03 June, 2009

Before Facebook friending all those people from high school...

For a long time, I had few Facebook friends. It was 12. Then it was 20. And it stayed around there for quite some time. It would actually be cool, now that I think about it, to be able to review one's friend add/remove chronology. Then I found more people, because Facebook became more popular. I think that had me up at around 60. Then the list crept up even further with work friends, whom I added with some caution, since Facebook is often a place where the personal is divulged inadvertently or unexpectedly. I was not thrilled with having 100 friends, and I am not someone who gets ego boost from my friend list size. But I was okay with it.

Then, I went through a bit of a "reaching out" explosion. It happened, I think, right around the time I was going through some serious feelings of aloneness. And I found a few friends from high school. And that led to finding a few more friends from high school. And so on. And so on. And it was kind of neat to see some of these people online, though it seemed that most of them did not have remotely similar lives to mine. They had husbands, wives, children. They mostly lived in Massachusetts still. All told, it brought my friend list up to about 180, if I am not mistaken. This included people who asked me to be their friend even though we actually despised one another in high school. Maybe despise is a strong word. We were in no way friendly, nor did we engage in any form of socialization. And they were now asking me to be their "friend".

On top of the whole high school thing, there were also a handful of ex-girlfriends that tumbled into the mix. And that, with very few exceptions, can never be a good thing. It turns out, people who annoyed the shit out of you 20 years ago will probably annoy the shit out of you now, in very similar ways (myself included, I imagine).

What was I doing with all these people on my friend list? And did I really want them there?

I could go and set all sorts of multi-tiered privacy settings so that Judy Lou can see only this and that, and Jeffy Joe can see only these other sections. But really. Do I want to bother creating an elaborate information corralling system for people whom I did perfectly well not hearing from for the last 22 years? Probably not.

My feelings of "aloneness" subsided, and I migrated into what I would like to characterize as a much better emotional and mental space. And one day, I was sitting and thinking about the fact that my grad school girlfriend was seeing all these status updates about my new love interest, and that seemed odd, unnecessary, and sort of stupid. And I deleted a few people from the friend list. And then I deleted a few more. And I kept going through the list and scanning it, and deleting, and scanning, and deleting. Until I had gone from about 183 to 100. I blew away 83 people. And I felt both relief and a bit of shame. It would have been much better to just never add them.

Over the weeks that followed I received a few communications:

"Hey asshole, why'd you go and defriend me?" (that one was actually a bit of a mistake, and I friended him right back again - though he does live in Scotland now, so it wasn't like I was seeing him around town!)

And a few people asked me if I did it by mistake. All told, maybe half a dozen people questioned me directly. I imagine that maybe another 20 or so noticed it, and didn't comment, but probably thought it to be odd. And then the rest might or might not ever notice, since I was not really on their radar anyway.

I also blew away most of the ex-girlfriends, with the exceptions of those who remain good friends. But it's just something that doesn't sit well with me. I could have left it alone, and it wouldn't have been an issue. Or much wiser would have been to never add them. I would have to say that it is unfortunately typical social behavior for me to overcommit and then escape.

But I guess my suggestion here is that you think hard about who you want on your friend list. Because there is definitely something more than just a mouse click and the shuffling of pixels, when it comes to adding and removing human beings from our lists.

That said, I am probably about to go over to Facebook and remove a few more...

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