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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Great Facebook Purge

It’s no secret that social networking sites, especially Facebook, have redefined what the term “friend” means. Back in the pre-Facebook days, a friend was someone you spent time with, talked on the phone with, or any mix of actions that caused you to interact with them on some personal level.  Now, creating a friend on Facebook is as easy as simply clicking a button to “Add Friend”.  As long as their profile is visible to you in some way, you can be “friends” with just about anyone out there!

Of course this new wave of digital friendship has led to what I call “friend oversaturation”.  You won’t get any judgement from me either as I’ve been guilty of this myself.  In fact at one point I used to have over 400 Facebook friends.  There is something called Dunbar’s Number which suggests that we as humans cannot maintain meaningful social relationships over 100-230 people — 150 being the usual number used.  Those hundreds of Facebook friends you have?  Probably not all that meaningful.  So maybe it’s time to cut back a little.  It’s time to put your Facebook on a diet.

“What’s wrong with having so many friends on Facebook?” you may ask.  Simply put, your privacy and personal information could be at risk.  Facebook’s privacy settings and policies are something that can be confusing at times, and it seems like they’re always changing.  This could open up the potential for trouble if you have too many Facebook friend connections. Let’s explore an example.  

Facebook has a “Friends of Friends” privacy option for many of the posts, details, photos, and other info you put up on the social network.  This means that anyone who is a friend of one of your friends can also see that information.  Last year the average Facebook user had approximately 245 friends.  In contrast, each friend had an average of 359 friends.  It’s an interesting paradox, but that’s the numbers resulting from a study by the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project, and I assume they’re better at stats than I am.  So you have 245 friends (on average) and each of those friends have 359 friends.  If your privacy is set to “Friends of Friends” that means, theoretically, 87,955 people can see your information. Yikes!  Of course this number is a bit inflated due to the fact people have mutual friends.  However, the number is bound to be well in the thousands and it’s a safe bet you don’t even know most of these people.  So let’s hope you didn’t post your personal phone number.  It gets better, too.  Thanks to Facebook’s new Graph Search, users will also be able to use that information in their searches.  So much for privacy.

A lot of this can be avoided by changing your privacy settings (Friends only is a good option), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to cut down that friends list.  If you haven’t been in contact with someone for years, and don’t plan on being in contact with them in the future, they’re probably a candidate for unfriending.  Need some motivation?  Set a goal!  Set a number you will reduce your friends to at all costs.  NO EXCEPTIONS.  Then if you add a new friend, KICK SOMEONE ELSE TO THE CURB!  It may sound harsh, but they only “liked” one post of yours in the 3 years you’ve been “friends” anyway.  Happy birthday well-wishers don’t count either, as Facebook practically does that for you these days.

In my opinion, Facebook has made it much easier to unfriend someone these days.  Simply navigate to your own profile page, click on the “Friends” box that’s located below your cover photo, and you’ll be shown a list of your current Facebook friends (even those that have deactivated their accounts).  Now all you have to do is find the unlucky victim(s) of your Facebook friend purge, put your cursor over the button that says Friends and has a check mark next to it, and select “Unfriend” from the bottom of the drop down menu that pops up.  A box will pop up asking you to confirm the action.  Go ahead and confirm and sayonara!  Your Facebook friend list is looking sleek and slim already!

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