Today I commenced another round of Facebook cuts, and thought I should reflect on the why and how.
As some of you know, I use Facebook daily. Partly that’s to connect with people who don’t communicate with me any other way, which is a surprisingly large number. Partly it’s to nudge forward conversations I’m fascinated by, that just don’t take off in other venues.
I only have the one Facebook account, and combine my personal and professional lives in it. Although, to be honest, there’s relatively little professional discussion on my wall. Posts about cats, politics, homesteading, or movies elicit plenty of responses; threads about education, technology, or the future usually get visited only by crickets. The weird thing is plenty of my friends I know through professional contexts. You’d think they’d respond. I’m not sure why Facebook is so poor at supporting these discussions, at least in my networks. And there really isn’t a way to find out.
Meanwhile, this morning Facebook told me I had around 1087 friends. That’s too many. Why?
Facebook is not an RSS reader. Its front page displays updates from friends based on… we have little idea what reasons. There’s software behind those display choices, a black box algorithm which picks or hides posts. We can guess what works – my favorite theory is that the number of comments and likes are key – but ultimately cannot tell. So I’ve missed posts from friends about weddings, deaths, international moves, major job changes, and who knows what else? With RSS I can count on being able to see stuff. I can also arrange feeds into whatever order I like, and into categorical folders. Not so with Facebook.
So there’s too much stuff, not enough of the right stuff, and I can’t hack the black box. One thing I can do is try to cut down the number of Facebook friends. Hence the purge.
On Facebook, when I say “purge”, there’s a difference between unfriending and unfollowing. I’d rather unfollow someone, but it really depends on how the connection actually works.
Why do I cut someone off?
- If I haven’t heard anything from them in years. Sometimes the feed hasn’t had any content for a while, as when the person gives up on posting. Other times they just haven’t connected with me.
- If they changed what they post about. For example, if I started following Sue because of her higher education comments, but now she only writes about her car repair hobby, I don’t need to keep reading her.
- If we connected for a single event, and that event has passed without further connections. The same goes for shared participation in an organization or community to which I no longer belong.
- If I don’t remember someone’s name, and their About tab doesn’t help, I incline towards a cut.
- A person not answering my messages and posts also nudges my hand towards the ax handle.
I don’t stop following people for political reasons, even if they adamantly and openly oppose my political thoughts and decisions.
I’ve been quietly offing connections when their birthdays come up. Which sounds cruel, but makes sense for the above reasons. Today I did a major once-over with more than 200 cuts. We’ll see how things change – if the front page improves, or folks come after me for cutting them.
I’m not sure how this impacts my other social media worlds. My posts here, copied to Facebook, rarely elicit any responses. I no longer pipe Twitter to Facebook. Discussing podcasts, Google+, or YouTube videos rarely triggers Facebook connections. Perhaps the worlds are drifting apart.
It’s a good idea to regularly trim our social media networks in general, be they Facebook or Twitter or podcasts or YouTube channels. As Howard Rheingold and others have pointed out, over time our decisions to follow someone or something might become obsolete. And the sheer amount of stuff we sign up for can get too big to handle.
How about yourselves? Do you practice a similar soft of social media hygiene or gardening?