Facebook: my worst friend, my best enemy
July 3, 2012 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I’m not on Facebook because, frankly, I didn’t have very many friends on the site and it was embarrassing. So I deleted the account. But now I’m reconsidering…

So, I’m not on Facebook, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m missing anything. I know that people use it as a tool for sharing invites, plans, pictures, etc. Friends and family members sometimes refer to things that were posted on Facebook, and I obviously have no idea what they’re talking about.

But here’s the thing: I used to be on Facebook, and it made me feel like I was back in middle school. This is not because my “friends” were beating me up or anything, but because I had about half as many “friends” as all of my other “friends”--we're talking double digits. The majority of my “friends” were coworkers (I have a large workplace), and even though I was an aggressive “friender” of people I’d recently met, it was still obvious I don’t have a wide social circle.

Why should this matter? Well, I have problems with people IRL, in that I’m awkward and standoffish, just by my very nature. That is not going to change. As a result, I frequently feel out of place in many different social settings. I am embarrassed by my lack of social finesse, but like to let people think that, hey, even if I don’t fit in with this particular crowd, I have a thriving social scene going on elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t. And Facebook sorta laid that out for all my “friends” to see. (OK, I’ll stop with the “friends” in quotation marks.)

When I initially deleted my Facebook account, I felt relief that I no longer had to worry about how many friends I had, who was writing on my wall or vice versa, etc., on a daily basis. But in the year or so since then, I’ve repeatedly been asked why I’m not on Facebook. My spouse’s family, in particular, mentions it on a regular basis. I always mutter something about privacy and corporations, but I’m starting to wonder if being absent from Facebook is even more conspicuous than being on it and having about a third as many friends as most other people.

I also worry if I’m not missing out on social opportunities with friends IRL. I do have some friends in my town but we’ve drifted apart, and I am puzzled about how to reconnect without feeling like a stalker. I wonder if this would be facilitated by rejoining Facebook.

OK, I know there are many, many bigger problems to have, and yes, I’ve been through many rounds of therapy and yes, I realize I’m blowing Facebook out of proportion, but it’s gotten to where I mull on it a few times a week. When I was on Facebook I had honest-to-god nightmares about the stupid website, and I’m thinking it might be best just to leave it lie. But what do you think, Metafilter?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've never once noticed the amount of friends any of my friends has.
posted by changeling at 1:57 PM on July 3, 2012 [29 favorites]

Seconded, I don't notice people's number of friends. Also, some people are selective and keep their number of friends to a smaller, more manageable number. That's what I would assume if for some reason I noticed how many friends someone had. It does sound like you're missing out in your immediate circle. I say give Facebook another shot and if it is still a source of extreme anxiety, simply disable your account again.
posted by katemcd at 2:03 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Change your privacy settings so that no one can see your friends list. No one knows how many friends you have or who they are.

But also, I don't think anyone really pays any attention to how many friends someone has. Or cares. I don't. I just want to know which people from my high school are pregnant.
posted by phunniemee at 2:04 PM on July 3, 2012 [22 favorites]

Yeah, I don't know that I've ever noticed. I am a moderate and non-demonstrative FB user, and it is largely for keeping up with basic goings-on and events, and I hide people I don't really know or who are too annoying/prolific.

In other words: I use it on my own terms. Lots of people use it on their own terms, and there's too much going on for any one person to stand out. Unless they just won't shut up, and that doesn't seem like it's likely to be your problem.

Like many things that are overthought: you are not as special as you are afraid you are. It'll be fine.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:04 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Facebook is not for everybody. It's really easy to interact with it in unhealthy ways, as you discovered. It can be a handy tool, but it's just a tool. If you don't think you can be on it without it driving you nuts, then don't.

And "I tried it for a while and it drove me nuts" is a perfectly good response when people ask why you're not on it. Facebook is infuriating at the best of times.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

like to let people think that, hey, even if I don’t fit in with this particular crowd, I have a thriving social scene going on elsewhere.

No one cares.

And Facebook sorta laid that out for all my “friends” to see.

No one is looking or cares.

