The Facebook confession

I confessed the most awful realization to a group of friends recently over dinner.

I’ve been unfriending people on their birthdays.

It’s like I get this message, It’s Robert Goldberg’s birthday, say happy birthday!–and then I think, who is Robert Goldberg?

Unfriend.

Happy birthday Robert.

I know. Horrible. Especially when you say it out loud.

Maybe even more horrible when I write it here.

The problem is, we all use Facebook differently. For some, it’s a Rolodex of everyone they’ve ever met. For some it’s a colleague collection contest–a race to see how many you can have, should you be able to trade each one in for a gold dubloon someday. For me right now, it’s actual friends. People I stay in contact with because we have a relationship; one beyond, “I read your blog” or “we shook hands at a party once” or “we both know that guy, the one you were in gym class in fifth grade, the one who really liked apple juice back them.”

I hate to think that it’s hurtful to anyone though when I realize, eh…nothing in common here. Let’s part ways.

I think of it as uncluttering.

Now there is no controversy around the idea of uncluttering your stuff. Heck, there are entire blogs devoted to it. When you unclutter your stuff, no one hates you. Well, except maybe Nate who hates getting rid of a single thing he owns. He’ll be like “No, not that Chess King shirt from 1994! I might wear it in a comedy sketch someday! No, not that paper clip! Not that empty Grolsch bottle!” Because, you know. Men require empty Grolsch bottles in their homes. It’s genetic.

But otherwise? The publisher who sent me the unsolicited copy of the faith-based parenting book is really not going to be distraught if I leave it out with recycling. The carney who kindly handed the kids a stuffed squid at a theme park last year will not come to our home searching for it. At least I hope not. Eek.

But right now, out of desperation and a major case of Finalstrawitis, I have entered full-fledged uncluttering mode. I’m tearing through the closet and tossing old clothes. Handing dog-eared Stephen King paperbacks to neighbors. Donating the games with the missing pieces. I have yet to declare email bankruptcy but I have to say, I’m close. And I’m paring down the social media clutter too.

I am simply overwhelmed with all that I am doing these days, and more so, with the things I would like to be doing but can’t get to, through all the clutter. Hey! Funny enough, I am delivering a keynote on this very thing at the Type A Parent Conference this weekend. Should I have time to finish it.

(Just kidding Kelby. It’s finished. Mostly.)

I really have no hesitation about simplifying my social media life, except for one teeny thing: sometimes, people notice.

And then they get sad.

It’s not the actual action that’s hurtful, I’m convinced it’s the damn words: Unfollowing. Unfriending. It just seems so…un-nice.

Can’t we call it something else?

(I got nothing. But I’m open.)

Personally, I don’t use those tattle-tale services that ping you every time someone unfollows you. I’m surprised more people do–who has the time to track that stuff? Besides, it’s not like it tells you why the person unfollowed me, and isn’t that what matters? Maybe I said Fuck once. Or twice. Maybe they’re Tea Party people. Maybe I tweet too much about parenting. Maybe I don’t tweet enough about parenting. Maybe they gave it a try for a week, and like that stupid Cookie Diet, it just didn’t work out. Maybe they’re just not that into me.

Or maybe it’s what Gwen Bell does; she actually unfollows then refollows an entirely new group of people every few months just to discover new voices I’ve found myself inspired by her astute observation that the more social media noise there is, the less she hears. I bow to thee, oh Master, but I’m not quite so Buddhist with my things–or Twitter people–just yet.

But doesn’t that sound like a great place to get to some day?

So right now I’m taking baby steps, for my own sanity. People on Twitter whom I no longer recognize? Gone. Continual drama starters? Done. Friends whose twitter stream is jam-packed with giveaway entries, strong evidence of branded hashtag addiction, and bored chatter–I love you, but I don’t love your tweets. I’m sure you understand.

Let’s have drinks instead. I really think real friends connect better that way anyway.

As for you FourSquare junkies, don’t get me started. I know you’re really proud of being the mayor of JennieLee’s Hair + Nails in Pleasantville, but I kinda wish that was between you and JennieLee.

