I’m trimming a few of my friends in Facebook. Not a ton, but a few folks who are wonderful for wanting to follow me, but who I haven’t really interacted with in well over a year. (Quick note: none of the people in the picture to the left were being trimmed. I just took a snap of where I was in the list.)
The Emotions Around the Data
What strikes me is that this is a potentially emotional exchange to what should be a simple choice of data management. Think about it. If you remove someone as a friend, it says something more than just a line of data, doesn’t it? There’s an emotional transference. Some of you will argue that there shouldn’t be, or that someone should get over it, or whatever, but for the most part, I’d say that people who use social networks extensively (versus people trying to plumb the system for business purposes) would feel a little something, should they find themselves defriended.
It says you’re not important. It says you’re no longer relevant. It says you’re no longer entitled to a more intimate view and sharing. There are lots of potential combinations to feel when one is unfollowed or defriended.
And yet, the decision is almost always unemotional in nature to the person doing the trimming. Barring little arguments, it’s usually a momentary judgment of, “I’m not really interacting with this person, so I don’t see the big deal.”
So there’s a disparity between what the act means to the person removing versus the person who feels removed. And yet, what’s the value of keeping every name listed that you’ve ever friended? Is there some historic quality? Does it mean something different?
Clustering and Other Sorting Mechanisms
In a way, Facebook is flawed in this way. Unless you work your news stream through a series of filters (I do), you see ALL friends as equal. There’s no real clustering that says “I’m spending more time and interest on these friends,” and yet, that’s how we do what we do as humans. True?
What about proximity (as per my other post)? It strikes me that it would be useful to pop in some location data and have Facebook clump up my friends for the region (especially as I’m typing this from Paris, France).
It’s All A Strange Synthetic
Our friend behavior matches what software developers have designed. It’s not exactly written by sociologists. In some ways, the software forces us to behave in certain ways. In others, it opens up new ways to think and build relationships. It’s a mix of benefit and drawback (like all innovation, I suspect).
There’s more to this. I’m only just starting to see it, but I’m also acutely aware of what needs fixing in social databases.