Yes, Facebook can facilitate non-Facebook social activities. But if it still causes you anxiety, you can quit again.
posted by grouse at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's important to remember that a Facebook friend does not necessarily mean an actual friend.

I've got TONS of people on there, probably the majority, whom I only know from ye merry olde internettes. Add to that a bunch of people I went to high school and grade school with, and there's not a lot of actual people left, so to speak.

But then, I fill up my profile with useless crap. Endless galleries of my vacation pictures? I like to make them, and if you do or do not want to look at them, whatever. In the end, it's a useful tool for staying passively connected to the people who do matter to you, knowing what they're up to without having to put any effort in. It's handy for keeping in the loop. What you put into it is entirely up to you, and ultimately no big deal.

In summary, don't worry about the number of friends you or anyone else has, since that's not a real number, anyway.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are plenty of people who aren't on Facebook for whatever reason. I wouldn't think anything of it if someone were not on Facebook. I might be curious, if they were in an age range that it's popular with, but that's about it. If anything I think they are cool for not jumping on the bandwagon.

When I see a person with a lower # of friends, I just assume they don't use Facebook very much, don't like it, don't care about it. Which I think is kind of awesome.

If you wanted to reactivate your account, I believe there are settings where you don't have to let anyone see the # of friends you have.

For family stuff, couldn't you just tell people you check out family updates via your wife on Facebook? Or just say "it's not for me."?

Good luck. Not to minimize, but I am pretty sure I can guarantee nobody is thinking too much about your profile or lack thereof. People are mostly concerned with their own profiles!
posted by manicure12 at 2:05 PM on July 3, 2012

Honey. The only person who pays any attention at all to how many friends you have on Facebook is seriously you. Nobody else cares. Nobody notices. Nobody scrutinises your profile that closely. You genuinely are over-contemplating this plate of beans.

In terms of reconnecting with dropped connections, I would just let you know I've only ever done that super casually. People from ages ago have friended me and at no point have I exchanged "OMG how are you?!?!" messages. But when something interesting pops up on their wall, or mine, comments have been exchanged and the connection has been revived. It's OK to treat Facebook without immediacy.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:06 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you think you could use Facebook strictly as a tool for socializing instead of letting it drive you crazy by comparing yourself (your wall, your posts, pictures, etc) to others? If yes, try it out again. Control your privacy so that little shows publicly, if it makes you feel self-conscious. Or, don't restrict your sharing and instead use it to post things that interest you, and comment on other people's posts. Add and message those old friends. Use it any way that makes you happy.

If no, let it lie. Ask that good friends keep you in the loop with events and updates through e-mail. This isn't impossible, but you should accept that casual friends will remain casual. And I do think that reconnecting with old friends is difficult through other media, without increasing any inherent social awkwardness

(On preview, I agree with changeling et al. re: friend numbers and their unimportance)
posted by Paper rabies at 2:06 PM on July 3, 2012

I have no idea how many friends my friends have. I don't even know how many friends I have; I do know that some of them are college classmates I haven't seen in umpteen years, and "catching up" has consisted of maybe one email exchange where we outline what we've done since 198mumble and then we see each other's posts on FB. That's it.

I'm an inconsistent facebooker - I'll be on for a couple of days reading, posting, commenting, and then ignore it for days. But it's far from my sole online social...thingy, and it's not the most important to me.

I work with someone who complains a lot about how inadequate facebook makes her feel when her friends (or maybe "friends") are posting about how they went to [fancy place] for vacation or their kid got into Harvard or something. She doesn't seem to be able to just shrug that off. If you're someone who also finds shrugging off some of facebook's inevitable annoyances, then I'd say skip it altogether and make your lack of account a joke.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on July 3, 2012

A huge proportion of my facebook "friends" are people I knew in high school 10-15 years ago, but who I am not otherwise in touch with.

Another huge chunk are coworkers. Coworkers from the gigantic variety of jobs I've held over the past 7-10 years. So, mostly people I'm not seeing regularly.

