Over at The Verge, Ellis Hamburger has written another clever article. It's about how there's a disconnect between Facebook's concept of "friend" and how that word is used in the real world. I suggest everybody read it and - if they have time, another article he wrote named "The Era of Facebook is an Anomaly"
Looking through my own friends list, I can see this being very much the case. Most people on my friend list aren't really what I would call "friends", but people that have existed in the periphery of my social circles at some point during my life. They're my friends' parents, friends of ex-girlfriends, people I went to high school with, people who hung out at the same clubs as I did twelve years ago and people who just so happened to work at the same office as I did for a couple of months.
According to some social theories, a person is only able to maintain 30-50 close friendships at any one time and another 100-120 casual acquaintances outside of that. Anything more than that, and it becomes more work to maintain the relationship than the return is worth. This theory is called Dunbar's Number, and I think Facebook friendships should reflect this.
The ability to reach everyone I know in one place is no longer a novelty. We don’t want to see daily updates from everyone we meet in perpetuity. Facebook’s contingency plan for dealing with its friendship paradox — that ballooning Friends lists both clog the News Feed and make it awkward to share — is its increasingly intelligent algorithm, which aims to show only relevant content in your feed. But algorithms can only go so far when we're adding new friends quicker than we're unfriending old ones, and Facebook is afraid to show you the same page twice. When people say, "I hate Facebook," what I think they’re really saying is, "I wish my real friends would post more stuff so my feed wasn't full of randos."
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to scale down my Facebook friend list to match how things actually look in reality. I've already closed down most of my Facebook presence to "Friends Only", and next I'm going to trim the actual members of that list. I'll get rid of the people I don't talk to, don't want to talk to or that I have drifted away from. It's not personal, it's just that I want to reduce the size of my social circle for now and focus on those people and those tasks that really matter to me. The job of keeping up with people takes surprisingly much out of every day. I don't want to go to Facebook for debate, I want to go to Facebook to keep in touch with my closest friends and family and have truly meaningful interactions.
I'm keeping my Twitter and Instagram completely public, as the 'follow' functionality there makes a lot more sense than any other buddy system out there. The way Google+ allows us to put people in "Circles" without them having to do the same is, in many ways, the perfect way of doing this. I'll be keeping the "Follow" functionality available on my Facebook page for people who still want to be able to see any public posts that I make.