How many of your Facebook Friends are real friends?

I began using Facebook in 2009. If I remember correctly we were on holiday in Scotland with a laptop. Knowing that some of my close family and friends were users I decided to open an account and used it at first as a sort of e-postcard. Originally I had just a few ‘Facebook Friends’: my sister and brother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her husband, my niece and her husband and one or two others.

Then of course Facebook got access to my contacts’ list. Being a hoarder of data I had imported various names and numbers into my address book many coming from my two children’s class parent lists. I’d also started to collect names and email addresses from various members of our church congregation as I took on the role of PCC secretary. So as Facebook grew in popularity and my contacts’ list expanded beyond all recognition, more and more people popped up on my computer screen as someone I should ‘befriend’.

I have no idea why I found myself sending ‘be my Facebook friend’ invitations to at least nine out of ten people that the privacy invasive software suggested but I did. Perhaps I saw it as some sort of trophy to have lots of friends on there. Perhaps I should ask my psychology tutor why she thinks not just me but anyone does it. Perhaps I’ll email her the link to this blog entry and invite a comment!

Now unless you’ve been on Mars for the last month or so you’ll have heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The original concept was, I believe, that a friend challenged you donate to a nominated charity (the US based ALS being the intended beneficiary). If you didn’t donate and only if you didn’t donate you had to tip a full ice bucket over yourself and for some reason video it as proof that you did it (clearly the originators had very untrusting friends!) Many people apparently chose Facebook to promulgate their video with the idea that it raised awareness of the charity.

Since the first videos appeared the whole idea seems to have gone full circle. Firstly you seem to be able to nominate a charity of your choice now and the unfortunate ALS have lost out. Secondly it seems you have to tip a bucket of iced water over your head even if you do donate to charity because all your Facebook friends want a cheap laugh at your expense.

Over the last two weeks my Facebook timeline has been inundated (excuse the pun!) with videos of my ‘friends’ (and their ‘friends’ if they chose to comment on the post) having buckets of ice cold water being tipped over them. I’ve read comments by people saying how funny they have found them but personally I haven’t watched a single clip as I feel it highly unlikely that I’ll find it amusing.

Yesterday when someone posted a comment saying that those of us criticising the craze were in effect being spoilsports, a mutual ‘friend’ criticised something I’d been doing myself on the website. This really made me think. Why am I getting posts on my timeline that I have absolutely no interest in viewing (not just ice bucket nonsense but one or two pictures of cats too!) and some of my Facebook friends apparently have no interest in what I post either? The answer seem somewhat simplistic but true – most of the people I had as friends on Facebook had nothing in common with me and weren’t my friends at all.

As I mentioned earlier, quite a few of the Facebook friends I’d picked up along the way were parents of children in my own children’s class. Why then, I asked myself, do those parents not even acknowledge me in the playground when I collect my son each afternoon? I came to exactly the same conclusion – they weren’t actually my friends!

So what have I done about this? We’ll I’ve had a Facebook friends cull. I’ve unfriended (I’m sure there isn’t such a verb but I can’t think of another way to describe what I’ve done) most of those who have posted videos of themselves having ice tipped over them (that’s quite a few!) I’ve removed from the list (there is another way to describe it) people from church with whom I share absolutely nothing in common and I’ve ‘culled’ the mums who ignore me in the playground.

Now I’m left with close family members, people I share an interest with (mostly cricket and rugby), colleagues and ex-colleagues, old school friends, friends from the past (all of whom I want to stay in touch with) and genuine friends. I feel like I’ve been cleansed!

In fact, I’m seriously considering scaling down my use of Facebook. I’m fed up with it suggesting games for me and things that I might ‘like’. Many of those that I originally joined to share experiences with rarely use it anymore. I don’t think it’s right that you can tag someone at an event or post a photograph of them without their permission. I have this blog and those that really want to read what’s going on in my life can read this (that will be nobody then!)

3 thoughts on “How many of your Facebook Friends are real friends?

  1. Since scaling down and then killing off my Facebook account around a year ago I’ve found my interactions with people to be far richer – I take time to send longer form letters to people I don’t regularly see and take extra time to organise face to face activities with those that I do.

    There are many drawbacks and few benefits to FB, the scope for misunderstanding the quickly written, typed word, the myth that by being “FB friends” means you’re actually staying in touch, the background nagging itch that something might of happened that you missed meaning ou check whenever you have thirty seconds spare.

    Charlee has successfully deleted her account and set up a new, clean one in her name she uses for events only, I have none – now the withdrawal period has passed (and it was painful!) life seems better.

    Having a big cull was the right thing to do, more signal, less noise.

  2. Tony, you should have seen Mike Potter’s challenge. It was true genius and definitely very funny. Some of them are hilarious.
    It’s a bit of harmless fun.

  3. I’m very seriously thinking about closing my FB account and have been since a ‘friend’ of a ‘friend’ posted a photo of a bleeding, obviously badly injured, cat that had been run over. Her reason for this shocking action was that she wanted to be the one that traced the owner. Perhaps getting the cat to a vet for treatment rather than taking it’s picture and spending time writing the post would have been the more humane response?
    If this person, along with the attention seekers with their buckets of water, are representative of the type of person who uses FB now, then maybe it’s no longer the place for me!

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