This week, in an enormous feat of determination, New York's Kevin Roose nuked his Facebook friends list after years of letting it balloon into a hugely messy confluence of acquaintances and strangers. It would prove to be no easy task: He had nearly 2,789 Facebook friends, and wanted to cut it down to about 100 close friends and family, plus 500 others. "By pruning my account to include just the stuff I wanted to see," he wrote, "I would see if New Facebook could be made to feel like the Old Facebook I loved, or if it was beyond repair."
All told, it took him about five hours. Five hours.
Part of what made the spring-cleaning a Herculean task was Facebook doesn't exactly make the de-friending process easy. It's in Facebook's best interest to encourage as many connections to other people as possible; it's why the service makes "unfollowing" someone (which keeps their status updates from appearing in your feed) as easy as two clicks in your News Feed, while actually severing a connection requires you to go to their profile page, browse through a tiny hard-to-spot menu, and hit the "unfriend" button at the bottom.
It's a problem that I suspect many people who went to college in the 2000s might be dealing with—vaguely recognizable dorm mates, frat and sorority pals, and other organizational ties were all fair game to be Facebooked. It was fun at the time! But now it makes Facebook feel bloated, impersonal, and borderline unusable.
But a few years ago, a good friend—who had a brief bout with Internet fame (long story!)—developed a strategy for paring down her massive list of some 4,000 (!!!) connections, mostly randoms fans. Her strategy, though it takes some time, is still worth sharing…
Unfriend people on their birthdays.
Simply check whose birthday it is on any given day, evaluate if they're worth keeping around or not, then unfriend them if necessary. The next day, do the same. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It's a bit slow-burning (and maybe a little cruel), but de-friending people over a much longer stretch could be a worthwhile investment for people who don't want to roll up their sleeves and dive into the bedlam for hours on end, as Roose did. It spreads the hair-splitting task of deciding who to cut and who to keep into tiny, manageable slices (maybe two or three people per day). And it might just work if you're the kind of person who checks Facebook regularly.
Now, her method isn't perfect. She tells me that sometimes she missed people "on the weekend because I'm not online those days." (There's always next year!) But she says that after a few months, her Facebook feed felt noticeably cleaner, livelier, and was, in all, a much more pleasant place to hang out; less #blessed hashtags and Tough Mudder photos, and more people she actually cared about. Now, doesn't that sound nice?
Do you have any tricks for keeping your Facebook tidy? Share them in the comments below.