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Chief Troublemaker Asks: Is It Time to Unfriend People in Your Social Networks?

Go Away

I was talking to one of the Cat Herders (Project Manager) at Matrix Group today. She said she was trimming her Facebook friend list and unfriending some people. Unfriending. It sounds so… umm…unfriendly.

500 friends online. Really?
Facebook says that the average user has 130 friends but I know people who have hundreds, even thousands of friends. 500 friends? I can’t imagine many people who have that many friends with whom they would willingly share personal updates, photos, even their full birthday. So I asked around and got some good insight into the friending and unfriending business.

These findings don’t represent a large group, just my friends! :-)

  • There is a group of Facebook users who will accept friend requests from anyone and who actively try to expand their friend network.
  • There is another group that views Facebook as a place where they can communicate freely so they only connect with true friends. For these folks, Facebook is a place for personal communications, often about self, family, kids, friends.
  • There was a general consensus that the new Facebook homepage, which splits updates between News Feed and View Live Feed, makes it harder to see updates from your entire network of friends, which makes it more challenging to have a large network.
  • Many people have been cleaning up their lists on Facebook, Twitter, and other social network recently. They’re actively unfriending people so they can manage the communications and flood of updates.
  • Even if a person has a large network on a platform like Facebook, they are more than likely only interacting with a small subset of friends. Indeed, the Facebook sociologist says no matter how large their friend network:

    Facebook users tend to “comment on stuff from only about 5-10% of their Facebook friends.”

So just how does one end up on an unfriend list?

  • If you never respond to direct messages.
  • If you never update your status.
  • If your relationship with a person is tenuous at best.

BTW, if you unfriend someone on Facebook
-the person does not receive a notification, but they can no longer look at your profile and they can’t request to get connected again. If you unfollow someone on Twitter, they don’t receive a notification and chances are, they won’t notice since many people have so many followers and people they are following. It is quite another thing, however, to block someone on Twitter; if you block someone, they can’t follow you.

As for me, on Twitter, I let most people follow me and I follow nearly 700 people back.
On Facebook, however, I only accept friend requests from people I know, people I would gladly have lunch with, and with whom I don’t mind sharing information about my son. So while I’m connected to nearly a thousand people on Twitter, I only have 170 people in my Facebook network.

How about you?
How large is your social network on the different platforms? What criteria do you use to assess friend requests? Are you doing any unfriending lately?

More from:

  • Chief Troublemaker aka Joanna Pineda and her series on social media and leadership on Women Grow Business;
  • Terri Holley and her Community Building Breakthroughs series: 4 ways to listen and understand through social media;
  • Oxford Press Blog (…they chose “unfriend” as word of the year) and their 8 reasons to unfriend people on Facebook.
  • Image Go Away Eye Pillow by Pillow Head Designs, Creative Commons

    Founder/CEO and self-proclaimed Chief Troublemaker of Matrix Group International Joanna Pineda is a Women Grow Business enthusiast. She is known for her visionary big-picture thinking and drive for excellence. Combining her broad liberal arts background and passion for technology, she started Matrix Group in 1999, today a leading interactive agency. As a trusted advisor, Joanna inspires and motivates her clients and employees alike to simply, “be better” with her mantra being: Do or Do Not. There is no try!


      1. I was just having this same thought recently while cleaning up my twitter, friendFeed and facebook accounts. I only add people who interest me. I don't add for the sake of quantity, I add for quality. This way I spot quality tweets and can quickly weed out the noise and spam that clogs up those platforms which prevent me from catching the good informative tweets and information. I don't conform to any quick twitter gadgets to help grow my twitter account to 1 million twitter follows. That doesn't interest me and how the heck can I possibly friend and communicate with all those people if I had 1 million twitter follows? What matters to me is the friendships made and the communication and information shared and received from the people I decide to follow. For me it's about quality not quantity however I realize other people do have accounts on these platforms and may open these accounts for other agendas in mind. Responsibly I think everyone should ask themselves why they have those accounts open in the first place and what they really want to get out of them? Are you contributing to the spam or providing decent information to share with your followers on those platforms? My new term is “social etiquette”, a smart way to effectively communicate online.

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      2. Perhaps many folks are getting smarter about social media uses – as Joanna points out, who do you want to know what. While I keep Facebook for family and old friends myself, know many see it as a numbers game to have a lot of connections. I am always a bit startled by folks I do not know at all who want to link to me on LinkedIn – most understand when I explain but periodically someone gets indignant. Maybe I should keep this to send to such people!

        But it is still a relatively new technology and social norms have not caught up yet.
        Or maybe it is just that I am too lazy to befriend people online and then have to work to figure out who they are when they ask for something – VBG.

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      3. Even if a person has a large network on a platform like Facebook, they are more than likely only interacting with a small subset of friends.

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