Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Week 3: Friends, morons, c(o)untrymen

At the end of the last POTW, I asked whether I should cull those Facebook friends whose views I felt were abhorrent. It is now a few days later and I have been overwhelmed and moved by the intensity of the feedback, with literally five people contributing their opinions.

A whopping 80% of the respondents (four people) said I should maintain my connection with the bigots, although their reasons for tolerance varied. My pragmatic reader, Dalrymple, reminded me that being Facebook friends with irritating people causes increased cardiovascular action and is thus a cheap form of exercise. Matt suggested that, if I really want anything to change, I must stay friends with those I find objectionable and keep writing instructive blog posts in the hope that they might read them and become less prejudiced. And, in a flashback from pretty much every meal we've ever eaten together, my mother also said I shouldn’t defriend, because “everyone is entitled to their opinions whether they agree with you or not.”

The commenter whose advice most made me cock my head to one side in thought, however, was Hannah, who said that if she defriended all the people who annoyed her on FB, she’d end up with hardly any friends. Poor Hannah, I thought. What an awfully sad state of affairs it is when the majority of your online connections are irritating.

Then I looked at my own friend list. And I made a pie.

The best Facebookers by far are those who write funny or inspiring status updates, regularly share photos and post intelligent links to material elsewhere on the internet so that I learn new things. It doesn’t matter whether I know these people in real life or not: they actively contribute to my enjoyment of Facebook, are improving my life and I’m thoroughly glad they exist.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 11

Cull chances: zero. These people are the reason I am on Facebook.

Givers on coke, the Overloader offers so much information that my News Feed becomes plagued by their insignificant ramblings. A well-timed, pithy statement about something current? Yes please. A two paragraph, ill-informed rant about something that happened last week is not so welcome, however, nor is a tepid anecdote about your toddler getting its facepaint on your curtains. And I don’t care that you’re at Heathrow, or that you’re tired, or that you had a totally fabulous weekend!!!!?!!? Either teach me something valuable, make me laugh, or shut up.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 5
Cull chances: low. ‘Hide’ chances, however, are sky high. The ‘Hide’ button is a diplomatic godsend, and I use it liberally. You’re protected from your friends’ dullness AND you avoid having to bludgeon them. Win win.

By far my least-liked category, and also the largest, Takers are those people who are good fun in real life but who, online, are basically mute. They don’t comment on posts, don’t often upload photos and they haven’t clicked ‘like’ on my blog’s fanpage. These are the selfish FB users, enjoying the effort others put into the site but giving little in return.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 39

Cull chances: low. Despite gaining almost nothing from my connection with them on the site and having several alternative means to contact them outside FB, I can’t defriend them as it would be awkward if they noticed. See, I am politeness personified.

Takers but without the real life appeal: like a wheelie bin, I’d consider it an minor irritation to bump into them in the street. I’m basically only FB friends with Mehs because I panic that the moment I defriend them, I’ll immediately need to reach them about some sort of unique job opportunity.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 32

Cull chances: low. There’s no real point ditching any of this lot – they don’t DO anything on FB so they’re easily ignored.

Pity Votes
These are FB friends who I accepted because I felt sorry for them. Includes those with single-digit friend counts and my mother.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 2
Cull chances: zero. I can't be responsible for anyone else self-harming.

A small category of miscellaneous FB users that I’m not sure how to handle. Includes someone’s baby (WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?) and a deranged German chef.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 2
Cull chances: moderate.

The Exempt category consists of celebrities, and they can do what the hell they like. The sight of their names popping up on my News Feed brightens my day in the superficial way that only a weak-minded idiot such as myself can appreciate.
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 1
Cull chances: zero.

Those of my FB friends that I actively dislike, the Wanker category might include (but is not limited to) neo-liberals, bigots, filterless self-obsessives, those who think skiing is a basic human right, evangelical Christians, blinkered vegans, superficial idiots working in the Middle East, car obsessives, self-aggrandising career pushers and apostrophe haters. I became FB friends with them innocently, thinking we had something in common, but gradually it emerged that in fact they are misguided people with some rank and depressing views, which have at times brought me to tears at the hopelessness of our society’s situation – for how can things improve when educated people spout such tripe?
Percentage of my FB friends who fall into this category: 9
Cull chances: ay, here’s the rub. Yes Mum, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if I find someone's spurious spurtings objectionable, I don’t have to accept them soiling my Newsfeed. Why should Wankers get the benefit of my friendship on Facebook (for, of course, I am an exemplary FB Giver)? Why should they have the privilege of enjoying my exceptional photos, smirking at my wry status updates and becoming better dinner party guests having read the fascinating links I circulate? Surely they should be punished for their sins: I should defriend. But I know I can't, because to do so would be to ignore reality. I live in enough of a left-leaning bubble already without pulling the velvet curtains tight around me and blocking out all dissenting perspectives; I wouldn't be much of a grownup if I could only bear those whose opinions exactly matched my own. I'm actually a big fan of tolerance and a fully paid up member of the Variety Is The Spice Of Life Society – I know it’s important that I stay abreast of all views, not least as a vital aid to understanding my own father. And Matt's right: maybe, just maybe, one day they'll read something I write and change their mind about something. That would feel pretty freaking good. Preaching to the converted is fun up to a point, but everyone likes a challenge.

And so, we have our answer, and (as always) it is love. Love All The People. The realisation that I only really like being Facebook friends with about 11% of the total is a little depressing, but I also have a newfound appreciation for the Wankers and have grudgingly admitted that my online life would be a lot more narrow and boring without them. So for once it's a pleasingly straightforward solution: do nothing. The cull is cancelled.

Same time next week.


  1. All I can think is "oh my god what category am I in?!" I go for the sporadic FB usage but it doesn't mean I love you any less. Please don't cull me! x

  2. Ooooh, a friend pie. That's going to be a fabulous time-wasting exercise for this afternoon.
    I don't know there'll be too many in the 'Wankers' category because I can't think of anyone that I actively dislike (my friends are actually pretty lovely) but I can be a tad intolerant and have days where I'd gladly delete every single person who uses apostrophes incorrectly.

  3. Thank god I saw this in time. I was all set to 'share' your blog on my Facebook wall, and exhort my 'friends' to 'like' you, but now I realise I would just have been 'overloading' them! Close call - thanks Jane.

  4. That Matt guy has got his head screwed on - well done for listening to him.

  5. Gosh, that's embarassing but yes, I agree with 'Anonymous'. Anyway, another great post. However, I think you at least can defriend the Mehrs on a technicality: In order to Love All The People you must first Love Yourself (wait...) and how can you really Love Yourself if you don't think you have the skills to get on in Life without the help of these deadwood types? Eh? I mean, they're like Takers except they're not even interesting! Get rid of them! You can do better than let them take up your precious love - love that could be going to a Wanker who *really* needs it.

    PS. If I'm in the Mehrs category then obviously forget all that - in such a volatile job market you may need me one day.

  6. @Suzie - you are also in another unmentioned category, 'Essential' - I couldn't cull you even if I wanted to. ;-) Plus you are definitely on the Giving end of Takers.

    @Hannah - lucky you not having any Wankers. I feel so unfortunate now...

    @Dalrymple - you're welcome!

    @Anon - Matt, you're not fooling anyone.

    @Matt - you're not a Meh, you're a borderline Giver. Still can't bring myself to defriend the Mehs though - my friend count would drop dramatically and then I'd look like a TOTAL loser!!!!! IMAGINE.