Also, people who ask why you're not on facebook ask that because they like you and would be interested in seeing you pop up there from time to time. They want to tag you in pictures of family gatherings, invite you to stuff, etc. It's not because they want to lord something over you.

Similarly, your friends are not sitting around on facebook checking up on how popular you are. They are mostly just using facebook for their own ends. The only time I ever notice whether someone has a lot of activity is if I go to their profile to look for something. If there's not a lot there, I usually assume they're just not that into online social networking. I never assume people don't have friends.

Does anyone have a "thriving social scene", as an adult with a full time job? There are like five, maybe ten, people I see regularly outside of work. I get along with my coworkers, but for the most part we're not besties or anything.

(BTW, I have a lot of similar feelings to you about socialness in general, whether people like me, whether people think I'm strange/anti-social, etc. You are by no means alone! I tend to think it's a vestige of being a teenage outcast, but who knows, maybe I'm just maladjusted.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:08 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is not because my “friends” were beating me up or anything, but because I had about half as many “friends” as all of my other “friends”--we're talking double digits.

Nobody cares about this. People with high friend totals tend to be the ones who friend everyone they have ever come into contact with going back to high school, usually so that they have a larger audience to spam with Farmville requests or whatever.

I frequently feel out of place in many different social settings. I am embarrassed by my lack of social finesse, but like to let people think that, hey, even if I don’t fit in with this particular crowd, I have a thriving social scene going on elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t. And Facebook sorta laid that out for all my “friends” to see.

Aside from the fake social life thing not actually being all that healthy in general, if you're not very close to these people then they probably aren't going to be spending a lot of time playing social detective. There are plenty of people who are "casual" Facebook users who are just on it because everyone else is on it and rarely ever post anything or friend people. And if you're one of those people then your "friends" probably won't pay much attention to you and the lack of proof of your secret social life.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:09 PM on July 3, 2012

I've never once noticed the amount of friends any of my friends has.

I notice the number of friends that my friends have! And when I see a small number, I think "hey, this person is using Facebook for its marginal social utility, not as part of some kind of ongoing popularity contest with their high school friends" and then I award then 6 more imaginary respect points.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:10 PM on July 3, 2012 [17 favorites]

On the incredibly rare occasions that I realize that X person hasn't posted on FB for a while, I just assume they're too busy with their awesome social life. So don't post, "Oh god I'm so lonely. Eating another microwave mac-n-cheese for one and watching 'Storage Wars' alone again" every night and you'll be fine.
posted by Etrigan at 2:12 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't have any sort of solution for you, however I think its entirely unimportant how many "friends" you have. In fact, your question prompted me to go look at mine because I really had no idea. I think you can let yourself off the hook about this - be on FB, get what you get out of it and don't worry about numbers.
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:16 PM on July 3, 2012

I don't even know how many friends I have on Facebook, never mind other people.
posted by fshgrl at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm not totally sure about this, but I think you can block people (or certain sets of people) from being able to see your friends list or your wall. So nobody will know how many friends are in your list.

Also, there are a bunch of people in my life with low numbers of friends on FB and it's usually deliberate. They don't want a bunch of people having access to their FB. That is what I always assume is going on in that situation even if I don't happen to know for a fact.

Also, I have a work/professional FB account that's separate from my personal one. My work one has like 15 "friends" on it. Nobody has ever asked me anything about that. I think most people assume you are not sharing your whole life with your work colleagues and you're only giving them access to professional stuff for the most part.
posted by cairdeas at 2:21 PM on July 3, 2012

I signed up, never used it, deleted my account. I sometimes wonder if I should go back as a means to promote my writing. I don't have an answer for me yet.

For you, I would suggest that if you are spending this much time thinking about it and now asking about, just get an account already. That is the only real way to find out if it can help you reconnect, etc. If it gets people off your back, it might be worth it to keep the account open but check in only once a week. If you truly do not use it at all, like me, you can always delete it again. They don't shoot people for doing so.