 

{65 Comments}

65 thoughts on “The Facebook confession”

  1. Here’s the thing. ONLY someone like you – generous and big-hearted, would be guilty. It’s like the list for your wedding – or later kid bat mitzvah – or later kid wedding — we constantly edit the position of people in our lives. It’s a grown-up thing. So go ahead and be sensitive but NOT guilty. OH – and if you REALLY feel bad, maybe unfriend them the day AFTER their birthday?
    Cynthia Samuels recently posted..Morning Mix: Should The Writer Be Deported?My Profile

  2. The echoes in the hollow get to me sometimes. I suppose getting hundreds of birthday wishes is nice, but it really seems more like responding to an alarm than really caring. “Ooh, better say happy birthday.”

    I am more and more drawn to meaning in my life. I want to be of value, cherished even. I feel I owe that to others as well. So I widdle, carving out what will mean the most to me and to others.

    But yeah, the un of it all can kind of suck.
    Amanda recently posted..RisingMy Profile

  3. I think most others truly understand exactly what you wrote here. That it’s nearly impossible to keep everything going and juggle it all and comment on every blog, friend, tweeter, facebooker that comes your way. We’ve got so much social media pulling on every one of the everlasting strings of our lives – but it comes down to what WE let into it. WE have to be the manager (and a good manager) of what we allow and we shouldn’t be held guilty for doing it in whatever way improves our lives, not clutters it.

    I often reminisce of the days when I had to wait for a phone call from a friend (or a boy!) and the angst of whether I missed them trying to call me because someone else at my house was on the phone because #1 we had only one phone for our whole family and #2 call waiting wasn’t even invented yet. I remember getting on my BIKE and riding to friends neighborhoods because that’s how I had to find them – at the park or playing kickball in the street- because the game was on, but because my sister was on the phone, they couldn’t reach me to call me before they got together.

    I want to make sure my kids have a little of this in their lives somehow!
    Sarah (Sterling Creek) recently posted..Play Ball!My Profile

  4. I’ve said this before elsewhere but I’ve always viewed FB as purely personal (whereas LinkedIn is a free for all…not like I do much with that account but anyway…). I feel a little bad about the 100 some odd friend requests from people I don’t know (but apparently we have tons of mutual friends) but not so bad that I’m going to do anything about it. Time is so limited these days.

    Also, I love your referencing of gold dubloons. 🙂

    Also, I’ve been thinking of you Liz re: some working mom stuff and crazy change that may transpire for me come fall. I wish we could sit and chat over coffee. Or really giant cupcakes. Or something. xoxo
    Boston Mamas recently posted..9 Fun Weekend PicksMy Profile

      1. I completely agree Annie. Perhaps it’s because blogging is not my primary “business,” I don’t want to give anyone I’ve ever met, direct access to anyone I’ve ever worked with.

  5. This makes me wonder if my approach has been a mere Band-Aid – hiding Facebook friends who post inanities (if only they’d just punch them up with some humor!) and using Twitter lists to see only the people I really care to see.

    1. That’s exactly what I do…band-aid.

      For some reason, it seems, I don’t know, nicer?
      But I think maybe it’s time to stop.

  6. I’m the same exact way with personal Facebook page. I have a Real Life Only rule, or have at least had some sort of offline correspondence with you (telephone, snail mail) then I just can’t. I’m sorry. Don’t hate me. It does make me feel like a butthead, but I’m just not a collector.

    My husband, on the other hand, is friends with every person he’s ever come into contact with, and I have to throw away the broken paper clips when he’s not looking. Either that, or threaten to leave him ONLY the empty Grolsch bottle in the divorce. 😉
    TheFeministBreeder recently posted..Hacker Impersonates Circle of Moms to Send Me Fraudulent EmailMy Profile

  7. I totally understand what you mean, but I do find it a tad offensive to refer to it as “uncluttering.” You’re not the first to refer to it as such and to be honest, I kind of hate it. Whether it’s your sister or the person that knows that one kid from gym class in 5th grade – they’re all people. Not “clutter.” Does that mean you shouldn’t still remove them from your friends list when you want? Of course not! But I agree that it’s all a matter of how it’s phrased – “unfriended” “unfollow” etc. Definitely not nice terms.

    Most of the time I don’t notice when someone unfriends me or unfollows me. I may see the number go down a person or two, but I couldn’t tell you who it was. I once got a mass email from a co-worker in another office that said that he was trying to keep his personal and professional life separate so to please not be offended when he removed me (and a bunch of others) from his Facebook. No hard feelings, just wanted to keep his social circle smaller and personal. And I understood.

