Break-ups are messy. The demise of a relationship is usually marked by yelling, tears, insults, accusations, and sometimes, the sound of a slamming door. But what happens when we attempt to cut someone off digitally? Is de-friending a former romantic partner or friend a significant marker of our generation, or just another way to manage our online identities?
According to Facebook’s Statistics Fact Sheet, the average user has 130 friends. But as a college student and Facebook user, I’ve seen classmates amass over 1,000 friends. For many young users, the site is a major networking tool and acts as the primary form of managing one’s social life.
But the extent to which users monitor their Facebook friends varies dramatically. Some people limit their friend list to only those with whom they are really close. Explained one BC collegiette™, “My roommate doesn’t care at all about gossip or checking up on people; she has a friend list of about 150 and plans on narrowing it down even further after graduation.” Similarly, many students carefully choose whose friend requests they’ll accept in order to protect their privacy. Amy, a freshman at BC, remarked, “Before accepting a request, I make sure that the person is someone I talk to or want to reconnect with, rather than somebody who will just stalk my profile.” On the other hand, some users accept anyone they’ve met, reasoning that being able to connect with them online could lead to a stronger friendship or that there’s no harm in checking them out.
When it comes to deleting friends, however, the reasoning isn’t always as clear to the deletee. One senior shared her de-friending drama with a former study abroad classmate who deleted everyone from the group once they returned to the States. When tagging pictures, some of the recently deleted friends noticed her absence and sent new requests. Though their requests were approved, a short time later they were de-friended once again! To this day, everyone’s confused by her fluctuating friend list, and wonders what her motivation may be. A sophomore BC girl had a similar tale, involving a high school friend who no longer accepts her requests to reconnect, despite their strong friendship just a short time ago.
While being removed may seem like a personal affront, Facebook friend “purges” are a common way of cleaning up a cluttered news feed. Instead of wondering why that random guy from your English class keeps updating his status every ten minutes, click “Unfriend.” Unless, of course, you find the person in question to be stalk-worthy. As one sophomore put it, “If there’s nothing interesting to creep on, what’s the point?” An interesting way to eliminate friends is to take note of peoples’ birthdays, as Alyssa does. Though it seems like an odd method, she explains, “If I feel comfortable wishing them a happy birthday, then I do. But if I don’t know who they are or I don’t feel comfortable writing on their wall, I defriend them.”
There does seem to be a link between users’ levels of online activity and how closely they keep an eye on their Facebook friends. If you enjoy spending more time on Facebook and want to create a large network, it’s likely that you’ll only de-friend people who consistently crowd your news feed. But if you view the site as a more personal way to interact online, chances are you prefer to weed out the “randos” or “creepers” and don’t partake in hours of checking up on people from your past. Which side of the spectrum do you fall on?
While these two approaches may be very relevant in college (to friend request last night’s hook-up… or not?), what will your activity be like after BC? Is it worth keeping tabs on your Senior Five post-graduation?