing things you don't like on your wall. If you don't like what they write on their wall, you can just hide them from your feed. This has the advantage of being painlessly reversible, since they have no way of knowing they were ever hidden. In contrast, you can't painlessly re-friend someone. Sending a friend request to someone who used to be on your friends list is like screaming at them: "I unfriended you! But congratulations: now I've decided you just barely make the cut after all!" If I were you, I would (a) not re-friend people, and (b) stop unfriending people.

And if I do refriend, I'm tempted to do the "add a personal message" so that I'm not blindly readded just to build someone's count.

I don't understand what this is supposed to mean.
posted by John Cohen at 9:22 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

The rule for this in my circle of friends is: would you smile and/or wave at them if you saw them on the street? If not, defriend them. God knows I've met people at parties, added them, and never seen or spoken to them again, and a few years down the line, sure, I'm gonna defriend them. But I keep old high school friends and such on there just because- well, hell, I cared about them once, at least a little, and even if I never speak to them again, it's kinda cool to know what they're up to. Like flipping through an old yearbook, but with a "where are they now" feature.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:18 PM on July 10, 2011

Personally I think you're overthinking this. I say this from experience where I overthought it. I had a long flowchart of ridiculous rules that I stuck to like glue. It ruined my enjoyment of FB so I was thinking more about who and why I should friend/defriend that using it as a social tool.

You never know who might turn out to be to your benefit. If you are job hunting (among countless other situations) these people can help you out in ways you never thought. Keeping your friends list to people who you see every regularly and have everything in common (points of view, politics, etc) is pointless, really. And defriending someone because they have different political or religious beliefs is pretty offensive.

Here are my rules now, they work great for me:
- Defriend for cause (They post annoying/offensive/innane comments)
- Otherwise just hide the people I don't want to interact with.

There really isn't any way to refriend without awkwardness and some hurt feelings. At best you come out sounding like a freak.
posted by Ookseer at 10:39 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do whatever you like, you don't need to justify how you use your FB friends any more than you have to justify how you use your Mefite favorites.

For what it's worth, I've had people trim their friend lists down for personal reasons and subsequently re-add me, and I've never judged anyone for it.

Usually the re-adding was with a note saying something like "chopped down my friends list, but went a little overboard, ready to re-add people again, sorry for the inconvenience, cheers."
posted by desuetude at 10:43 PM on July 10, 2011

I once moved a lot of work-related professional people off of my facebook BUT I made a point of contacting them via LinkedIn and adding them there with a note about how I was trying to separate my personal Facebook from my professional LinkedIn. They pretty much all added me on LinkedIn and I no longer had to see work stuff on Facebook, so it worked great. For my purposes.
posted by egret at 12:48 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I only have about forty friends. Because the only people I add on facebook are actually, well, friends. People whose lives I do want to know about, and who I would email or talk to anyway. Plus a few very old friends whose lives are interesting to spy on. And yes, I de-friend people who I realise I never talk to any more and have no desire to. So I'd only refriend someone you actually realise you want to, not for some other vague reason of guilt or proprietry.

But then I'm biased and generally dislike facebook and this whole "but you must add me as a friend or I'll be offended!" thing. I'm only on it for the party invites and photo control.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:49 AM on July 11, 2011

It's not really much effort to have someone as a Facebook friend. Many are more like acquaintances, or people that you have some connection to in your life, or did have in the past.

You don't have to do anything extra if you have more Facebook friends. There's no effort to "manage" them. There's no pride in having a small list of friends. So refusing to add people to your Facebook, or actively removing them because they don't post enough, seems slightly agressive.

It's kind of like saying, even though we have met, I don't want to have any connection to you; and I don't want any connection to grow between us, even by accident.

That can come off a bit hurtful. So I would save de-friending for people who you actively dislike.
posted by dave99 at 4:40 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Things like Facebook are for maintaining loose connections with people even though you may never see them again. I think most of us don't really need a software container for our close friends that we see often in real life - for the same reason we don't text people who are sitting right next to us.

Having said that, if you're approaching cognitive bankruptcy, then there's no reason not to defriend them, other than that it can be taken as a hostile act considering you could've just hidden them.

Plus which, if you refriend them, you'll draw attention to yourself. But you can get round that by saying "I unfriended a bunch of people by mistake, sorry." Say you were testing an automated script and it went horribly wrong, or something.
posted by tel3path at 8:19 AM on July 11, 2011

People with "inflated" friend counts...
And if I do refriend, I'm tempted to do the "add a personal message" so that I'm not blindly readded just to build someone's count.

Don't assume that just because someone has a lot of Facebook friends, that they have some kind of status/ego thing going on where they're trying to collect as many friends as possible just to show that they can.

I have 500+ Facebook friends. Anyone I talk to in a social setting for more than about five minutes I'll add as a friend, if I can find them on FB. This isn't because I'm trying to see how may friends I can collect. It's because I'm likely to see them at a similar event where I first met them, a year or two later. And so, before I return to such an event, I can use FB to refresh my memory of who I met the last time I was there, and (to some extent) overcome my naturally poor recall of names and faces.

Essentially, I'm using Facebook as a facebook.

To address your actual question: For the not-really-IRL-friends, feel free to defriend them and don't beanplate it. As my explanation suggests, I have many people who are barely acquaintances among my Facebook friends. It doesn't bother me if they defriend me for whatever reason. Every once in a while I notice my friend count has dropped by one. I don't even care enough about it to try to figure out who has defriended me. If you think your non-IRL-friends even care if you defriend them, you are vastly overestimating your own importance to them.

For legitimate, RL friends that you want to stay connected to, but find they're always posting annoying things (religion/politics/"bragging"/just post too damn often) I'd go with hiding them from your news feed. I do this to some of my FB friends (both real friends and acquaintances). They receive no indication that you've hidden them.

If you've already defriended some RL friends and have changed your mind, I'd refriend them, but don't include a personal message. If they ask (they probably won't) you can say you were going through a defriending spree and clicked their name by mistake. And if it's someone you legitimately want to be FB friends with (regardless of your reason for wanting that), why would you care whether they are adding you just to boost their friend count?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2011

Seconding DevilsAdvocate. People with several hundred "friends" obviously aren't OMG BFFS!!! with all of them, but that doesn't automatically mean these people are egotistical phoneys. The vast majority of facebook users don't take the term "friending" literally, so it follows that most facebook users understand that friend counts don't mean anything. So, drawing negative inferences about a person's character or integrity for having too many facebook friends, and unfriending people in that spirit, can come across as kind of petty... like you're taking other people's friend counts way too personally/seriously, or worse, like you're passive-aggressively trying to police how others use social networking.

And if I do refriend, I'm tempted to do the "add a personal message" so that I'm not blindly readded just to build someone's count.

I already suggested that you don't bother refriending anyone, but if you do, I don't understand how adding a personal message with your friend request is going to save you from this fear of being used as friend-count fodder. What are you going to do, unfriend them again if they re-add you but fail to respond to the personal message?
posted by keep it under cover at 12:14 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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