I tried this once before and then was inundated with "friend requests." I was strong for a season, but eventually "accepted" many of the requests.
It's an amazingly challenging step to click the "Unfriend" button on Facebook.
Why? Because before the creation of this social media juggernaut, a friend was just that. . .a friend. It was a noun that described a personal relationship that was intimate and stronger than just acquaintence. Jesus is a "friend of sinners" and that was and is a powerful statement.
Now, we live in an age where "friend" is a verb. It's something you do. You can friend someone and even (here's the new term) unfriend someone. It's not that big a deal, really. It's just a click of the button on a computer screen or phone, but it feels hurtful.
Nevertheless, I'm about to "unfriend" a bunch of people. What's strange is that most of those, if not all, are actually my friends.
So, why am I doing this?
I think Michael Hyatt explained it best in his blog. . .
Until now, my “friend policy” (if you could call it that), was to simply accept any and all comers. I figured, the more friends the better. The problem is that this resulted in a huge amount of noise, not to mention added workload. I grew weary of all the friend requests, invites, and notifications.
It also made me think long and hard about my vocabulary. Like many people, I had begun to use the term “friend” in a very loose way. The first thing I did in re-thinking my strategy was to tighten up my definitions of key terms:
- Family: These are the people who are related by blood or by marriage. I have occasionally been too loose with term, too. I have used it to refer to close personal friends or even the “Thomas Nelson family.” But I don’t think this is accurate or helpful. It creates the illusion of something that is not true. From now on, I am going to use this word as it was intended.
- Friends: These are the people I know in real life. They are people I have met face-to-face, enjoy being around, and interact with in real life. (These three elements are key.) Frankly, a few of these relationships started off online through Twitter. Over time, they grew and developed. Regardless, I have a few deep and significant friendships. But if I am honest, I don’t have many. I only have so much time available.
- Acquaintances: These are people I have met online or off. I may know their name or even their face. We may even have been friends at some point in the past, but we don’t have an ongoing relationship. We only know one another at a superficial level, and that’s just fine. We just have to be clear that these are not our “friends.”
- Fans: These are the people who know my public persona or my work. This is also where people get confused because the relationship is not mutual. For example, I am a fan of Chris Brogan. We have even met once. I know lots of stuff about him, because of his blog andTwitter posts. This creates the illusion of intimacy. If I am not careful, however, I could fool myself into thinking I have a relationship with Chris. I don’t. I’m just one of his many fans.
So with those definitions in mind, I set out to re-think my approach to Facebook. Basically, it’s pretty simple. I have decided that I will only use my Facebook profile for family and close friends. I don’t want an inbox that is flooded with sales pitches and invitations to things I don’t care about.
However, realizing that more people are on Facebook than Twitter and that at least five percent of my blog traffic comes from Facebook, I decided to create a fan page for everyone else who wants to connect with me.
To read Michael's full posting, click here.
For the record, the "fan page" title is now a "public figure page" and I believe it's a better signifier.
Like most people, I have too many online identities (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) and while social media is here to stay, and can be an effective ministry tool and interpersonal connector, I must once again pull back the reins.
So, I'm unfriending some people.
Yes, I'm clicking the button and will most likely anger some people. I know some will wonder why they're not connected on my personal page any longer. They'll feel slighted. I'm sorry. Really, I am. But. . .it's happening.
I'm not breaking up with you.
Funny, huh? But, that's the emotion some equate to an unfriend.
So, who will be connected on my personal page?
Well, my family, close friends, and those who serve in ministry (missionaries, pastors, church planters, and family members of such.)
For those who wish to connect, and I hope you will, please go "Like" my Public Figure page.
Here's the link - www.facebook.com/pastor.david.tarkington.
You can even message me there. I'll get it (if I remember to check that inbox) and respond as quickly as I can.
By the way, even if we're unfriended, we can still be real friends.
Oh, and I hardly ever use my personal Facebook page anyway.