Peace and best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 2:25 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

On preview, I think I'm about echo no regrets, coyote, but I'll just chime in to say that when I see people with friends in the double digits, I actually feel envious because I wish I could keep my 'world' that small. So many times I've accepted friend requests from people I hardly knew out of a sense of obligation (and was afraid to ever defriend them for fear of offending someone....I actually wish I could get my number under 25 and keep it that way but I don't see that happening.) Bottom line: If you want to get on Facebook because you think you'll enjoy it, go for it, DON'T worry about this aspect of it for even a second.
posted by lovableiago at 2:30 PM on July 3, 2012

It can't possibly be true that nobody notices how many friends other people have, because obviously you notice. I notice, too. I know roughly how many Facebook friends I have, and it's something I often check when I visit other people's wall/timeline. I check because I'm curious and I'm curious because I'm insecure about it, a bit like you are. So maybe that's a correlation: people who are secure about themselves and their relationships tend not to notice how many friends they have, while people who are insecure do notice.

And when I notice that someone has a double-digit number of friends (or even single-digit in the case of a few older family members) I do in fact sometimes feel a pang of pity or embarrassment on their behalf.

But you know what? I'm probably projecting my own insecurity onto them. Just because I'd feel bad to be in their shoes doesn't mean they necessarily feel bad about it. And so if anyone were to notice your friend count and feel bad for you, perhaps it's because they're insecure like you are, meaning it's something they secretly share in common with you.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 2:34 PM on July 3, 2012

I'm on facebook, and I hate it. I think about deleting my account every day. The only reason I don't is that a lot of people I know use it for event invitations, and I don't know that all of my friends will always remember to email me separately. So I'd say that if you find that people are gathering for birthday parties and such and you aren't being invited, you might want to get back on facebook so that you'll get those invites. Otherwise, no, I'd say you're not missing anything.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:34 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have 65 Facebook friends. Some of them I've never met, one I met once and probably won't see again (he often "likes" or comments on my posts), a couple of former co-workers, cousins I haven't met whom I found via Ancestry.com, a brother and a cousin I do want on my list, and three family members I could do without having on my list. Actual true, bosom friends? There are two. Several other more casual friends. The majority are grad school classmates, professors, and industry contacts.

I treat FB as a casual version of LinkedIn (which I also use). LinkedIn is a conference; FB is a backyard barbeque. I post a lot and should have a blog instead, then link it to FB and Twitter.

It's your tool to use as you see fit. I like my relatively low number of friends on FB, because I don't need to mess with lists. I hide quite a few people, and they have no idea.
posted by jgirl at 2:41 PM on July 3, 2012

Chiming to agree that I don't know how many friends anyone has, and I have no idea how many friends I have - no idea, as in I could have 80 or 300, though it's probably somewhere in the middle. (I just checked, and it's 305. So, I'm wrong. I haven't talked to probably 250 of them in multiple years, I am the type of person who has just a few close friends. I added most of those people in college, I think.) I get a message on my wall maybe twice a month, and write on someone else's wall maybe twice a year. I actually look at my "news feed" maybe once a month, if that.

Facebook is what you make of it, and people will expect you to be about as active as you are. I find it sort of useful to have a Facebook account, because occasionally people use it to invite me to things. Other than that, I don't use it much, and it doesn't stress me out at all.

If it is stressing you out so much that it is interfering with your life, it sounds like it's not worth the (truly marginal!) benefit of having one.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:56 PM on July 3, 2012

I also hate Facebook and almost never log into it unless someone sends me a private message, and I don't update it (if they're gonna change the privacy settings constantly to show the world what I shouldn't show an employer...then screw it, they get nothing). I hate short updates, I was bored of it after 2 days, and still don't get why everyone else luuuuuves it so. I am quite happy to not be using it actively, and I really wish I could just delete it.

(a) Ragged Richard is right that a lot of people will only send out invites via Facebook and give you shit about it or not contact you otherwise if you don't conform.
(b) People will nag you incessantly about why don't you use Facebook so they can send you invites and tag your location (creepy) and shit like that.
(c) It seems to be socially mandatory these days that you have it and use it and be on it 24-7 so employers can stalk you and you can self-promote yourself and all that shit that I hate.

