Take a second to pause before pressing the unfriend button

Win Su

I have come across several articles in the past couple of months that attempt to teach people how to delete Facebook friends they are no longer in touch with.  

I would ask you to think twice before “unfriending” someone on Facebook.

Three-hundred-thirty-eight, what does this number mean to you?  

According to a recent survey done by the Pew Research Center, the average number of Facebook friends an adult user has is 338.  

However, I have come to find that to be extremely baffling.

First of all, addressing the statistics, I, myself, have well over 338 friends on Facebook, and interestingly enough, almost all my Facebook friends are in the same boat.  

After some investigating—or rather, Facebook stalking—I found a Facebook friend of mine with 476 friends, which was the lowest number I stumbled upon.  

After some further digging—or rather, creeping—I found one reaching 5,000 friends, which I believe to be the limit on how many friends you can have on Facebook. 

Furthermore, many of my other friends on Facebook were in the 1,000-to 2,000-friend range.

The question becomes whether we truly know all of our connections on Facebook.  

And the truth is, for me anyways, I do recognize all of them.

While I may not know their birthday or how many siblings they have, that information is just a couple keystrokes away. Another interesting number is 150, known  as Dunbar’s number. 

 Robin Dunbar, a British psychologist, deduced this to be the number of stable relationships a human being can maintain. 

 I definitely would not say that I maintain a “stable relationship” with every single friend I have on Facebook, but I would not call us strangers either.  

Because we are able to connect to people without having to physically be in the same location, we can interact with people without really “seeing” them.

But how is it, then, that we have more friends on Facebook than we have the capacity to maintain stable relationships with?  

Well, that is because our concept of “friend” has changed. 

Sure, a friend is still the person you talk to when you have a problem. 

However this definition also refers to an acquaintance that you share a connection with, or as the Oxford Dictionary puts it, “a bond of mutual affection.”  

While we are still maintaining the 150 relationships, we also have an outer circle of relationships with whom we may converse  about that class we missed or just to ask a random question about something on campus.   

And that is exactly why you should not unfriend someone you may not have talked to in the last two years.

Honestly, I do not believe it is humanly possible to have a conversation with every single Facebook friend. 

 I do not think anyone has the cognitive power to carry on 338 conversations simultaneously—let alone 150—assuming you have the mean number of friends.  

This is also assuming you have a life off of your laptops and mobile devices. 

The relationships we have change all the time.  

The moment we left home for college, the group of people closest to us changed drastically.  

As much time as we spend on the Internet, we are still reminded that our physical location and proximity have a lot to do with who we become close to and the connections that we make with others.        College therefore fosters an environment in which our close friends are those living in our dorms, eating in the same dining halls and sitting next to us in class. What the Internet has done is that it has allowed us to hold onto the connections that are most meaningful. 

 We are able to maintain relationships with our childhood friends and relatives, regardless of where they may reside.  Facebook and social networks have basically shrunk the world in which we live in. wThe problem with having a large number of connections that you are unable to maintain actually stems from jumping to conclusions about who you want to be connected to. A recent article I read stated that Facebook is for the people that you already know, whom you would stop and say hello to if you bumped into them at a party or walking down the street.  

And I totally agree with that statement.

So instead of unfriending all the people you may have forgotten about, think twice before adding someone as a friend on Facebook. Think about whether or not you would actually care about their posts that will show up on your news feed if you add them as a friend.  

Another easy way is to let the friend request sit for about a week.  

If you do not remember the request, then let it go.The result is that you will get a selection of Facebook friends that you care about and seek to maintain a relationship with.  With our lives becoming ever so public, it is beneficial to remember how we make connections with people in our lives.