Today is National Unfriend Day, a day for Facebook users to fess up to their social networking habits. There are two things you can do today: Unfriend many of your Facebook friends and use Facebook as an actual, completely manageable social network, or accept the many virtual friends that your Facebook network has to offer you.
Once upon a time, friends were people you saw often, maybe even every day. You had a small group of friends with whom you shared meaningful, in-person experiences, spoke with face-to-face and – gasp! – talked on the phone with. You didn’t only text or tweet or post on their Facebook walls, you actually talked to them. Those were the good old days, right?
Ah yes, I remember real people. I didn’t know them by their Facebook profile pictures or Twitter handles. I didn’t wonder if they were secretly artificial intelligence robots. I didn’t look for them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And I certainly didn’t think about what it would be like to meet them, or if they were different online than they were in-person.
Dunbar’s number refers to the number of people one “knows and keeps social contact with,” according to WIkipedia. That number is usually between 100 and 230, but I’ve heard people say 140 or 150. If you have more than 150 Facebook friends, you’ve probably surpassed the actual number of manageable social relationships.
In Facebook’s defense, it did launch smart lists this past September, which helps you discover who you interact with the most (because you may not already know, right?). Then it organizes those contacts by dropping them into segmented lists like close friends, acquaintances, family, school, city, past job, current job, community interest, you get the idea.
Merriam-Webster.com defines “friend” as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” Yet in our world today, the definition of friend is constantly shifting. Facebook Friend is one example of that. You can be Facebook Friends with someone, yet never see them in your real life. There’s no reason to start unfriending anyone – just start embracing the Facebook Friend.