What should you do? Fuck if I know. There are social consequences for not pimping yourself on Facebook every day. But do you care? Do you feel sad that you are missing out on every single pic and a few possible invites? Or did Facebook make you feel shitty enough that it's worth paying the social price of "I missed an invite because people will only send it to you on Facebook"? Frankly, if the site gave you freaking nightmares and middle school flashbacks, I'd say to avoid it. Or do as I do and have a token account that you never update or check, so the people who insist that you have one will shut up about it. (Though then they nag me to update it, so...)

"I do have some friends in my town but we’ve drifted apart, and I am puzzled about how to reconnect without feeling like a stalker. I wonder if this would be facilitated by rejoining Facebook."

Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how much of Facebook whores they are. Some people are *gasp* actually living lives without Facebook and are just busy, too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:56 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you looked at my FB friends list (well, if I had it public), you'd see a TON of people on it. What you wouldn't see is that the vast majority are total strangers I've friended for the purpose of playing some social FB games. I've turned off all updates from them and stuck them in a separate list so they don't see my updates and I don't see theirs, but nobody else knows that so it looks like I'm super-social when I'm not.

OTOH, I also have family and coworkers on FB so I'm fairly circumspect there. My online social activites are primarily conducted elsewhere.

(If you felt like you needed a bunch of strangers on your FB, I can recommend Bingo Blitz!)
posted by telophase at 3:07 PM on July 3, 2012

I follow a bunch of MeFites on Facebook, and it's fun. I recommend it! When you add them, it helps to add a note that explains who you are on MetaFilter.
posted by hermitosis at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

i notice how many friends some people have on facebook. especially when i add new people to facebook. if the number is low, i assume they're not really using facebook. however, i don't remember how many friends each person for more than 15 seconds.

i do think anyone not using facebook is missing a lot of social interaction, a lot of stuff their friends are up to, etc. i wish everyone would update their facebook as much as i do, it gives me a lot of insight into other people's lives. i know some people think of facebook as "fake social life", but i want to hear the stupid jokes my friends and acquaintances thought of during the day.
posted by ye#ara at 3:19 PM on July 3, 2012

This whole business of Facebook being "mandatory" in some social sense is conformity at its worst. If you have a simple landing page for YOU with YOUR name and contact details that's all you need. If somebody needs to find you, they'll find you without Mark Zuckerbeg's help. I promise.

I don't think you need to five Facebook a thought. Why do we need to be "friends" with people from years ago? That used to be called "memories"...if you want to actually be friends - be friends, but virtual cyber friendship is anything but - to the contrary, in fact. For me personally, I gave it a chance, it felt like high school all over again and I said the hell with it. It's not worth giving it a second thought. Get that landing page (flavors.me, about.me, etc.), start a blog if you want, but don't feel like you have to play high school all over again, stress about the same things, I could go on and on. It's not worth it. The web is a BIG place, Facebook only wants you to think they are the center of the virtual universe. For those that say, "well, they are." I can only say that you've bought the hype. Many get along fine online and off with Facebook nowhere near their radar screens.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:23 PM on July 3, 2012

Sorry for the typos. ^^^^ I hit "post answer" before my mind was out of first gear.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:24 PM on July 3, 2012

I have a standard answer: "I don't do Facebook. For too many reasons than you care to hear about."

If pressed: "Life goes on without Facebook. I don't like the way they do things, I...really....too many reasons."

Usually, they get the idea and maybe even think about it for themselves.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:28 PM on July 3, 2012

My FB account is really more work-related, so I can ask questions about stuff I'm looking for and reach a lot of people (friends of friends, etc.) but I know some people use their walls and posts in a far more personal way. Different strokes. Of my large group of "friends", I probably know 1/3 irl, and the rest via email, phone, websites, and so on. Use it as you will.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:34 PM on July 3, 2012

So yeah, I look at how many friends people have. But you know what? If I notice a friend has a smallish number of friends, my interpretation is that they are picky about who they friend on FB, and I feel honored to have made the cut. If they have a Very Large Number, I kinda wonder how they can remember all those people, or conclude that they just have a bunch of friends to play games with or whatever.

