Unfriending, an experiment

Too many friends. This in not a problem that most of us would have considered before the phenomenon of social networking, but it is real enough that “unfriend” and the gerund form “unfriending” have not only made it into the New Oxford American Dictionary this year, “unfriend” was named the 2009 Word of the Year.

As my facebook network mushroomed to over 300 friends I realized that the breadth of my facebook network was limiting its depth. There were things I would like to update my friends about, but did not feel like sharing with all of my fbf’s (facebook friends, not to be confused with bff’s). Thus began the unfriending experiment, or RIF (reduction in friends) if you prefer.

My first approach was to unfriend everyone who I believed also had too many friends. Anyone with 800 fbf’s is simply not discerning enough for my liking, and I did not consider the fact that this lack of discernment may have been the only reason they were friends with me to be particularly redeeming. The first wave of unfriending was satisfying, but it left me wanting more (well less actually).

Next to go were professional acquaintances who did not seem to use facebook very much. Still too many friends, hard choices would need to be made. I unfriended several people that I genuinely like in the real world, but who use facebook in ways I don’t care for – the main one being to post links to their twitter feeds or blog posts.

By this stage I was down under 200 and I realized that if I nixed all of the spouses of friends I would be able to streamline even further. Old school acquaintances who I had never much cared for were the next victims of this online massacre. They probably should have been the first, but I was in a sentimental mood when I began. My unfriending mania reached its peak when I realized that I was in shooting distance of 100. Some arbitrary choices were made and all of a sudden I was down to a manageable 99 friends. Mission accomplished.

None of my unfriended friends have complained, I expect few have even noticed. I post more regularly to facebook now and read my remaining friend’s posts with more interest. In fact, I am so happy with my small circle of facebook friends that I am thinking of adding a few more.

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5 Responses

  1. Joe Miller says:


  2. Spencer Waller says:

    You have given me courage, although I don’t know that 99 is the magic number for me. What about just hiding everyone whose tweets and blogs are too much?

  3. Brendan Ding says:

    As a survivor of the Sag FB friends massacre, I feel both humble and proud. Perhaps I will even take the lesson to heart and start my own war against ghost friends.

  4. Alex Kreit says:

    I can see the appeal in unfriending, though for those who are considering mass unfrieding sprees, I’d like to quickly suggest that many of the same goals can be accomplished through the use of facebook’s privacy and feed settings. Facebook is useful for both keeping up with friends and staying connected to acquaintances who you might otherwise lose touch with (for professional networking, etc.) While limiting your network to folks in the close-friends category will give you a lot more freedom to share personal information via status updates, etc., it also means you’ll lose out on being able to take advantage of the benefits of staying connected to other acquaintances. Setting up optimal privacy and feed settings can be a much more time consuming project than just unfriending those who are not close friends. But, for anyone who wants to limit most of their facebook info to close friends but is worried about sacrificing the networking benefits of facebook, I think it is time well spent. For example, thanks to the privacy settings, I was able to start accepting friend requests from students, which I think will be a great thing down the road for keeping in touch with students after they’ve graduated.

  5. ParatrooperJJ says:

    That’s correct. The privacy and group settings have really been expanded.