This morning a maintenance man came to my apartment at Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem to fix the plaster on the east wall of the kitchen. Given the noise and dust and his breaking the new light fixture I just hung last night, saying “No problem. No problem. It’s ok.” as glass shattered across the floor, I realized this morning was lost to mundane tasks and so I took advantage of the time.
I logged into Facebook for the 2nd time in nearly two weeks and was completely overwhelmed. I found myself scrolling through pages of posts from people I barely recognized, some names I didn’t even know.
As Facebook is already something I avoid, I realized I had to either close my account or take control. I chose to remove more than 200 Friends … and it felt ok. It is not that I find particular people unworthy of my time, rather, for the little time I spend on Facebook, I’d rather commit myself to personal exchanges which are engaging, educational, uplifting, and memorable than time wasted in sorting.
But it was not easy for the greatest hurdle in reducing the list from more than 350 to 119 was letting go of that back-of-the-mind sense that this person might someday be one who is doing something really cool that I want to know about, or someone with whom I might want to collaborate, or even someone who might promote one of my films. What if? When? Could be?
I can’t live like that. And that is not friendship, at any level. So, I established a short list of parameters by which I filtered and ultimately pruned my Friends list, as follows:
- Is this person a family member or family friend?
- Do I recall who this person is without hesitation? And does the memory invoke a desire to talk to this person again? Or was this person a part of my life in the past and not likely to be again?
- Is this person someone I respect or admire, even if I have not communicated with him or her for some time, and someone for whom I do not have an alternative method of contact? (email, phone, LinkedIn)
- Is this person someone I recently met and am just now getting to know?
Once established, the process was relatively painless (although there were moments of hesitation). The greatest challenge was surrounding my work with my film Monitor Gray, for I had invoked a large addition of new Friends during the development and fund raising stages of this project. All amazing actors and directors and producers who are part of the industry and I appreciated their support. But in the end, they are an active bunch on Facebook and I was overwhelmed. I had to assume (hope) they were already on the Monitor Gray Page and would receive my updates there. And of equal importance, I had to assume they would again find me if they desired my feedback or assistance.
A weight was lifted. For I no longer feel a sense of dread of visiting Facebook as I once did. I no longer need to “hide” or manage dozens of people whose posts are simply not related to my life in order to find those which carry meaning for me.
In the end, this allows me to use Facebook not for marketing, but truly to maintain friendships as I travel and live overseas, away from my climbing friends of more than decade and those whom I call family in the States.
This sense of calm inside is supported by the work of social scientists who have discovered that despite the incredible number of friends we claim to have, the number of “close” friends remains nearly identical to the number of members of a nomadic hunter-gatherer family unit at about twenty five
What’s more, a Cornell University researcher found the number of confidants (those with whom we entrust our personal matters) we maintain has actually diminished since the inception of social networking, as the lack of face-to-face communication has resulted in greater social isolation and less confidence in those we call our friends.
My goal is to keep the number of Facebook friends below 100, in fact, ideally, at about 30. A tight knit, closely coupled group of family and friends with whom I dialogue and brainstorm and learn. But what I must keep in mind is that those thirty people would also need to reduce their Friends to a more manageable number in order to engage at my desired level.
So, for now, an experiment unfolds … as I can see a time in the not too distant future in which I close my account altogether, making phone and Skype calls and face-to-face visits the norm, and moving on to more valuable uses of the Internet: research, learning, working on my photo gallery and writing in this blog.