Time for a Friendectomy?

[NOTE TO READER: Every so often I feel compelled to rant. Today is one of those times. And since I was sitting down to write today's blog post, I felt it might be a very good time to let loose. So while this is lightly connected to my normal blogging style, I will feel much better after I get this off my chest. I hope you do too.]

Can you really have 500 friends? REALLY?

I'm not sure about you, but the last time I checked the number of people I would actually recognize if I met them on the street was nowhere near 500.

Then why do I think that I could possibly have 500 close contacts in my LinkedIn or Facebook account? Especially if I'm in the tech industry.

We come from an industry where people like Sheldon of Big Bang Theory can exist and pass for normal, in a strange kind of way. While bright and brilliant, we didn't get to be so good at programming, or troubleshooting networks, or building systems by being party animals. Let's face it. There were likely kids in school who were WAY more social than we were.

If you were like me, you had a close group of friends, that shared common interests, like standing with your back to the wall at the school dance (I'M JOKING!!!), but more likely was the group who knew about, and ran every bit of available technology at your high school.

So I find it interesting how Social Media has removed the barrier for those of us who kept close to a small group in school, are now suddenly compelled to link up with everyone who wants to be our friend on Facebook or LinkedIn? Are we secretly trying to make up for all those times that [insert rejection event here]?

Today's Social Media pundits would tell you that more is better. We are hoarding friends to the point of ridiculous. And we let this behaviour spill over into our professional lives.

Let's make a key differentiation here... There is a difference in having a great network of professional contacts - people you have done business with, and making connections with anyone and everyone. How in the world do you possibly keep up with the updates?

I say it's time for a Friendectomy. Go through your contact list in LinkedIn and Facebook and delete those who are only mere acquaintances. Keep those with whom you are in regular contact with, and who's updates will mean something to you.

You can't maintain a genuine relationship with 500 people. Don't accept invitations from anyone you don't know. Respectfully decline. There are other ways to connect with you.

If Social Media is about relationships, then make them genuine relationships.

When I see people on LinkedIn with over 500 connections, it usually means they will accept anybody's request for a connection, and thereby lose all the personal and professional value that Social Media can provide. It also sends a message to me that they are not really concerned with me, but rather that I am the means to increase their friend count.

You can still connect with acquaintances, but use more appropriate tools, like Twitter, or a blog.


I feel better.

You may not agree with me, but that's ok.

That's what the comment section is for.


  1. Why exactly do you think it, "inappropriate," to have acquaintances on facebook? You can customize who sees what on your facebook down to individuals, so why bother deleting everyone? Keeping certain aspects of your account hidden from people you consider to be acquaintances makes much more sense than just removing the person all together. Especially when you take into account the fact that many people only use one social media site to keep in touch with their friends.

  2. You make a good point about FB'S configuration options, but many people don't use them. More often than not, I'm getting FB posts asking me to join in silly games, and the majority of these come from acquaintances. While it meat all be in fun, I don't get to opt out without de-friending them.

    My real issued is how tech has allowed us not to expand the concept of friendship and acquaintance, but the words have been hijacked. My plea is for each of us to use the technology to develop genuine relationships.

  3. Would you do this in real life? I wouldn't "cut out" acquaintances. I would try to get to know them better.

    This seems antithetical to your overarching point, which is that online life should look more like offline life.

  4. Jeff,

    Great comment. I like the ones that make me think. While I'm certainly not promoting being antisocial, perhaps I could have been clearer ( and I'm feeling the muse for another post here ).

    My concern at the time of writing was the perception of measuring worth, or value in SM by the number of "friends" or followers you have vs. the number of relationships you have built. To me, there was a hijacking of the objective. We really can't have 500 friends. According to this article in an MIT publication, our Twitter relationship capacity is about 150. See http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26824/?ref=rss

    In my offline life, I have to work hard to invest the appropriate amount of time with key relationships, and yes I do give up time with acquaintances to do so.

    In short, we all need a cure group of strong relationships that require investment on my part.

    I'd like to propose an alternate measure of worth on SM, and I'm not so sure Klout is it.