Two recent studies from the Pew Research Center and the New York Times indicate the typical American has 245 Facebook friends and knows 600 people both on and off the social network. In other words, if you’re a typical American, 355 of your peeps don’t use Facebook.
I have a lot of friends who choose to not be found online. I don’t mean they have accounts and don’t use them (though I know people in this category) but they don’t have accounts at all. They never did and they don’t want to join. None of my friends would define me as typical. I’m anything but.
I met a woman today who works in the marketing industry but cannot be found on Google. Sarah isn’t on Facebook, doesn’t tweet, shares nothing but her name and title on LinkedIn, and search engine results for her name (minus that LinkedIn link) are for someone who shares her name. She’s OK that nobody can find her. That is, if you know Sarah you can call her or email her. If you’re googling for her name, you clearly don’t know her at all. And that’s how she wants it.
When did it become normal to befriend people you don’t know?
And, I’m not specifying Facebook. How many of the people you follow on Twitter are people whose phone numbers are stored in your phone? How many of your LinkedIn connections are people whose email addresses are in your rolodex? Because if you’ve never called someone or emailed that person, how do you qualify being connected to the person? What does a connection truly mean? Facebook f–ked up the definition of a friend — and if you remove Facebook from your life, your friends are probably not the people you see in that newsfeed.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying the telephone or the electronic mail address is the holy grail — but if you remove yourself from social networking sites, if you’re not there, then wouldn’t it be the phone and the email that connect you to the people you care about, the people you trust, and the people who want to be around you?
Look at me.
If you follow my digital personas but never interact through comments, tweets, posts, pokes, whatever, I’m hardly your friend. I’m just some guy you’re following and you are free to decouple that relationship at any time. Many of you have gained insights from my blogging over the years and followed me on Twitter, sent me friend requests on Facebook, and invited me to join your LinkedIn networks. I usually said yes — especially on LinkedIn.
But, as Phil Gerbyshak suggests, if you’ve never interacted with me since that first contact on LinkedIn (or any other social networking site), you owe it to yourself to remove that connection. Kill your online relationship. Set yourself free. Because neither LinkedIn nor Facebook tell me if you unfriend me, I’ll never know about it unless I happen to randomly visit your profile and see we’re now second or third degrees apart.
I don’t suggest killing me off if we frequently comment, like, or share each other’s updates. But if there’s no interaction since whenever we became online friends, take control now and unfriend us.