So go ahead and stay off of FB and when people ask, mutter something about how the constant surreptitious fiddling with your privacy settings tried your patience. Or sign back up if you want to, and if anyone ever has the poor judgment to comment on the number of friends you have, you can archly say something about being discerning.
posted by ambrosia at 3:44 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I only notice when people have a huuuuuuuuuuge number of "friends".

I like having a small number of facebook contacts. Lets call them contacts instead of friends because really they're not often friends.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:50 PM on July 3, 2012

I have plenty of friends on Facebook. And I notice that people have more than me and feel crap about it sometimes. And I notice that people have fewer than me and, well, it depends on the person.

Most of them don't have a great deal of friends on Facebook because they're just not really interested in Facebook. Some because they're not hugely socially adept, but, here's the thing: a) I knew that anyway and b) I don't really care.

This isn't middle school any more, and I have to say, I get a lot of enjoyment out of Facebook. The flipside of the fact that you feel that everyone can see your interactions is that you're perfectly welcome to jump into theirs and have fun in a low-key socialisation kind of way. It's a nice way to rekindle and reconnect friendships, which can perfectly happily stay on Facebook. A nice discussion about some random thing can be a lovely way to connect and validate your thoughts without all the overhead of meeting in person. So, if you want to use Facebook, you can see some nice photos, know what's going on with other people and maybe end up seeing one of the friends you've got disconnected from is going somewhere, and ask if you can come along.

But no one's judging you on there. Or if they are, it's because they're an arsehole and that's their problem.
posted by ambrosen at 3:56 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My SO just got a FB account because he read on Slate or Salon how potential employers can people who shuns social media with a bit of distrust when looking to hire them.

He thinks of it as a check box item. "Have social media page to blend in more - check" and manages his friends and page very carefully. He's been happy to befriend his family and some select friends, but he'll never take to the platform. He's okay having <2>
I'm active in politics and community work and have several hundred "friends." My page hints at maybe 50% of my interests. I rarely post anything personal or anything personal. Any potential employer would wonder when I have time to work. Ah, well.

For me, FB has taken over from evite.
posted by rw at 4:00 PM on July 3, 2012

Chiming in as another person who definitely notices how many friends other Facebook users have... but like most of the people here who have said they do this, I think about their friend count in the exact opposite way that you assume: I'm quietly pleased when I notice a friend has a low user count, because if I'm their friend I feel like I "made the cut". And as for the friends who have hundreds of Facebook friends... meh. I've gone through their friends list and noticed that a large majority of their FB friends are fake accounts*, performing artists who use Facebook to drum up hype for their projects, small businesses (an inn I stayed at once on the coast has a Facebook page and is one of my "friends" -- I love being friends with a building!)... in other words, not as many real people as you might assume if you just look at the number.

If you want to be on Facebook so that you don't miss the occasional social invite from someone who refuses to use other methods of communication, have at it! If anyone ever gives you a hard time for not having as high a friend count as them, you have my permission to be a little snotty and condescending when you tell them you don't really worry about that kind of thing, because you're too busy actually living a life.

(*I will admit that more than one of my Facebook friends is a joke profile for a character from Parks and Recreation. I also used to be friends with another friend's pets, all four of whom had Facebook profiles. That happens a lot in certain social circles, which... I don't even know, man. Facebook is weird. Don't let it get to you.)
posted by palomar at 4:02 PM on July 3, 2012

I was the same way - I didn't want a FB because I knew there'd be hardly anyone I wanted to add. But I got one recently anyway. There were hardly any people I wanted to add.

But then, I use it how I want to use it. I would never add anyone from work, for example - that's for Linkedin. And I personally would never put up heaps about what I'm doing just because that's not me.

I use it mainly for motivational reasons (I work from home) or creative reasons or to keep track of events/places I can go to. From that perspective I've found it quite useful.
posted by heyjude at 4:06 PM on July 3, 2012

I have 79 friends on Facebook. I see some of my friends have something like 300 and 800 friends and I do not feel bad about it.