    For me, I either hide annoying people’s feeds, or I just don’t accept them in the first place. Every now and then I’ll do a mass sweep of removing people, but those are few and far between. I do like Gwen’s approach, especially for Twitter. I may try that.
    Liz recently posted..I Heart SummerMy Profile

    1. Ha, I knew someone would call me on that, Liz. And look! It’s you!

      People aren’t clutter. But Tweets, status updates, meme requests, and “Charlene answered a question about how good looking you are, click here to see what she said!” – that stuff definitely can be.

      That’s why I invited you all for drinks instead.

      1. And, let’s be honest. People aren’t clutter. But every person _comes_ with clutter.

        I think in movies they call it “baggage.” (And it comes out, whether sidewaysly or directly, in every status update, comment left on a blog, or sentence we utter.)
        Gwen Bell recently posted..My Profile

  8. Woah, I totally do the same thing! I never really thought of it as unfriending them on their birthday though… oops! But yeah, my philosophy is, if I haven’t talked to you in a year or two (or three), I probably don’t care what you’re up to on the daily.
    Shasta Kearns Moore recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Nnnnyah!My Profile

  9. I am with you 100%. I have been un-friending people on facebook, unfollowing on Twitter and unsubscribing in my google reader. My life has become so very very full and I have to clean house–don’t get me started with my husbands Bowl full of Blues Festival t-shirt from 1994 that we have to keep (hello honey–you aren’t the same size anymore!)

    In the early days of facebook, I friended nearly anyone who I had a connection to (mostly through Ethiopian adoption) but then I started to realize that I didn’t know them. So I cleaned house–some sent requests again, but I continue to unfriend. Just because we went to high school together doesn’t mean we should be friends on facebook.

    It is hard and I’m sure it hurts some people, but my facebook page is mine and I might not use it like others–I don’t need to have 300 friends. Good God, I don’t have time as it is for the friends I do have. I don’t watch my pithy number of followers on Twitter, I don’t fret over the #of visitors to my blog. Once you start doing that, you start to change for your audience and stop being authentic. Authentic is way better.

    Good for you. And I don’t understand people who think somehow it’s their right to be our “friends” on facebook.
    The Dalai Mama recently posted..What Work/Life Balance, Not Allowed?My Profile

  10. And this is why I’ve been considering creating a facebook page for my blog. Who are these people who are my so-called friends? How friendly are we? Do I want you to see where I just was and the cute things my kids said about it? I used to think so. But now, I’m not so sure. It’s nothing personal. I live online. It doesn’t mean I can’t be more selective who I tell what. Right?

  11. Okay, so I’m going to sound like an awful bitch, but the way I do it on Facebook is that I privatize my profile from certain people – for several months. If they haven’t noticed, then I unfriend them. If they do, and they’re upset, then I reverse it and it just gets heaped under the category of “whoops, added you to the wrong list, thanks for noticing.” So far, nobody who has been unfriended seems to have noticed or cared.

    On Twitter, it’s a different story. Don’t even get me started with that.

    Good luck with the uncluttering =)
    Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com recently posted..On the road toward a plastic-free life.My Profile

  12. I can see your point, but I look at social media differently, I guess. Yes, it’s a place for interacting with close friends and reconnecting with old friends who you’ve lost contact with, but it’s become more than that. That’s what it started out as, and a lot of people try to cling to that as what it should be. But facebook has changed.

    Instead of having just a few friends, you have hundreds of “friends.” Some are close, some are distant, some you barely even ever knew. Of course, you could adjust your privacy settings for each group so that they only see what you want them to see, but I leave my profile open to be found and seen by anyone.

    1) Because I have nothing to hide. 2) Because someone out there might relate to what I have to say, and could use a friend to connect with. 3) Because who am I to be selective on who I choose to relate to? It’s reminiscent of grade school when the nerd asks the cool kid, “Can I be your friend?” but just gets made fun of instead.

    Granted, I probably use social media differently than a lot of people. I don’t check everyone’s status all the time. I group people into lists and try to comment on everyone at least a couple times a year. I don’t get deeply personal. I don’t put my whole life out there. I stay fairly lighthearted. I don’t send out a lot of friend requests, only approve friends that I actually remember (even if only remotely), and as a result, hardly ever get “unfriended.”

    So I look at facebook as a place to deepen relationships that could have been great had I gotten to know people the first time around. It’s not a substitute for deep relationships, those typically occur (for me) off the computer, “in real life.”
    Lynn recently posted..It’s Farmer’s Market Time!My Profile

    1. Really interesting points Lynn. As I said, the issue is that (as you confirm!) everyone uses social media channels differently. That can lead to hurt.

