Trimming the social fat

I just finished a thorough purge of my Facebook friends list, leaving me with about 25% fewer “friends.”  It feels marvelous.

In what I imagine has been a fairly common experience this week, the first ones to go were those who, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, revealed themselves to be racist bigoted jerks.  Once upon a time I might have just hidden these people’s feeds, hoping to check back in on their lives after the storm of hate has blown over, but not anymore.

Because why waste my time on such people?

Recent events might’ve been the nudge that finally pushed me over, but this has been a long time coming.  I joined Facebook back in college, at an age when “friending” everybody you met was the thing to do.  To someone whose life has largely been spent on the outskirts of social groups, this felt like a good thing.  I could connect with people!  I could follow the lives of others and imagine myself a part.

But I’m much pickier now, and more cynical.  There are indeed a number of folks whose lives I enjoy keeping up with, even if it’s just baby announcements and graduation pictures.  There are a modest number of people who appear to enjoy doing the same for me.  We “like” each others’ posts, we smile in passing, we feel a little less alone.

Honestly though, most of my college acquaintances?  I really don’t care all that much about them anymore, and there’s no evidence that they have any interest in me.  We networked, we tried… and it turns out we’re just not friends.

It’s been a non-trivial personal journey to get to the point where I’m OK with that.  I’m shy and anxious and introverted—I don’t have that many real, close friends—so I’ve had a tendency to cling to the faux ones in the subconscious hope that the passage of time will bring us closer.  But in doing so, I use more of my my limited social energy; that energy would be better spent deepening the connections to people with whom I actually connect.

Developing my pseudonymous presence on the web has been very informative in this regard.  Outside the weird social pressures of using my real name, and the automatically reciprocal nature of Facebook’s friend button, I’m free to follow those who interest me and ignore those who don’t.  I’m also free to say what I want, without fear of setting off someone to whom I feel I’m supposed to be “nice.”  It’s freeing, it’s empowering, and I love it.

Facebook’s never going to be that kind of venue for me, in no small part because I’ve chosen to use it to connect with family.  But I can definitely make it a more positive experience, and that starts with sticking up for myself and my time.

Readers, what’s your approach to social media?  Do you keep it small or connect with everyone?