It started quietly, as most things do.
I was flicking through my list of friends on Facebook when I noticed I barely recognised half of them. It didn’t seem right using the term ‘friends’ for people I hadn’t met in person, or online; hadn’t met for years, or even forever.
Just before I starting deleting friends I saw a programme on TV about de-cluttering your house. Removing all that old junk – an empty tin of boot polish, a single sock, several heavy wire supermarket baskets – was a way of lightening the mental load, boosting your energy, getting a fresh start. Who doesn’t want that? I suppose this must have stayed in my mind, because I started to delete people from my social network. De-clutter a bit. Get a grip.
At first this was easy. I could see the faces of those I hadn’t spoken to for a while from looking at their profile picture. Ah, I remember her, I thought. What does she do again, how do I know her? That must be her husband. Funny looking fella.
It was more difficult for others, because some of the profile pictures didn’t have faces and I’m not very good with names. Instead, they had pictures of dogs or cats, or signs you might find hanging in offices, saying things like ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ or ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here – BUT IT HELPS!’ in bold red letters. Even more had pictures of their kids, some before they were born.
I deleted these friends first.
I reckoned, as much as we love our kids, if you’re not going to put your face on your own personal profile then you’re missing the point. I got rid of the ones with pictures of dogs and cats, and those with the ‘funny’ signs, for much the same reason.
It was a victimless crime, really. They would probably never notice, or care. They were gone in a click (or two, I had to confirm if I really wanted to delete them first). I thought – you probably only added me as a friend so you could snoop around my profile, see how fat or bald I’d got (one out of two isn’t bad), what kind of car I drive or who I married. I could always re-add them as a friend later. But I didn’t.
Then there was this one, he sticks in my mind – kept on putting up pictures of his new home in France – the swimming pool, the mountains, even pictures of their fancy lunches – and banged on about much better and hotter and cleaner it was to live there compared to where they used to live. Where I live now. I hate show-offs. Gone, simple as.
At first it was easy. There were so many reasons to get rid of someone. Too easy, I’d say – too many went too quickly. I deleted one because she had a name I didn’t like – double-barrelled, probably – and another wore a zany wig and had fat arms in a photo at a nightclub. I’ve never liked nightclubs.
Text-speak was a no-go zone, too. I wanted to message them ‘U R DLTD’ just before I hit the button, but I didn’t. ‘LOL’ would do it, too. Although I was a bit of a hypocrite there, since I used it.
That reminds me, I’m a bit embarrased to say, but using some words or phrases alone would get you deleted. ‘Scrummy’ was one, especially when applied to non-food items. ‘All good’ – all gone. I didn’t much like ‘loving it’ – with or without the ‘g’ – but I tolerated it. For a while. ‘Simple as’ would mean the end and one that really got me – ‘kthxbye’. He went straight away.
Then there’s those who write about their dreams – goodnight Vienna – and those who go into every detail of their day. I’m not interested in what you’re doing at work. I’m quite interested in what you’ve had for breakfast of lunch though. I’ve always liked food.
Of course, I’m not going to be interested in your intimate details either. Someone posted something about their toilet habits. Terrible. Another friend of mine replied to them that this was ‘TMI’. They’re right, it was Too Much Information, but I had to un-friend them. I don’t do three letter acronyms.
A couple of so-called ‘friends’ would post leading phrases or questions, like ‘Oh no, I can’t believe it just happened!’ or ‘What am I going to do now?’. Some were more mysterious, like ‘The watch stopped on three’ or ‘They’ve all gone’. We’re not stupid, you know. You want us to ask what just happened, or you are just looking for sympathy. Well, I never replied. And if any of my friends asked them, I’d delete them too.
I’m on a roll now. I remember having a thing about song lyrics. It was OK to post song lyrics if you’re marvelling at their beauty, or wondering which song a lyric came from. But just you try to update your status with just a song lyric! The amount of times I have read ‘Excuse me while I kiss the sky!’. Ah, Jimi would have spun in his coffin. Write your own update, stop pinching someone else’s.
I hid one from my wall because they kept publishing terrible photographs, loads of them. It was clutter, like that programme on the telly said, and that’s the last thing I needed. I post photos, too. So, I started to say nice things about their photos, commenting of them, or ‘Liking’ them. I thought – if they never comment on mine (I posted a lot, most days), then I’m going to hide them from my wall. They didn’t, so I did. I hid them and their photos. After I changed my mind, and just deleted them.
All the time I deleted people I never gave them the reason. I wanted to warn a couple of them, especially about the grammar, but that sounded cranky. And besides, I’d made a couple of errors of my own. None of them contacted me, either, after I de-friended them. I guess they cared less; about as much as I did.
When I only had a handful of friends left, I introduced a ‘three strikes’ policy. For example, three status updates with basic grammatical errors would get you deleted. You know the sort of thing – mixing up ‘their’ and ‘there’, using ‘no’ instead of ‘know’. I got carried away with this one and deleted someone for a single use of ‘your’ when it should have been ‘you’re’. I didn’t feel bad about it.
So, don’t think I just randomly deleted anyone. There was always a good reason. Or a reason, anyway. And the more I deleted, so the reasons became more complicated. It wasn’t always easy you know. Some had to really try hard to be deleted. In the end it got so the remaining friends – unknown to them, of course – would have to tread very carefully around Facebook.
I can’t remember when I deleted the final friend. I just remember days later, thinking that the only updates I can see on my wall are the ones I’d written, alongside the adverts for weight loss and credit cards.