Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” has designated November 17th “National Unfriend Day,” urging all of us to scan that Facebook friend list and get rid of the extra baggage.
I conducted a significant Friend Purge two years ago and have never been happier with so few people in my network. I simply could no longer handle being bombarded every day with news about the toddler of someone I worked with (and barely, at that) five years ago. Someone who would make no effort to be in my life were it not for Facebook – and frankly neither would I – and who never commented on my posts, nor did I comment on hers, nor did I frankly give a shit and she probably didn’t either. People said, “So just hide her from your news feed,” but then wasn’t it also creepy that she had a window into MY world? So then it was, “Well, create different levels of friend lists and block her from seeing your posts.”
REALLY?! Are THESE the dilemmas we’re entertaining these days? We’re in the second worst recession in history, we’ve got lines around the block at food banks, AIDS-stricken women in Africa are being gang-banged until their vaginas fall out, and we’re creating DIFFERENT LEVELS OF FRIEND LISTS?!
Honest to God, people. If you can’t let someone fully into your life – or not at all – on a social networking site, you’ve got some big boundary questions to ask yourself. Do we really think deleting someone from Facebook speaks to our character? Are we THAT ridiculously insecure? I recently realized I hadn’t seen anything in the news feed from one of my friends (who is NOT an ex, just to put the question to rest right off the bat) and checked his profile page to see if he’d gone AWOL. Nope – I just can’t see his posts. Or most of his photos. I’ve clearly been demoted to the D List of his life. And in all honesty, I’d rather he delete me altogether. Because it’s more of a passive-aggressive bitch slap to put up a “No Trespassing” sign than it is to just fucking board up the place.
When I pruned my friend list, I set some guidelines for myself regarding who made the cut: 1) people who are actively in my life on a regular basis, with whom I’d be in touch with or without Facebook, 2) people who have been in this category but whom I no longer see on a regular basis (generally due to geographical distance), and 3) people I’ve spent time with and just think are truly exceptional people. Considering that Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar tells us our brains can only handle 150 friendships at a time, I think I’m doing just fine at 132. But if Dunbar’s theory isn’t enough ammo for you, put Jimmy Kimmel’s litmus test into action: Post on Facebook that you’re moving on Saturday and need some help. You’ll have your answer soon enough.
Truth be told, I love technology. But let’s face it – its prevalence has driven many people to lose touch with what has true meaning in their lives. And *who* has true meaning in their lives. And what’s just white noise that keeps us a) procrastinating by wasting time on Facebook, b) believing all these people are truly our friends, or c) both a&b – all of which ultimately prevent us from asking ourselves tough questions about what we want from our time in this world and whether our lives are structured in a way that’s pushing us toward those things. And when it comes to the friend list, we need to remember that this isn’t fifth grade. Everybody doesn’t need to be our friend. It’s OK to lose touch with people. It’s OK to let them drift from your life – or cut them out entirely via a social networking site (say those last 10 words again – and remind yourself how utterly stupid it is that you even have this dilemma in your life). It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make them bad people, it doesn’t mean you don’t wish them well or have fond memories of the time you spent with them. What it does mean is that you honor the fact that people change and friendships change – and sometimes even fade away. As Eat, Pray, Love‘s Richard from Texas would say, “Send them some light and love every time you think about them, then drop it.”
So this Wednesday, November 17th – just drop ’em. And if you’re my Facebook friend and you decide to unfriend me, well…light and love to you. It was good while it lasted.