Facebook friends are probably somewhat like favorites on Metafilter -- people use them for different things, have different reasons for accepting friendships, etc.

I like to look at myself as discriminating. Some people are not. You can be either, or any variation between. Nothing wrong with whichever way you decide to do it.
posted by waitangi at 4:41 PM on July 3, 2012

I don't notice how many friends my friends have (I'm not sure how many friends I have). My friends consist of family and my online friends from MetaChat and MetaFilter (I don't have any offline friends). Once or twice a week I post a funny video or link. Once a month I might remember to look at a couple friends accounts. Once in a while I "like" something.

A suggestion:

Open/re-open your account, put up as much info you feel comfortable about and forget it. Pretend it doesn't exist. Just because you have an open account doesn't mean you have to pay any attention to it.
posted by deborah at 5:03 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have 399 friends on Facebook. My husband, who is friends with basically all the same people as me in real life, has 58. (I had to go look for both of our numbers.) He just uses it really differently than I do.

The shyest person I know has like 500 facebook friends because she finds it easier to interact that way; one of the most gregarious and nicest people I know has 40-something because she only uses it to share baby photos with far-distant relatives and a couple friends from high school.

It says nothing about how many "real" friends you have, nor how smooth you are at socializing. It's really just about how you use facebook, whether it's to connect with everyone you've ever met, or to just stay in the loop on invitations from a particular organization or group of friends.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:16 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I honestly couldn't tell you off the top of my head how many friends I have on Facebook, let alone how many friends my friends have. Nobody judges based on that number.
posted by Xany at 5:59 PM on July 3, 2012

I notice the number of friends that my friends have! And when I see a small number, I think "hey, this person is using Facebook for its marginal social utility, not as part of some kind of ongoing popularity contest with their high school friends" and then I award then 6 more imaginary respect points.

I came in here to say just that. When I see people with a lower number of friends, I assume that they're selective about who they friend and have not succumbed to the friending-every-person they-have-ever-met-whether-they're-real-friends-or-not thing that so many people seem to do.

And yes, you can hide your friends list from everyone so that no one will be able to see it if it makes you feel self-conscious. I think facebook does have utility in that it is what a lot of people use to keep in touch and a lot of these people won't make the effort via email or phone. You could say that people who want to see you will make the effort, but I've had a lot of friendships rekindled or strengthened through facebook that just would not have happened without it.

So if you want to reopen your profile you should. You can then set your notifications so that you're emailed every time you get an invite or email and then you can just leave it and never look at it unless you get notified of something.

I follow a bunch of MeFites on Facebook, and it's fun. I recommend it!

Can you do this? Is it possible to follow people on facebook like on G+? I would love to follow Mefites but I generally don't send friend requests to people I don't know.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:26 PM on July 3, 2012

Can you do this? Is it possible to follow people on facebook like on G+? I would love to follow Mefites but I generally don't send friend requests to people I don't know.
posted by triggerfinger

Yes, you can do this - if they've allowed it. You SUBSCRIBE to their public posts.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:37 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The service annoys me. I use it for two reasons only: to get invited to parties organized through it, and so people I meet at parties can look me up by first name after. The rest of it is noise. If it's causing you anxiety, I'd delete your account and consider yourself lucky.
posted by ead at 6:40 PM on July 3, 2012

The only time I have noticed the number of friends someone has on FB is because it was 1,000+ which was a !! moment for me. More because that's a lot of crap on your news feed. Don't give the number of friends you have a second thought!
posted by latch24 at 7:23 PM on July 3, 2012

I'm on Facebook and I confess that I judge people by the number of friends they have. If they have a ridiculously high quantity, I think they have shallow relationships and I don't want to be their friend. I regularly cull my Facebook friends, even my best friend didn't make the cut on New Year's Eve. If we don't interact on Facebook, it's like sitting at a dinner party and not saying anything.... culled.

I'm very proud of my < 100 friends.
posted by taff at 7:29 PM on July 3, 2012

Facebook launched the year I entered college and it was a huge part of my social life then. About a year in though the original cohort started figuring out that when you are going through "life changes" Facebook can be a source of drama, mildly, and in worse cases a baldfaced betrayer of everything you are versus everything you want to be.

