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A Simple, Nifty Trick For Cleaning Up Your Facebook News Feed

Is your Facebook friends list bloated to near unusable levels? Perhaps try this simple strategy.

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.

[Image: Flickr user woodleywonderworks]

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  • Affinity Mingle

    I would de-friend people and then they would pop up a year later saying , "I don't seem to be on your friend list anymore, there most have been an error" and ask to friend again. So now I just mark the people I do not want to hear from (because I don't really know them, not because they are bad people) as "acquaintances" and unmark "following" they can see what I have to say ( provide a lot of information about Burning Man) but I only occasionally get one of their status posts. It is working for me.

  • Erlee Arcy Willemsen

    I'd say make another FB account, it's FREE. Then add those you would want to be friends with. In no time you'll have a stress free brand new FB account. (y)

  • Mette Hornbek

    You can easily unfriend people by going to your own page and view your friend list. It has the unfriend-option, when you hoover over the "friends"-check mark with each name and profile link.

  • Alex Gee

    I wanted to keep all of my connections so rather than un-friending anybody, I simply un-followed everyone one-by-one as they appeared each day (pages included) and then organised all the people I care about into a 'Close Friends' list and all the Pages I follow into a 'Pages' list.

    Now my Friends and Pages are browsable in separate feeds, I have control over the type of posts that are shown in my 'lists' (eg, only status updates & photos show up), and my regular newsfeed is completely blank and un-distracting.

    The process took a while to complete, and whenever new pages or friends are added you have to remember to manually add them to a list if you want to see their updates, but otherwise it feels exactly like the original Facebook.

  • Encourage people to unfriend on someone's birthday as a way of cleaning up their feed? Nevermind that the person's friend count going down on their special day might hurt their feelings, as long as my feed is cleaned up who cares, right?

    Crazy idea, but how about not friending people you don't want on your list? There are also very good scripts that will allow you to unfriend in bulk if you really must do it.

  • Steve Kravitz

    This is stupid. Half the people on Facebook don't have their birthdays listed.

  • Wagner Ferreira

    I don´t think this is the better way, because you may lose lots of great comments and useful posts.

    I think the better way to de-friend someone is to watch your own timeline and check for racist, xenophobic, and other bad posts and bad comments that your "friends" are publishing. These are the kind of people that deserves to get your block.

    Believe me, there a lot of stupid people and sooner or later they will show their true colors and I can garantee that my technique will clear your feeds without losing its quality.