      Every one of your points about Facebook, I could apply to Mom-101. This is the place where anyone can come, visit, chat, and discuss. My Facebook fan page is the same way.

      My personal page however is my personal page. Not allowing everyone into every aspect of my life isn’t about making fun of nerds. It’s not about “rejecting” people. It’s about me being allowed to have some places that aren’t public. I think that’s reasonable.

  13. Great post!

    I do check the unfollowed metrics, and it’s breaking me. The whole metrics-push in general gives me stress I don’t need but somehow can’t turn away from. Even the terms “friend, ignore and unfriend” make it soul sucking for me.

    The idea that we all may be (unconsciously or not) classifying ourselves by our stats and numbers makes me sad enough to wish for another number: A 12-step one.

    1. Delete the unfollow metric accounts, Siobhan. I swear your life will not be any less rich without you knowing that @HappyGrrl16 unfollowed you today.

      It’s liberating.

        1. There’s a service for Twitter called Qwitter (I think) that shows you who unfollows you and when. But someone else could explain better – I’ve never looked at it!

  14. That just gave me an idea on how to declutter my personal Facebook. It has gotten to the point that I stop posting on FB because I can’t keep track who’s going to read it anymore – my old grade school friends? my in-laws? my future-boss? Argh!

    And I agree with the FarmVille and MafiaWar invites – agh, stop it.
    jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Couchsurfing With Llamas and GoatMy Profile

  15. I am sort of laughing that you unfolllow on their birthday. I unfollow people who annoy me. I used to just hide them, but really, if I am doing that, I might as well kick them off of there.

    I used FB only for blog friends. I’m not really a fan of FB in general.

    Life is too short to put up with people you don’t like, just because you feel obligated.
    Issa recently posted..I go to Walgreen’s ClinicMy Profile

  16. Well, maybe I’m just not as nice as other people, but I cull out the friend’s list a couple of times a year. A time or two I’ve had people ask to be my friend again, and generally I’ll accept, unless I’ve cut them for a specific reason (as opposed to the general, “we never see each other and I don’t really care that much”)

    I will say that I unfriended my Aunt a few months ago. It was so freeing. I’m related to a large number of disgruntled government workers, and all she ever did was complain, stir up arguments with her kids, and (this was the kicker) post highly inappropriate information on facebook. After finding out that my Grandma was rushed to the hospital on FB, (as opposed to say, a phone call) I cut ties. She might be upset. I can’t say it concerns me much.

    My general philosophy is that I have a right to choose who and what I allow into my life. I don’t read articles about Arnold and Maria’s marital troubles, so why be “friends” with someone I don’t like?

  17. I’m with you on this one. I like a lot of the people I “de-friend,” but if I don’t think I’ll ever see (or contact in real life) someone again, I’d prefer not to be friends with them on Facebook.
    the sickly child recently posted..The Book DoldrumsMy Profile

  18. I’m with you. Before friending someone on Facebook I ask myself, “Do they know my kids’ names?” I share a lot of information there, and it’s not for public consumption. My privacy levels are high, but my barriers to entry are higher.

    I treat Twitter differently. I’ll give almost anyone a chance, but I weed the list often.

    It’s up to us to carve out our social spaces – there’s no room for obligation here.
    julie recently posted..A complete lack of sentimentalityMy Profile

  19. My friend is a first-year high school teacher in a small district and she found out that it’s pretty much code for “I don’t like you as a person” if teachers don’t accept Facebook friend requests from their students. As someone who had college professors not accepting requests until after graduation, I find it odd that these teachers have found it acceptable to cross that line from professional into personal so easily. Yes, there are privacy settings, but Facebook for me will always be about personal connections, whereas Twitter is a place where I welcome strange (that’s people I don’t know, not weird — though they may cross over sometimes) or acquaintance-based interactions.

