It was seven years ago when I signed up and created my Facebook profile. I did it deliberately but with reservation. I did it because I was a pastor's wife who was working full-time, raising a child, and trying to connect with a high-need congregation that was about 45 minutes away. I wanted to be involved, to be present when I could not actually be there in the flesh.
I believe I started well. Facebook was for friends, not for work associates. LinkedIn was for business; Facebook was personal.
Somewhere along the way I think I lost my way. Thousands if not millions of potential friends joined Facebook since my first status post was written. It was fun to "connect" with friends and acquaintances; new and old, including those from 30 years back in a pre-Internet world.
I watched others have friend lists that topped 1,000. It was a great broadcasting platform for them. I have friends that are single minded in their posted; they are passionate about a certain topic and FB is a great broadcast media for them. I have other friends who link their Twitter feed with FB so there are a lot of short and sweet posts.
At my most generous, I had probably 460 "friends." And I really tried and wanted to be a friend - high interaction with all they posted. It was a daily ritual to get on FB - peruse the latest in the world of my diverse circle of friends from all walks and seasons of my life.
This past year I confess to experiencing, well, hurt feelings from my cadre of Facebook friends. I began to suspect that in fact I was part of some obligatory FB friend collection because regardless of what I posted ( lost job, illness, etc.) they never post a comment or interacted in any way.
Was I hidden or no longer on their feed? Was it something I said? Was it something I had done?
Ouch, it was starting to feel very much like rejection. Okay, I think I have reentered high school!! Yep my expectations had changed. And I think the real thing was, I actually needed/wanted friends.
Now I know that everyone has different FB habits, motivations and expectations. I accept and applaud that - but am hoping it is deliberate. I think it's important that we access how social media impacts the quality of and even nature of our relationships.
So once I was able to reconcile all those crazy emotions, I realized I am no longer impressed with Facebook friending in my life. It's a shortcut to the real thing; a counterfeit of the real thing: real interaction. At some point I simply wanted more than Facebook could give. I wanted real friends.
If I were to gauge friendship by Facebook over the past six to nine months, I think I have three friends (thank you my unnamed friends, you know who you are!). I have never been someone who collected friends. Regardless of what I may appear I am an introvert living a very extroverted life. I'm a deep with a few versus expansive with many.
So the net, net is that two weeks ago, I trimmed my Facebook "friends" by 25 percent. I suspect I will cut it even further in the future. I want to focus my attention on people that I actually have relationships with or those that I want to stay in touch with over the miles (whether they are active on FB or not). In fact, I am convinced that the 100 people I cut don't even know I cut them; I think I was part of their collection but we really didn't have any real relationship. Again we all have a FB personality type, mine is simply changing.
I considered getting off altogether. That is certainly a choice. But I love connecting with family in Europe and throughout the US; I enjoy seeing my friends' pictures and reveling in their vacations; and I love keeping dialed in throughout the day to the two loves of my life whom I life with. Truth be told I love the birthday alert!
So for now, I will continue dealing with the tension this personal yet impersonal channel affords.
I have much more I could say about Facebook; so much I love about being able to create an awesome news feed that I can customize based on my clients and interests. In fact the news feed function is the one I spend the most time with at this point. I love following my favorite bloggers via FB.
But friends, well I want a strong emphasis with face-to-face or over the phone or via text, or even via Facebook chat. I want real engagement. Pure and simple.
I'll have more on this topic - friendship - in the coming days. It's been such a great thing to explore and be deliberate about. Friendship is worth it; worth the effort.