THE WAY I SEE IT
It was supposed to be satisfying. After months of prevarication, I finally decided to go on a cull of Facebook friends, whittling the list down to family and those I know really well. At 671, my Friends list had become unwieldy. Thanks to the irritating algorithm that shows you what it thinks you want to see, I was missing posts. Facebook tells you it shows you updates and photos from the people you interact with most often, but how can you ever build interaction if it decides not to show you some people’s posts at all, but insists on promoting the banal?
And so I steeled myself to be ruthless, not a practice that comes easily to me at all. When applied to household clutter, it never works – I have, for instance, no idea why I’ve never been able to throw out birthday cards I received as a child, or boarding passes that marked the start of memorable holidays – but I was determined. There would, whether my friends liked it or not, be carnage.
After all, the good thing about Facebook is that when you unfriend people (and what a cold neologism that is), they don’t get a notification; they just stop seeing you and probably blame the algorithm. Indeed, everything to do with computers is so random it means that even if you are challenged – ‘what did I ever do on you to make you unfriend me?’ – it’s easy to brazen it out. ‘I didn’t,’ you hear yourself lying. ‘That’s weird. I’ve been having problems with that lately.’ Then you guiltily refriend, if there is such a word, and keep your powder dry until the next cull.
My baseline was simple. I would start with people I know only through other friends but never have met in the real world. I would move on to those who, even though good friends, are just watchers who never comment, or post anything themselves – if I’m going to share an embarrassing picture, the least you can do is share one yourself.
I considered a mandatory unfriending of all the women I know who post pictures of cats, because cats give me the creeps. Also in the firing line were those who post pictures of any animal dressed up; I loathe the loss of dignity
I considered unfriending all the women I know who post pictures of cats, because cats give me the creeps
for dogs dressed as Napoleon, or even cats in smoking jackets playing the piano. And, despite the altruism of those involved, I’m fed up with the Ice Bucket Challenge, so I thought I’d just get rid of all of them too.
Most of all, I looked forward to unfriending those who are relentlessly negative, the ones who use Facebook only to vent. I sometimes do so myself but only as a counterpoint to the positive. If social media exists for any reason, it is to give a reasonably full picture of whatever reality you wish to present, and unless I’ve seen someone cheery, I’m not really disposed to a relentless tirade of gloom.
So I sat down and opened my Friends list and prepared the trigger finger. As it happens, the people I ‘interact’ with – or talk to, as we used to call it – all were near the top. There were family members, close friends, work colleagues. They all escaped.
Rather horribly, two people on the list passed away in the last year and I sadly unfriended them too, to spare myself the sadness I experienced recently when Facebook notified me it was one of their birthdays. Unfriending them is a very modern way of saying a final goodbye but I had to do it.
Then I came to the vast rump, the acquaintances, the people I knew 30 years ago but had lost touch with and the friends of friends. And I heard myself mumbling, ‘ah, no, he’s a decent guy’, and, ‘hmm, she’s very funny here’, and so on.
An hour later, I had managed to cull 20. Twenty! Just over three per cent of the total, which suddenly felt like tokenism rather than ruthlessness. What was the problem? In short, it was their faces. If there just had been a cold list of names alone, I probably could have managed better, but when you see a smiling face – and profile pictures nearly always show smiling people – a ludicrous guilt kicks in. For better or worse, almost all have made my life more fun. Many have supported me when things have gone wrong. But it still was the smiles that got me and there’s nothing wrong with that. At least, that’s the way I see it.