    My friend was wary about it at first, and has limited her current students to very basic information on her profile; she also blocks all students from her news feed — she says it cuts down on the drama that she reads. However, I wonder how many years she will teach before she has thousands of friends whose birthdays appear and she has no memory of those people as students or even as passers-by in the hallway.
    Melanie recently posted..melbadear: @rj_fisher19 I do believe, Sir, that we just missed each other at @Starbucks. Now I only have the people who work here to distract.My Profile

  20. Besides the fact that this post was yet another that made me feel like “see? I’m not the only one!” because I too am very selective about social media — who the fuck has time for all this shit? — it makes me look like a bitch to so many people I know who are really just whoring their lives out online. But seriously — I think what social media has done is changed our lives without changing the vocabulary, or at least without creating a new vocabulary and new definitions. Unfriending, unfollowing… The problem is that the very idea of friendship has now been altered and distorted. Do people even know what friends are anymore? The lines are constantly shifting and it’s confusing and bewildering and maddening, and really it’s created a ton of miscommunication.

    My high school was very small — so it seems like EVERYONE WHO WENT THERE are now “friends” on FB, even though they clearly despised one another during their attendance of this high school. So. freakin. weird. And they’re all busy trying to rack up the #s of friends…? What is that all about? It’s just become another way to “show off” or to make others perceive us a certain way by creating this online persona, this online life and identity that is “popular.”

    I’m sick of it. I was the last person among any of my groups of real friends to join FB, and I was almost the first to jump ship again when I saw what a joke it was. We weren’t keeping in touch as we’d initially intended. It had ballooned into something utterly ridiculous that didn’t AT ALL really facilitate good communication and intimacy between friends who live far from one another.

    Frankly, blog posts and the dialogues spawned by them, often seem to bring people together in a much more real, fundamental way.

    And yeah, I keep a FB page for my blog. And my personal one? I barely use it anymore. If people want to think I’m an antisocial bitch, so be it. And who knows? Maybe they’re right!

  21. I’m just here — being friendly — and feeding my inferiority complex because I don’t have to struggle with unfriending people.
    I’m not that popular. (Sigh?)
    No uncluttering. (Except for BillyJoeBob’s Garage in Nowheretown and those tweeters with the Double-D avatars and O tweets….)
    No birthday axe.
    Even my 15 year old, with his bajillion FB friends, has privatized me out of knowing what the heck is going on in teenville.

    Okay…
    I’m gone. ; )
    Pam @writewrds recently posted..My Brother, My HeroMy Profile

  22. I…unfollowed you on Facebook.

    No, no! Let me explain!

    I had these two Facebook accounts, one was a personal profile and the other was more blog related. I had a lot of overlap between the two when I first started the blog, but one day I looked at Facebook and said “I don’t know how to use this fucking site.” But I knew I wanted to separate family and college friends, pre-blog people, from those who only knew me from the online world. So I unfollowed hundreds of people from my personal profile.

    Then, I kind of unfollowed everyone from my blog profile when I converted it to a Page. I wasn’t using Facebook to keep track of daily movements of people who wanted to connect with me using it, and most of my timeline looked like noise, and I didn’t want to have to accept friend requests for an account that I wasn’t going to use in a “let’s keep in touch!” way. Doing a Page conversion unfollowed everyone, including you.

    So I guess I unfollowed you from two Facebook accounts.

    But my Page likes your Page, if that counts for anything.

    Facebook is stupid.
    Backpacking Dad recently posted..Dads Day Out: An All-Dad Playdate Is A Good ThingMy Profile

  23. I’m so with you on this! My husband’s much older sisters that I barely know are all on facebook and have “friended” me. One always “likes” just about every status update, photo, link, etc. that I post and it makes me NUTS! And while I love to unclutter my facebook and try to keep it to close friends only, it’s difficult to do so and I also feel guilty. On the other hand, I keep my twitter feed public and don’t really care who follows me there…. It’s a catch-22 I suppose. SIGH!
    Katie recently posted..Got my new TOMS today!! Boo’s excited! (Taken with…My Profile

  24. As someone who follows 1000 people on Facebook and almost 3000 on Twitter, this post hit home, because this is an issue that I have struggled with for a long time. I just hope a few of your commenters realize that doing this type of craziness is not always motivated by “collecting” people or being a “social media whore.” It might just be some other sort of psychological issue at work, like trying to please others! The work involved in maintaining so many relationships is not worth the benefits one may get out of it. Even though I have been online several years now, this time of virtual communication and friendship is confusing to me. How can someone I never see feel as close to me as my friend down the block? There are all sorts of intense relationships going on online, from writers I admire to those I chat with on IM. I’m never quite sure who is my “friend” anymore. That said, I think it is great to unclutter. It enables you to pay attention to those you care about the most. I might start following your lead. I don’t have much of a problem on Facebook. It is easy to “hide” people. Twitter is a major issue with me, and I absolutely love Gwen Bell’s idea. Not sure I have enough guts to do it.

