To cull or not to cull…
“Friendship is sacred, and I believe Facebook is cheapening it. So on November 17th, cut out some of the “friend fat.”
According to Jimmy Kimmel you can’t have a thousand friends; it’s impossible.
Cutting out the friend fat
So, is this a genuine attempt to provoke debate about the nature and value of friendship in a digital world? Probably not, but it makes for good TV content.
But is Jimmy Kimmel just a jealous Billy-No-Mates or does he have a point?
Buddies vs burgers
The online friendship debate is nothing new. Last year the Oxford English Dictionary made “unfriend” its word of the year.
2009 also saw Burger King attributing the value of ten friends to the price of a burger with its Whopper Sacrifice promotion. The promotion was dropped by BK over privacy issues, but not before hundreds of thousands of people had been unceremoniously dropped by their friends, and all for a meat pattie. (Thankfully I know a lot of vegetarians.)
Facebook friendship pages
Facebook have recently made it easier for you to see exactly what your friendships look like.
Its new Friendship Pages let you see mutual content between you and your friends. However is this a true reflection of the nature of your friendship?
Lots of mutual content does not a friendship make, and, equally, little content may just be indicative of a very close relationship which doesn’t require extensive ‘social networking’ online. So Friendship Pages would be an unreliable foundation on which to base a defriending decision.
So what is it that makes a person go beyond the privacy settings and defriend?
There is some science behind it. A recent study from business student Christopher Sibona at the University of Colorado examined the politics of defriending. In a study of 1,500 Facebook users, 57% of defriending incidents related to something that happened online. The number one reason for defriending? Persistent, inane posts. You know the type of thing – those boring over-sharing posts bordering on spam which leave no one LOLing, LMAOing or ROFLing.
At the end of the day, as with the real world, if you aren’t entertaining, chances are people won’t want to be your friend. You’re going to get binned.
Religion and politics came in as the number two motivation for defriending, with crude and racist posts making number three.
Interestingly, this study also found that you are more likely to be defriended if you made the friend request in the first place. Those ‘asking’ were found to play the subordinate role in the relationship.
Currently you can cull pretty much in secret – with the defriended only realising when your smiling face bobs up in their friend suggestions. So your DUI (or Defriending Under the Influence) may come back to haunt you. In dealing with a bruised virtual ego you may be asked some awkward questions in a real life situation… be warned!
What does all this mean for our friendships?
Perhaps Kimmel does have a point. Our friend collecting may have got a little out of hand. But this may be a reflection of our maturing social networking behaviour – our initial giddiness replaced by a more measured response as you realise why it’s been 15 years since you last spoke to Jenny from school (you don’t like her and she’s annoying).
The average Facebook user has 130 friends and the network caps numbers at 5,000. However your Facebook feed only serves you updates based on your behaviour, so if you stop looking at and engaging with the boring and irritating types then you won’t be plagued by their incessant posts.
But that kind of takes the fun out of it doesn’t it…?