As I am about to set off on a six month trip to Spain, I am soon going to take time to go through my Facebook friend list and decide who I want to share my posts with and who I want to unfriend. This is not the first time I have done this, I might add. I am quite personal and protective over my photos; I don’t like to publish too many on Facebook as I feel they are my personal memories. I question whether the girl from my Spanish GCSE class should be ‘allowed’ to see and download these photos of mine.
At high school and university, it is very easy to fall into the social media trap of meeting somebody once and immediately adding them on Facebook. You find them easily through your five mutual friends and when the request is accepted, you have a cheeky stalk of their profile, as you have full access to their photos, status updates, relationship status, a map of where they have been and even their high score on Candy Crush. Don’t deny it, all students have done this stalking at one point or another. This form of online networking and adding people to your friends list helps to gain social acceptance in a group of friends, where often subjects of conversation in ‘real life’ involve “Did you see the video that Tom posted last night?”. Creating a large online network of friends is also essential as a student so that you can see and are invited to events. Online promotion using Facebook is now huge and with Facebook’s ‘invite only’ privacy setting for events, if you are not invited by a friend you are not and cannot be on the guestlist.
Whilst I am abroad, I plan to use Facebook to show my photos to others and also as a back up for them. I know that the chances of my camera getting stolen AND my laptop breaking are very unlikely, but there is some comfort in knowing that my pictures are all uploaded somewhere safer than a memory stick – especially given my history with memory sticks. See my previous post here http://wp.me/p3sHrJ-y .
In an ideal world, I would only have my family, close friends and coursemates as my Facebook friends so that only they could see my uploads and updates. But this is not an ideal world. Filtering through my friends list, I see countless names and faces of ‘friends’, yet I struggle to remember when the last time I saw them in person was. I think it is suitable to call this large group of people ‘acquaintances’. If I were to see them in the street I would say hello, if they were raising money for charity I would probably spare £5. However if I was in trouble, I wouldn’t call them for help. Neither would I invite them to a farewell party. Is it right to unfriend these acquaintances? If so, when is the right time to unfriend them and remove them from my social circle? I know that they haven’t progressed to the friend level and that they probably won’t any time soon – unless they are also going to the same places in Spain that I am. I know that I don’t want to share my photos and personal experiences with them whilst I’m away. So what is holding me back?
Well now, nothing is.
Now that I am not promoting via Facebook for my job, I am ready to declutter my friends list. I no longer need to spam their news feed to get ticket sales and to raise awareness of the company I work for.
The general questions I will ask myself of the friends in my list will be:
- Do you actually like this person?
- Have you spoken to this person face to face within the last year?
- Do you remember having any particular good memories with this person?
- Do you have them as a contact in your mobile?
- If they were to upload baby/ marriage/ graduation etc pictures, would you care?
- Will you see and talk to them in the near future?
If the answer is no to at least three of the above questions, I will most likely delete them as a friend on Facebook. That is not to say that in some years to come we can’t change our friendship status back to ‘friends’.
Why be so over dramatic? It’s only Facebook you might say. Well, I feel that already as an active internet user I don’t have as much privacy as I would like over content related to myself. A simple Google search of my name brings up links to my online accounts and posts. Another click on the images part of Google also shows pictures of myself. These are public for the whole world to see – friends, acquaintances, strangers, employers – and there is not a lot I can do to change this. Yet I do have control over my Facebook profile and I think it is essential to restrict my photos, updates, events and my personalised map to just my real friends.