    As a sidenote — I think everyone is getting more savvy about unfriending and unfollowing and not taking it as personal as when we first encountered it years ago. I have since had several close friends who unfollowed me — and told me why (“you talk too much, etc.”) and it was all fine. And I have done the same to a few of my friends (“you speak about politics too much!”) I think it is the guilty feeling that people used to feel (“What did I do wrong to hurt this person?”) that was the problem, and hopefully now we don’t take it as personally.

    But since social media is all about personal relationships, there will always be hurt feelings. It is human nature. But we need to act like adults.
    Neil recently posted..Happy Birthday, JennMy Profile

  25. Well, I never! I find you to be quite rude!
    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Robert Goldberg
    Ps–No cake for you!

  26. When I first got on Facebook I went on a free-for-all and friended everyone I knew, had ever known, or could possibly ever know. Now I’m staring at an unwieldy list of 1000+ people and I’m just not sure what to do with it.

    On Twitter I follow something like 5000 people but it doesn’t feel the same. Updates are brief and quickly get replaced. I miss a lot, but can usually find out what’s going on with the people I am more close with by checking in with their blogs or following conversation threads. But on Facebook…my settings keep changing themselves somehow so that the same dozen people dominate my feed, and those people tend to post a LOT, and then get tons of comments, so I feel like every time I check in I spend a half-hour getting updated on somebody I barely know (and also finding out what all their friends, who I don’t know at ALL, think.)

    Also, I’m about to hide Foursquare, even though my brother IS the mayor of Dollar General.

  27. I don’t understand why people get so upset- when I find out that people have unfriended me, I really don’t care, because usually it IS someone who I haven’t seen or talked to in years. My rule for getting rid of clothing is, if I haven’t worn in in the past year, it goes. So why be different for Facebook? If I haven’t seen or spoken to you in the past year, it’s fair game!

    Because, no offense, but why do I really care about what people I knew in high school did over the weekend?
    Mairin recently posted..A Really Fabulous Way to NOT Start Your Vacation…My Profile

  28. Funny: you always pop up as a friend suggestion for me on FB. I don’t know you at all and am not sure who we might both know that kicks that up in the FB system.

    I once thought about sending a friend request in case you were using FB as a blog marketing/advertising thing. I’m glad that I didn’t.

    I hate seeing businesses on FB: it’s for faces and faces only belong to people.

  29. Liz,

    Right now you’re preparing to get on stage to keynote a conference (now that I’ve written 800 words here, you’re probably back-stage signing autographs). I can see you in my mind’s eye. I wonder if you’re wearing your gold necklace that says @mom101. (Or was that @mominatrix’s necklace? Whichever, I remember flipping a little when I saw it.)

    I was asked to speak at Blogher this summer on this very topic – how to unfollow, unfriend, blank the slate, etc. I am quickly becoming the Ambassador of the Unfollow.

    So, yes, I’ve been called out on the unfollow thing. I’ve had people ask me, right before going on stage to speak – why did you unfollow me? The first few times it threw me off. Even now, I occasionally fret that when at a conference someone will be genuinely angry at my “unfriending” them.

    This is how I work with this – if it’s someone I’m close with, I’ll ask them to get on a call (if we’re in the same city, I ask for a face to face). I let them know why I’m unfollowing them.

    As you might guess, this can be painful for both of us. But I’d rather be honest with my closest than to just walk away. I ask them how honest they’d like me to be, and then I mirror what I see. And here’s the important part – I ask them to be honest with me, too. I let them know I’m willing and wanting to hear their feedback on me as a friend, too.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as, hey, we live far away from each other and in the year after we saw each other in person you’ve becoming really interested in researching ocean animals. I … haven’t. Our interests change – and should change – as we go through our lives. Will I still care for you and hug you and want to hear about how the ocean animals are when we next meet?

    Yes. I commit to whoever is in front of me in the moment (unfriending actually allows me to better do this).

    But I don’t want the moment-to-moment updates on cuttlefish you’re sharing on Twitter/your blog/etc.

