I've never been good at breaking up with people. I've always cringed at the idea of telling people I no longer want them in my life. So imagine my horror at the thought of having to dump 150 of them at once, as late night host Jimmy Kimmel wants me to do.
Kimmel has declared November 17 National Unfriend Day, an event aimed at cutting down the "friend fat" on your Facebook page. What's friend fat? It's those friends you have who you haven't heard from in 20 years and who forced you to think "where have I seen you before" when their request came in. If you've never met them in real life and "friended" them after they posted on your wall back in 2008, they're probably friend fat. If they're someone you used to know but didn't even bother to send you even a "hello" when you accepted their invite, maybe it's time to cut them loose. Again.
Now, Kimmel's declaration is mainly to get a laugh and poke fun at the people out there who have thousands of Facebook friends, but the idea even appeals to me. I've been on Facebook since 2007, when I jumped ship from MySpace. Back then, Facebook was devoid of games, spam, and those irritating people who felt inclined to post everything from pictures of their lunch to what socks they wore that day.
Despite being on Face-book for nearly four years, I only have about 170 friends, about 20 of whom are friends in the truest sense. The others are work associates, professional contacts and distant relatives — whose invites I only accepted because I want to minimise the number of arguments at Thanksgiving dinner — and old friends who I lost touch with years ago.
That was the best part about Facebook: discovering old friends. Back in 2007, new Facebook friends would actually sent messages to each other to find how the family was doing. They generally showed an interest. Last week, I received six new friend invitations, not one of which actually had a message attached. This trend has turned Facebook into an unsociable social network.
No private space
I've also given up the idea of Facebook being a private space, which sucks because I almost never post anymore. There are some people who have no issues about telling the world every little detail. Call me old school, but I still like some privacy. Some of my Facebook friends can appreciate that I just picked up a copy of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, but I don't want to have to explain what that means to the majority who don't. One of my friends likes to talk about Warcraft on Facebook, and even has a special page for her guild. I'd rather not even mention that I play Warcraft. (Yes, I know. I won't tell a group of 170 "friends" that I play Warcraft, but I'll write about it in a column where the whole world can see it online. You want consistency? Go read Krugman.) So it looks like on November 17, there is going to be some decision making going on. The biggest problem for me though is that I'm still a journalist, and the idea of losing a possible source — and you never know, at least one of my old friends has turned into a valuable source — makes me itch. I think I know what needs to happen, though. It's the surest sign of all that I'm drifting to the darkest side of nerd-dom. I may have to open a second account, one just for my real friends.