The Purge: Why are we ‘friends’ if we aren’t friends?

Kasey Schumacher

kasey schumarcher | social cues | dec. 2019

Have you ever wondered how far your reach is on Facebook? As a social media professional running business pages, I often have an inside look at the reach of a post on a page I manage. For better or worse, personal profiles do not share this analytic information.

I don't consider myself a person who overshares on Facebook. Ten years ago, I probably fell in the category of posting too much, but I take pride in the fact that I'm a relatively private person on social media.

Recently, I had a very odd experience where I discovered something I posted had gone to a much larger audience than I ever anticipated. I'll spare you the details because it's tedious and complicated, but follow with me here.

Long story short, because of that situation, I decided to take a look at how many Facebook “friends” I had totaled up. I had over 1,400 “friends” on Facebook. There is no way that I have 1,400 friends in real life. I started looking at my friends list and seeing names of people I hadn't connected with in years. I began questioning why we were virtual friends in the first place.

My questioning led me to go through a Facebook friends purge. I'm sure if you have Facebook, you've seen people share the status, “If you're reading this, congratulations! You made it through my Facebook friends purge!” I never knew how someone was supposed to react while reading that. Sometimes I'd see someone post that and think, “Well, then how did they end up deciding to keep me in a purge?” I did not post a status about it, but I did narrow down my list. In about 20 minutes, I cleared out nearly 1,000 people from my friends list. I was blown away at how easy it was to cut my list. This might sound blunt, but I discovered there's no reason those 1,000 people need to see what's going on in my life. And quite frankly, I don't need to see what's going on in their life.

I had a few parameters while going through my unfriending purge. If I hadn't talked to you since high school, I made a cut. If I hadn't talked to you since college, I made a cut. If we had only interacted once or twice in a specific setting that won't happen again, I made a cut. If we were friends because of friends and I didn't really know you, I made a cut (example: one of my best friend's ex's got cut because I have no connection to him in my life now). If we were former (and I mean FORMER) colleagues and won't be interacting anytime soon, I made a cut. If I would have a hard time carrying on a conversation with you while standing in a grocery store line, I made a cut.

It was a little therapeutic to do a purge. I'd never done one before. It was also a tad frightening to realize how many people I let see aspects of my life — like photos of my child, updates about my career and my family life.

I made a Facebook profile when social media was in its infancy stages. In my experience, everyone added everyone in high school and college, even if you didn't actually know them. At this point in my life, an evaluation of my online “friends” was necessary.

As 2019 comes to a close and a new page of the calendar is turned, I would suggest evaluating your own profiles. I discovered a lot about who was seeing my life via Facebook. It made me make some drastic changes.

Kasey Schumacher is the marketing director for Let Me Be Frank Productions by day and a performer for the troupe by night. When she isn't updating Facebook or singing a 1970s classic, she enjoys running, cooking, questioning final rose picks on 'The Bachelor” and planning overly extravagant trips to Disney.

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