Reevaluating Facebook

New Year's Eve

Seriously. They're awesome parties.

I removed my Facebook wall today. I’m going to try to avoid Facebook as much as I can, and see if that goes well. I think it will. Realistically, there are very few people I interact with regularly, and I have redundant systems–email for my friends who don’t got to school with me, phone for my family, and running into people at my little tiny school if they need me. My contact information is still up there, if someone needs to text me.

While my wall is gone, I’m going to reevaluate what I’m using Facebook for. I’m not one of those people who truly wants to delete my profile; for one, I have had useful and good things come of Facebook, and it is by far the thing that gets me the most hits on this site or on my HackCollege articles. It’s a great way to distribute content I find interesting or useful (or–to be honest–that I create). There are links that I routinely want to send to individuals, and I think it’s probably ruder and more intrusive to send those via email. The reusable K-cup that I found the other day is totally awesome for my friend with a Kurig, but that doesn’t make it worth an email. And, oftentimes, it’s the way that I find out about parties friends are throwing–real-life events that I want to attend because my friends throw awesome parties.

Perhaps the way to use it is to reevaluate the Facebook ettiquette. Currently, I’m like most people; I friend pretty much anyone who requests me, regardless of degree of intimacy. Perhaps if I knocked that back down to the 50 or so people I actually care about, Facebook would become useful for me again. It is difficult to go through the 500-ish friends I have accumulated, though, and rearrange my settings so that I’m back where I want to be. And, because I’m a worrier, I’m always somewhat afraid that I’ll unfriend someone who I really will want to get in touch with at some point. The fact that I possess about 800 ways to do this outside of Facebook (or, with Facebook messages, within Facebook) does not seem to appease my lizard brain. And, if I lost those contacts I would have difficulty keeping people up-to-date with things I write, which is something I want to do.

The current solution of removing my wall is not perfect. It prevents people from sending me interesting links of their own, which I enjoy. The ideal solution would be for Facebook to move to a Twitter-like system of non-mutual following–people could follow me without me necessarily following them. The news feed could be opt-in; I would have to choose to see someone rather than having to choose to hide them. Then again, Facebook is built on an opt-out model. If they weren’t, people wouldn’t lose their shit every time the privacy settings got changed. As it stands, I would instead have to go through and hide everyone on Facebook that I’m not that interested in, and that is a ton of effort.

The second-most-appealing solution, a very, very large-scale friend cull, presents problems of its own. People consider unfriending to be rude and get upset if they discover you’ve unfriended them. I understand that, though it’s inconvenient. And a person with only 50 friends becomes a social oddity. People wonder what’s wrong with you. I could hide my profile except for those I’m already friends with, but that makes me unfindable for people I want to interact with without friending–former coworkers or classmates.

I have one close friend who has up and deleted his Facebook. He sends out a little newsletter about his goings-on to six of us from high school every few months. Clearly it is do-able. The two people I know who don’t have Facebooks (him, and an acquaintance from college) are both well-liked and surrounded by an air of mystery; getting in touch with them is difficult. People think twice about it, because email is more intimate than Facebook. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

If I wasn’t worried about being overlooked for parties, I think that way would be quite appealing. Plus, newsletters move from being irritating and self-involved to interesting when they’re not summaries of a constant stream of updates. Christmas newsletters are fun, but Monday newsletters are not.

I do worry some about people finding me if they need to, but I’m at the point where those who Google my name can find me on the front page (I beat out Stephen Curtis Chapman’s daughter; this was inappropriately exciting). Perhaps it would be best to sit down and make a list of who I want to stay in contact with. There aren’t that many people. An email newsletter would be do-able, and I’m quite active on Twitter, so that wouldn’t be so bad. We will see, we will see!

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