When I went to sleep on Friday night I had 535 Facebook friends. Today I have 416.
I know each of those 416 people. Some are close friends, some old classmates, some relatives, some acquaintances, many are crafters and colleagues.
I do not know the 119 people I unceremoniously unfriended yesterday. I may have met a few of them briefly, but most I never met and likely never will.
Why had I accepted their friend requests, then? It's not because I had the goal of having as many Facebook friends as there are members of the United States Congress. Mostly it's because, though I was very strongly inclined not to, I drank a little bit of the Kool-Aid. As I choked it down, I figured a stranger who's a crocheter who wants to be friends with me on Facebook (and pretty much all the strangers who want to be friends with me on Facebook are crocheters) is a person who may buy my books or who may tell their friends how great my books or other works are. That stranger may feel tickled to be connected to me on Facebook, and that may be good for business.
So I accepted those friend requests and put the strangers onto my limited-profile list. Of course, I restricted that list's access to the point that people on it saw almost nothing I post on Facebook. But I was uncomfortable just ignoring the requests.
Over time, Facebook became less and less fun for me, and less and less useful. With the exception of a few of my close friends who use Flickr or Twitter, Facebook is the only place I interact with my friends and family online. I enjoy staying in touch with people on Facebook, especially people I'm not able to see in person very often.
But as strangers started to comprise 20% of my “friends”, the site just got to feel annoying. I spent as much time hiding people and ignoring stupid game requests as I did looking at photos of my distant friends' new babies.
So I've taken back my Facebook. I still find the interface to be totally annoying, and I still configure my privacy settings and stream settings so I share and see exactly what I want to with and from exactly whom I want to. But it's back to being personal, not business.
For strangers who want to connect with me on Facebook, I have my fan page. This is one thing Facebook has really done right. A fan page is a one-way setting – people can follow it but it requires no reciprocation. Just like Twitter and Tumblr and Flickr and the subscription setting on Goodreads (a site I've been better about when it comes to only being friends with people whose taste in books I know and trust). I share a lot on my fan page, just like I share a lot in many other places online and here on my blog. I'm hardly inaccessible, and I do love chatting with people I don't know.
So there you have it. I'm far less cynical about Facebook, now. And I imagine I'll pay more attention to chatting with people on my fan page. As far as I can see, that's a win for everyone. (Unless, you know, I've deeply offended 119 people. I hope I haven't, but it's a risk I'm glad I took.)
A wee post-script: I unfriended quite a few businesses during my spree. If you're a business, why do you have a normal Facebook profile and not a fan page? I bet you'd have a lot more fun, feel far less unnecessary social pressure, and reach way more people with a fan page. Just sayin'.)