    //

    In 6 days I unplug for a month – second annual Digital Sabbatical. The time offline allows me to look at the root system – both of myself – and of the work I do. The work is _within_ the digital space – and when I don’t step out of it (coming up on a year since I’ve taken more than two consecutive days off) I feel something fray inside me. Even during meditation practice, even on the yoga mat, I hear the call of the Refresh button. (I like this video on using that urge as a bell of mindfulness: http://www.gwenbell.com/digital-sabbatical/ -> she talks about it near the end)

    What I’m saying here is I have to work with these urges constantly, too. The urge to please is checked by a bigger urge; the urge to evaluate, look in the mirror, and be discerning in my connections – on and off the web. Asking: is this person’s stream growing me? Is this tool pushing me to evolve (in the case of Facebook, which I quit in December, the answer was definitely not)? Is this blog asking deeper questions?

    And I don’t let myself off the hook with this. I turn the mirror on myself. I ask: is my stream growing other people? Is the work I’m doing helping others evolve? Is this site (letter, stream) helping others ask deeper questions?

    //

    Thank you for the work you do, Liz. Each time I see it, impressed by it. You ask hard questions that stay with me – I’m stilling turning over in my mind the questions you asked moons back about whether to Photoshop photos of your kids. Retouching Childhood: http://mom-101.lgumbinner.com/2010/11/retouching-childhood.html

    A final(ish) thought. What I’m doing right now is deciding who I’m currently most engaged with: http://www.gwenbell.com/people and then working my way out from there. The people with whom I’m doing the work with – the people with whom I’m in near-daily contact, are in the People Profile. It’s a blogroll, but more actively pruned, more of-the-moment. These are the people with whom I am most actively honest – who are most actively honest with me.

    Saw Seth Godin speak yesterday and he said something (a few somethings) that resonated. He said we’re in a project world now. We’re in a post-Industrial Revolution. We don’t have to be connected to the same job, the same company, the same people (I’m embellishing now), the same house, the same city. We can – and should – view our lives as a series of projects. Maybe those projects are 2 years in length. Maybe a decade, maybe 2 months. Whatever the case, this shift in thinking gives us freedom.

    When someone is aware of the fact that I’ve unfriended or unfollowed (lack of better words) – I have to wonder, are they engaged in their own projects?

    Are they tending their own garden?

    Are they doing the work of sitting on their own cushion, stretching on their own mat?

    Are they looking in the mirror at themselves?

    Gwen
    (Liz, may I publish this post to my letter – with my response to it included?)
    Gwen Bell recently posted..My Profile

  30. Help! No matter what I do I get sent to the Blogger site. I deleted it from my favorites list and tried to go to this one, but no luck. Any suggestions, or is it just a quirk of yahoo?

  31. It’s so interesting to see how different people use different social media. I kind of see Facebook almost the opposite way. It’s a means to stay marginally in touch with people I would not have time to interact with otherwise. I like knowing my old friends from high school are doing okay, or being able to send along good wishes if their kids are sick, etc. I like getting a peek into the lives of readers who follow my blog. But Facebook doesn’t take much effort and I’d rather have some contact with certain people than none at all. My real life relationships have little or nothing to do with Facebook.
    Korinthia Klein recently posted..Medical Mystery UpdateMy Profile

  32. I don’t think it matters if you call it decluttering or unfriending. The fact is, social media – while social – is personal. We get to decide how we use it and with whom we interact. I prefer somewhat professional associations on Twitter – because I use it as a networking tool. I overlap business and personal on Facebook but am selective about who sees what. I also decline FB friend requests from people I don’t know. What a concept, I know. I’m ahead of my time. I ignore it 99% of the time when someone suggests I “friend” someone, and I do not “friend” my kids who are 19 and 16. I think many people use social media indiscriminately, and I think it needs to be utilized with care to get the most out of it. But that’s just me.

  33. I think the unfriending/uncluttering is a totally current phenomenon, so you’re just trendy! For me, it would be the birthday thing that would make it hard – like happy birthday, just when you’re having a great day – someone doesn’t like you! Even though you don’t care it still stings. Then again, maybe the day you get a million messages on your page all reminding you they like you and it’s your birthday, that’s the day when the sting will be felt the least.

    So long story short – I have no f-cking idea when the best time is to remove someone from your social network.

    1. The good thing about Facebook – you don’t actually know. I’d probably be less inclined to do it if I thought you got some sort of message that said LIZ DOESN’T LIKE YOU ANYMORE. JUST SO YOU KNOW.

