In 2008 I signed up for Facebook and I thought “Wow, this is really cool I am going to look up everyone I have ever gone to school with, dated, and worked with and see how they are doing.” And I did. Within days I had hundreds of “friends”. I was very excited to see who was up to what and what they looked like.
Facebook was a nosy person’s dream. And I am nosy. I love to snoop and plunder and find out what is going on and Facebook fulfilled all of that.
And I was really excited to find out what my childhood best friend Andrea (BTW you seriously need to update your IMBD Ms. Emmy Winner) was up to and where she landed in life. I reconnected with Jimmy Joe Meeker, my high school sweetheart, and became good friends with his wife. I found out that yes, that guy I always suspected was gay in high school was and it was no shock when I discovered another classmate was going through wives like he had girlfriends. I may have felt some vindication when the mean girls who were pretty and got all the attention were now fat and old looking or living in trailer parks in the worst parts of town. I was happy to see the nerdy kids successful, with good looking spouses and cute kids. Facebook was better than any class reunion and I could sit and do it from the privacy of my home in my pajamas.
Every day I couldn’t wait to sign on to Facebook to see what was going on in this or that person’s life. I loved seeing pictures of weddings, babies, and trips that all my “friends” had posted. I didn’t care that you just told me about what you just ate or that little Johnny was finally potty trained. Facebook was my connection to the outside world, to other adults, and gave me an outlet that I was in need of when I was still nursing a toddler and at home homeschooling my three oldest kids.
And I loved it so much I joined Twitter and said “Hey, all you wonderful people come friend me on Facebook.” And a few hundred did. Now I had all my Twitter peeps on my Facebook and I would get to know more about them and their personal life. It was so cool that I then decided that I would put a link to my Facebook profile on my blog and any article I wrote online. I wanted to connect to my readers. I wanted to connect to other bloggers and people in “the industry”. So then there were a few more hundred people or a thousand.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Facebook became a platform for me to not just tell you that Kara learned how to swim or that Mr. K was having health problems and please send healing vibes, it also became a platform for my politics, my religious views, my ideas on education, and anything else that came to mind. For years on Twitter I gave a Sunday night sermon that I eventually started doing it on Facebook as a status. My Facebook status also became a passive aggressive forum for venting and cyber bitch slapping. But I wasn’t the only one doing this, EVERYONE was doing it. We all just became a bunch of ego maniacs screaming “LIKE MY STATUS”.
As Facebook grew so did our ability to be rude. Things we would never have shared in public (ok, I would but people who know me in real life know this) began sharing intimate information about their life that they never would have before. We began saying things we would likely never share with a group of strangers or even our friends. Our inhibitions have been lowered. On Facebook boundaries are crossed and etiquette is forgotten. And before you realize it there is more drama in your newsfeed than you could ever get from soap operas or reality television.
And let’s talk about what Facebook does for some people. It allows them to be assholes. They take “Free Speech” to a whole new level. In fact I was shocked by some of the jokes that some people would post or pictures on their Facebook timelines. Racism is rampant. Every ugly, nasty thing about our society comes out on Facebook whether it be about politics or religion. Arguments among friends and families and drama over everything from sports to serious social issues leave people wondering “do I really know my Aunt Dot or my friend Bill from college?”
Facebook has become addicting and brings on anxiety and divisiveness. It leaves us feeling angry and torn. Instead of being a fun way of keeping in touch and sharing our lives in a positive way it has become a negative, stabby experience.
But YOU CAN CHANGE THAT.
Take control of your Facebook newsfeed and take liberal use of the unfriend button. Clean up your Friend List. Get rid of those people who are driving you nuts with their crazy politics and damning religious views. Block Aunt Susan from criticizing you on your parenting and educational choices. Delete those assholes from high school who are constantly bragging about how wonderful their life is when you know they are deep in debt and cheating on their spouse. Unfriend those people who are constantly bugging you to play Mafia Wars, Song Pop and Farmville. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO BE THEIR FACEBOOK FRIEND.
Do you not deserve a pleasant social media experience? Yes, YES YOU DO.
Take back your newsfeed and FREE yourself from the drama and negativity, stop being afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. They likely will not notice you unfriended them and so what if they do. If they have the gumption to ask, you can send them a link to this post, or this one by my friend Jessica, or this one by my friend Karla. Tell them you are cleaning up your social media and they didn’t make “the cut” so to speak. Let them know that you will still continue to have the same relationship with them outside Facebook.
But you are going to say “Kim, I just can’t.” BUT YOU CAN. You do not have to do it all at once. You can do it over the course of several days, weeks or months. You can whittle that friend list down till all you see in your newsfeed is people you really care to interact with and care to interact with you.
I’m going to tell you how I did it. Keep in mind I am a people hoarder so it took me months to unfriend nearly 1000 people. Maybe you only have a few hundred people to go through. Whether it is 200 or 2000 you can do it just like I did. You can ask yourself “who is this person and what are they contributing to my life?”
When I first went through my friends list on Facebook I unfriended or blocked anyone I did not know at all. I was surprised at the people on my list that I absolutely had no idea who they were. We had no mutual friends in common and the only thing I can think of is that they came from that brief stint that I played Mafia Wars. They did not ever comment on anything I ever posted. I also went through and deleted anyone who had an inactive or duplicate accounts. I also deleted people who had died. I actually had several of those.
See, easy. You can totally do that. I assure you the dead folks do not care that you deleted them.
Now, the next group of people I unfriended were people that I knew but had no interaction with at all. This included family. I am pretty sure these people didn’t even realize they were unfriended. Most of them hardly used Facebook at all or probably hid my feed from their newsfeed because I am that crazy girl they used to know from way back when who is liberal. They likely felt relieved to get cut because they didn’t have to do it.
The next group of people I unfriended were old classmates. Most of the ones on there I hardly had any interaction with. When I friended them it was essentially to see what they were doing and stalk their life. I was amused at who got botox and how many folks had been married more times than Elizabeth Taylor. I wanted to see who looked old and fat. I might at one point caught up with them in a chat session or even by phone but now they were just collected. These folks didn’t really give a damn about me back then and really didn’t give a damn about me now. I was just another friend on their Facebook to help build their self-worth or to contact me to get involved in the next MLM they were peddling. Maybe one day they will notice that girl who dated Cornbread isn’t on their friend list anymore but other than that I will not be missed.
I then did the same thing for people I used to work with, dated, knew from when my kids were in preschool, and went to church with. I used the same criteria every time. Did they add any value to my life right now? Are they positive or negative on Facebook? Are they filler or meat and potatoes? It became harder, I’m not going to lie, but then I would look at my newsfeed and I felt a since of relief. I was beginning to see updates from people I gave damn about, who cared about me, or who added value to my day. And if I saw posts from folks that really upset me or made me think twice whether or not I would have a relationship with them in my day to day life I cut them. I figure if they needed me, they know where I am.
The more people I unfriended the more I began to enjoy my Facebook experience and the LESS I used it. It was a win win. I was not getting sucked in to drama or curiously snooping down trails of passive aggressive Facebook statuses. I actually got to a point to where I was going “Who can I cut next?” And then I would unfriend a few more folks, like my friends’ spouses unless I had an ongoing relationship with them. I unfriended people I occasionally saw but didn’t really interact with, I unfriended family I hadn’t spoken to or who hadn’t bothered to speak to me in the past year. I figure if they can’t even call me in real life what is the point of keeping them on my Facebook.
The process was not always easy but now when I sign on to Facebook it is just a better overall experience. Now I just need to purge my “Like” pages and my Twitter account. Thank goodness there are five more months left to the year because I suspect that is how long it is going to take to clean that up.