It’s true, I’m a de-friender.
You probably find it ironic that I keep my blog 100% public, but am very careful about who I add on Facebook. When you think about it, though, Facebook is an entirely different beast. On my blog(s), I have absolute control over what gets posted and what does not. On Facebook, I am often at the mercy of my friends and the applications to which I’ve subscribed. Though I do my best not to post anything I wouldn’t want my Grandma to read, my Facebook wall tends to be more candid than anything I publish elsewhere on the web, and it’s impossible to control what your friends tag you in and applications that alert the entire Facebook world every time you read a news article.
It’s particularly important to safeguard your contact and other personal information from people you don’t know, and Facebook’s constant interface “upgrades” make it difficult to keep up with who can see what on your page. This is the main reason I periodically weed out people from my friends page – to protect my privacy and to preempt Facebook’s changes.
Usually, my policy is if I don’t feel comfortable writing “Happy Birthday” on your wall once a year when that day rolls around, then I probably should not be your Facebook friend. But lately I have modified my friend qualifications.
When deciding whether or not to de-friend someone, I ask myself these questions:
1) Are they a person?
If you are a gallery, store, restaurant, or other organization, you should not have a profile page. I will “like” your fan page; I might even join your group, but I will not add you as a friend.
2) Do I recognize them? Would they recognize me?
Sometimes, I add someone as a friend (or accept their friendship) after just meeting them, but then I have no further interaction with them. After a while, I forget who they are completely. So I delete them. Even if I do recognize them, I ask myself, “Would they recognize me? Would they wave to me if they saw me in the street?” If the answer to those questions is no, they get the axe.
3) Have I communicated with them in the last year?
This one is not definite, and I refer to #4-7 for exceptions, but generally, if I have not communicated with someone in any way, shape or form (basically, have we acknowledged each other’s existence) in a year or longer, I de-friend them.
4) Are they related to me?
This includes not only blood relatives, but family friends, childhood friends, and siblings’ best friends and significant others.
5) Are we former friends?
I have several Facebook friends with whom I was close at some point, but our friendship has since lapsed. Even though we haven’t talked in over a year, I know we’d say hi to each other if we passed on the street.
6) Have we worked together?
This one is a bit tricky, because you don’t want to share too much personal information with business associates. However, I feel that maintaining that relationship however you can, especially if you work freelance, may keep you in the back of their minds (or them in the back of yours) for some project down the road. Besides, I have other measures of restricting content on my Facebook page (see below).
7) Do I consider them cool/interesting/nice/non-creepy or otherwise worth keeping up with?
This one is for people that don’t fall into one or more of the above categories, but I’d like to keep up with them because they seem like someone with whom I’d get along and/or I’d like to be friends with them but just never had the opportunity to get to know them better.
Besides de-friending people, there are other ways to restrict what others can see on your profile. One of my favorite tools on Facebook is the “View As…” button. This is located on your profile page under the settings wheel button. You can type in any name or group to see exactly what they can see on your page. You can also see how the general public views your page.
Create groups and restrict what they can see. I got on board with this idea as soon as Facebook created groups, though it took ages to sort all of my friends. Groups are extremely convenient (once you’ve sorted your existing friends) because you need only add each new friend to a certain group, say “work” or “relatives” or “best friends”, and what they can view will be restricted according to your settings for that group. (As a side note, these types of groups are the basis for the Google+ interface). Facebook has recently added easier-to-use pre-made groups such as “acquaintances” and “close friends”, as well as categorizing people by work or location. You can also now restrict individual posts to certain people if you want.
I’m here to say, it’s OK to be that girl (or guy). If you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings, remind yourself that your privacy should be top priority, and go ahead and click that “delete friend” button.