Two years in the activity of my social circle on Facebook started dropping while the site's overall membership picked up. I remember we watched kids from our high schools in years below us signing up and adding us as friends and we were horrified at the information they casually put out there. Meanwhile my classmates and such were starting to look for jobs and internships or already had jobs and so on and we realized that Facebook can jeopardize futures.

By the time I graduated everyone was still on Facebook but because of the job market and the weird privacy issues most of my friends stopped posting anything and locked their profiles down tight because in this economy why risk it.

I'm not on Facebook myself so I don't know if suddenly all my friends are making plans without me, but honestly not being on thefacebook.com has made me way more proactive. I can't sit and look at my feed and be like, "Oh, So-and-So is out with Such-and-Such, obviously they didn't want me to be there." Instead I have to call So-and-So to see if she has plans and then I wind up getting invited to hang out with her and Such-and-Such and it's great because they did want to hang out, it just didn't occur to them that I was free that night. And so on.

Facebook is like Hot Pockets, I believe eventually it will catch up to everyone. For now though, you can console yourself with hating Facebook before hating Facebook was cool, if that floats your boat, or just use it's existence as an excuse to be more proactive about being social because if you're not on Facebook, you have to make friends somehow right? Mostly people will probably be flattered if you call or text them (personal! effort!) rather then spending less than two seconds to press a couple of virtual buttons.
posted by newg at 8:29 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I sure do. I definitely notice how many friends people have. And I honestly get a little skeeved out when I see the people with 500+ 'friends' (or even in the low multi-hundreds, frankly). But I also recognize that that's purely my own judgy issue, and has way more to do with how I personally want to relate to Facebook for myself: they have to be my ACTUAL REAL-LIFE FRIENDS, people I know and bonded with and want to know more about. Because I tend to write a good bit on there, and it's often funny and a little bit filthy, so I'm not interested in broadcasting my weird crap to everyone.

I also came quite late to the whole Facebook party, just in the last year or so, after similar nagging and cajoling, and I think I currently have 56 'friends'. Which is completely ridiculous, because some of them probably don't belong on that list - neighborhood kids from my childhood that once wanted to see an album of all of us back in the day that I didn't want to post publicly, that sort of thing - and I constantly debate cutting it down to the twenty five or so I actually care about and allow to read any of my posts. But yeah, I've had people comment on my 'lack of friends'. I also have some people I'd love to see on there, but they too are socially anxious / shy types and it's just not their bag. And that's not a big deal. I quite respect their decision.
posted by involution at 12:24 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have 50-60 friends on facebook - I don't post at all (which I think has gotten me cut from some folks friends lists, like taff mentions above).

I hate getting cut for inactivity, because I use facebook primarily as a self-updating address book. It cuts down on googling for a person's contact info and hoping that they have a webpage/blog or are listed at their company or something. No one is in the phonebook anymore and it can be hard to track folks down if they don't have a web presence.

Facebook makes it much easier, because people usually respond to private messages or have their phone/email visible to friends, so it's one less thing I have to keep up with. Most of my friends on there are folks I might want to get in touch with at some point and most of them don't have any sort of other easy to find online presence. Also, some folks post their birthday, which is really nice, because facebook sends you a reminder in case you want to wish them a happy b-day. Thumbs up for outsourced data maintenance!

I do try and check in once a month or so now, even if I don't get any PMs, mostly to see whether my cousin has posted any new pics of her cute baby.
posted by clerestory at 8:04 AM on July 4, 2012

I only use facebook to keep in touch with family. I have 5 siblings who use Facebook A LOT. It's pretty much where every family event gets organized. Also, I'm an artist and it's good to have facebook to network with other people interested in my stuff. Because whether you like it or not, facebook is widely used.

I say you shouldn't be concerned. Like someone mentioned before, whenever I see someone with a low number of friends - I think they're just selective and smart with their friend requests. Also, there's always the option of hiding the list.
posted by morning_television at 8:52 AM on July 4, 2012

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