Why you don’t need to delete Facebook friends

A user ready to purge Facebook friendsMixed in with “I hate the world”, cat pictures, sponsored posts is the interesting phenomenon of Facebook friend pruning. When the mass deletion is upcoming, the user tends to say “For those I truly interact with, I’m keeping you, for the rest, you’ll be deleted”. What happens next is a series of unfortunate comments pleading for a stay, while the user, one by one, removes accounts of friends they don’t know. I’m here to say you can stop pruning and put the metal objects down. There is no need for you to delete Facebook friends. Ever.

In many respects, my feeling is that Facebook is more like an ivy plant than a bush [1]. The spirit of it leans more to unencumbered growth versus regular pruning. In the Facebook world, “Friend” tends to be a metaphorical, with a literal more like “Connection” or “Social Currency” [2]. Since the beginning, Facebook’s description of connections has been incorrect. I don’t think was ever intended to indicate closeness, just that a person is connected to us somehow. Twitter is better at describing this as “Follow”. We may follow any person really; a friend or foe.

In life, away from the keyboards, friends will come and go – but we always accumulate the number of people we meet. That number always goes up. Once you met that guy in the coffee shop last week, that connection can never be deleted, just forgotten. As Facebook has forced itself as a more open system, the connections you have to other uses grow weaker.

The actual friend, however, is something that appears impossible to signify on Facebook, because the system doesn’t provide what Myspace used to (the ability to place people higher on a friend list) or Google Plus’ circling of close friends. For this reason, some users on Facebook metaphorically “Marry” a best friend.

So, the next time you get the urge to spend an hour in front of your computer unfriending a bunch of unknown people – take a deep breath and realize that your time is better spent doing anything else. Yes, even taking cat pictures.

1. Ivy tends to continually grow with support, while bushes need to be pruned
2. Imagine if Facebook gave you a social dollar for “friending” someone. Can you say creepy?