Studies from the Pew Research Center and the New York Times indicate the typical American has 245 Facebook friends and knows 600 people both on and off the social network. In other words, if you’re a typical American, 355 of your peeps don’t use Facebook.
I have a lot of friends who prefer the offline life. I don’t mean they have accounts and don’t use them (though I know people in this category) but they don’t have accounts at all. They never did and they don’t want to join.
I once met a woman who works in marketing but cannot be found on Google. Sarah isn’t on Facebook, doesn’t tweet, shares nothing but her name and title on LinkedIn, and search engine results for her name (minus that LinkedIn link) are for someone who shares her name. She’s OK that nobody can find her. If you know Sarah, there are offline methods to contact her. If you’re googling for her name, you clearly don’t know her at all. And that’s how she wants it.
When did it become normal to befriend people you don’t know?
I’m not specifying Facebook. How many phone numbers do you have of those you follow on Twitter? How many email addresses do you keep of your LinkedIn connections? If you’ve never called or emailed a person, how do you qualify being connected to the person? What does it mean to be connected? Facebook fucked up the definition of a friend — and if you remove Facebook from your life, your friends are probably not the people you see in that newsfeed.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying the telephone or the electronic mail address is the holy grail — but if you remove yourself from social networking sites, if you accept that the best Facebook friends are strong ties and the best connections everywhere else online are weak and absent ties; in other words, if you’re not findable in a place, then wouldn’t it be the phone and the email and the stamp and the physical door knock that connect you to the people you care about, the people you trust, and the people who want to be around you?
Look at me.
If you follow my digital personas but never interact through comments, tweets, posts, pokes, whatever, I’m hardly your friend. I’m just some guy you’re following and you are free to decouple the relationship at any time. Many of you gained insights from my blogging and followed me on Twitter and Facebook, and invited me to join you on LinkedIn. I usually said yes — especially on LinkedIn.
But, as Phil Gerbyshak suggests, if you’ve never interacted with me since that first contact on LinkedIn (or any other social networking site), you owe it to yourself to send a message saying hello. If you don’t or can’t then remove the connection. Kill your online relationship. Set yourself free. Because neither LinkedIn nor Facebook tell me if you unfriend me, I’ll never know about it unless I happen to randomly visit your profile and see we’re now two or three degrees apart.
I don’t suggest killing me off if we frequently comment, like, or share each other’s updates. But if there’s been zero interaction since whenever we became online friends, take control now and unfriend us.
Once you understand unfriending and accept that others are doing it, you owe it to yourself to join them.
P.S. Here’s a primer to my social networking dashboard. If you want to connect with me somewhere but not everywhere, use this as a guide.