  34. I think you rock and I love reading your blog. So, please don’t think I’m picking on you – cause I’m not. But please don’t “donate games with missing pieces”. Games with missing pieces are otherwise known as “trash” and are of no use to the charity store – they only have to throw them out – you wouldn’t buy a jigsaw puzzle or a game without all of the parts, right? Neither would anyone else. People dumping trash off and calling it “donations” are a huge burden on the charities. I know that is the last thing you would want to be.

  35. Ah you are not alone, I noticed on my birthday my friend list decreased by quite a number. At first I was sad, then I realized I really didn’t mind at all. My news feed is too cluttered most days anyways.

    I enjoyed reading your article and all the comments, everyone needs to do what’s right for them.
    Melody recently posted..JR Watkins Lip Tints New ColorsMy Profile

  36. Whomever introduced me to social media said something that really stuck with me: following is never quid-pro-quo, and anyone who makes you feel that it is, should probably be the first one to unfollow.

    There’s internet etiquette to balance with privacy and protecting our level of data intake. And frankly, I think the birthday is a perfectly fine time to unfriend someone — they are getting so much attention from everyone else, they won’t even notice. (The wouldn’t anyway, unless they were an obsessive checker of the “Who unfollowed me?” types of apps.)
    MDTaz recently posted..All that NoiseMy Profile

  37. For my person Facebook…it’s only people i actually know. I joined as a way to reconnect with college friends and see what my kids were up to.

    Facebook page? whatever…it’s for the blog

    Linked In? I got conned into that…i don’t even work so i really don’t give a damn about it.

    Twitter…if you’re boring and annoy me, you’re gone. FINITO..unfollowed

    that’s my standard
    Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) recently posted..In which i couldn’t cock itMy Profile

  38. Ha! I thought I was the only one who did the Facebook-birthday-unfriend. Then I got tired of that and did a mass expulsion of about 500 contacts in one day. Unfriend. Another one – I can’t see your wall? Unfriend.

    I wrote a post about it called “No Offense, I don’t want to be friends on Facebook” here, and now I often use it as a reason to say no to new request. http://whenihavetime.com/2011/02/09/no-offense-i-dont-want-to-be-friends-on-facebook/
    Sara Rosso recently posted..Quick Bytes: Media Training 101My Profile

  39. I deleted my Facebook account in January. Deleting “friends” I never saw or talked to became awkward after I removed two and then ran into them on the same weekend. And I was wasting a lot of time looking at photos of or reading updates from people I would never call to meet up in person.
    Deleting my Facebook account felt great. My social circle is smaller and tighter. I call people more, use Skype more and see people more. Or, was seeing people more before we up and moved to the UK a month ago.
    You’ve only got so much time on this earth. Spend it on people that really matter to you. Not on that guy you worked with four years ago and barely knew.

  40. Thanks Liz for posting. I have also been doing the band-aid approach of using lists on twitter to only see who i want to see , which was 80 and now 22. A far cry from my almost max of 2000+ and that was before lists. How did I manage? I didn’t.

    I took am learning more and more from Gwen and keep editing my social and real life to make room for new fresh ideas and questions.
    Imelda recently posted..after a breakMy Profile

  41. You have to do what you have to do. This is your life, after all.

    But I think that if you’re doing something that someone else may find potentially hurtful (and it sounds like you know you are), you have to be willing to own that. Not everyone will be super-zen about it. As long as you’re cool with that, then you’re OK. If you’re not, though, it’s a different story.
    Amber recently posted..Haircuts I Have KnownMy Profile

    1. There are a million things that others can find potentially hurtful. Is it my responsibility to own that? Is it my job to be responsible for every person’s happiness? I don’t think it is.

      Intent counts for a lot. Hopefully it’s clear my intent is not to hurt people.

  42. Sometimes the small amount of social media I “do” , tips in the daunting direction, but mostly it’s a blessing.
    I’m a pleaser. I assume there is etiquette to all of this stuff, but then what if you don’t ? I’m still all over the map with how to handle everything.
    I’m starting to feel that I can no longer accomplish anything if I’m always reading the blogs of the cuddlefish people and then feel completely deflated when I find out that they’ve been emailing behind the scenes with four other blog peeps and are coming out with a book/tour/movie and I haven’t even written my own post.

    Facebook is actually less stressful so far. So far.

    and thank you , Liz. I love your space here. For reals.

  43. incidentally, (and i didn’t realize it until i read your confession), i have been doing the same thing … OOPS!

    just kind of stumbled upon your blog and have spent the day reading posts … so happy i found you! Love your stuff 🙂

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