Offbeat 22 August 2014
When I open my Facebook page, I am confronted with a list of ‘people I might know’. The intent is obviously to get me into point-scoring mode, by adding people willy nilly.
In the last year I unfriended about 130 people on Facebook. A couple of them are people whom I genuinely disliked. Many of them were what I call ‘collectors’, people who press the ‘add friend’ button compulsively and collect friends as if the number of friends as displayed on Facebook is a video game score.
Some of the people were folks with whom I had no interaction, nor could I find common ground. I felt bad about it, but I doubt neither myself nor the people I unfriended will be any the poorer for it. Some of them were people who had no personal agenda other than to collect likes for their offerings.
I have been unfriended as well by a couple of people, mainly for not responding to comments and messages. That’s a tactic I use when people want to draw me into dark emotions or the one strange time when I got sexually harassed. In my own subjective thinking it is easier to be unfriended than to have the emotional drain of unfriending.
Unfriending on Facebook is not unusual. It is just not spoken about, and does not attract a lot of media buzz. My current tally of about 140 friends, people who I want to know about or interact with, leaves me feeling a bit inferior. Most people I know seem to range between 250 and 500 friends. Some go into the thousands. My current meagre number makes me feel a bit like Quasimodo at a Hollywood A-list party.
On the other hand, the segregation of my number of friends leaves me with about 40 on a list that I don’t expect to unfriend me even if I choose a picture of an octopus mauling a shark as the main picture on my Facebook page. I don’t mind inflicting that sort of picture on people because I know I will be looking at a fair number of happy family photos or picture posts of flowers with anodyne Bible verses in return.
Facebook does not seem to agree with my desire for quality connections: wanting to know people, or at least know what they are saying. When I open my page, I am confronted with a list of ‘people I might know’. The intent is obviously to get me into point-scoring mode, by adding people willy nilly.
If you have used Facebook advertising, you will see the commercial logic of the thing. The greater the number of connections, the greater the network of people Facebook can reach through me. Facebook needs to make money selling branded presence while offering me the service for free. I can understand their need.
On the other hand, I am an introvert, and the presence of too many people in my sphere of virtual existence is intimidating and intrudes on my comfort. I am happy with less and will be happy if Facebook can reconcile itself to that, and the fact that I ignore their desire for me to have more friends. Facebook interests me outside of the aspect of my social network. The ‘social village’ that I am developing from my own classification of who is interesting and who is someone I want as a friend is a minute particle in a culture that is apparently over a billion strong. Its populace is larger than most nations and religions. It shapes social behaviour and the interchange of ideas in a manner unrivalled since the introduction of movable type, or the spread of religion, for that matter.
It is an alternative nation that threatens the political and socio-cultural patterns of entities on the political map of the world. It is a world of micro-democracies where enfranchisement is determined by membership of groups and democracy is exercised by pressing ‘like’ or ‘share’. In fact it also tries to sell me participation in its democracy by suggesting groups of which my friends are members.
One of the most interesting things is the misunderstanding of political leaders who seem to want to restrict it. The truth is that what is said there is in the open and visible, not speaking behind political backs.
For my part, I am not revolutionary or politically active. Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, my virtual democracy will largely be limited to abstaining from liking family photos and endless biblical quotes.