Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me

But mostly, it's you.

More than four years ago, I opened a Facebook account, not because I wanted to dig up old friends from high school, but because some of my really good friends, who lived out of town or out of the country, were on the social-media tools, and I wanted to keep in touch with them, to know what they were up to. Facebook did not replace a phone call or reaching out via e-mail, but it supplemented that form of communication, provided photos and status updates of the every day.

I had my blog, and would share activities in the Brownfoot household: looking at Facebook, I could see what my friends wanted to share with me.

I also found family members with whom I had lost touch, and it was good to reaffirm those connections.

But as that app is wont to do, it brings out people from your past: high-school acquaintances, old girlfriends, long-forgotten neighbours, and people who belonged to old clubs and former places of employment. Those people saw you profile, remembered you, and reached out.

Sometimes, I connected with them. The majority, I ignored. There were folks who I hadn't seen since I left high school, who I didn't really talk to, except in passing. Back then, we weren't even friends. I hadn't given them a single thought in more than 30 years: why would I want to strike up a virtual friendship now?

And then there are people with whom I am connected through other social-media channels: we are connected through a common interest on LinkedIn or we have followed each other through Twitter. Some of these folks have become my "friends" through these channels, and so, in time, I became friends on Facebook.

On Facebook, I liked certain breweries. I liked the fun antics of George Takei. I followed some friends' businesses. I followed my kids' dance school and some of the other dance parents. Facebook, over the four years or so that I've used it, has become somewhat of an extension of Twitter.

And that got me thinking: did I want to see posts that were repeated on these platforms? Did I want to share all of my musings on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook? Sure, I could create groups and select a particular group to talk to certain people, but I didn't want that.

No, Facebook is where I wanted to share thoughts and photos with my family members and with those who are closest to me.

It wasn't easy, but over the weekend, I cut ties with about half of my connections. I won't say that I "unfriended" these folks, because the term is stupid and it's not even a word. And these people are still considered friends. Some of them are good friends, but I have connections with them through different social media, and I want to keep it that way.

The first people who I cut were those that I had even forgotten I had a connection. I never saw a post by them, never received likes or comments on anything I shared. The only time I remembered that we were connected was when his or her birthday was announced. And so, I said goodbye.

I then broke the connection between myself and a lot of people with whom I associated in clubs or groups, but was no longer a member, nor did I really hang out with these people. I liked them, but I didn't see that we had anything in common. The same went for people that I used to work with but no longer met socially. Some of them communicate with me through LinkedIn, and that's great. That's where they should be.

And, as flaky as it was, I broke connections with people I only recently, proactively reached out to and connected with. Only to cut that tie.

I looked at the people with which I wanted to maintain contact. Naturally, family members stayed, as did those who I have known for ages and consider to be family. I also kept my friends with whom I hang out on a regular basis, and those who I don't necessarily see often, but are those who I do like to see and meet.

Then there are those who I haven't known for a particularly long time, but who have touched my heart. You folks know who you are.

I sometimes think that making this distinction can be divisive of a friendship, but I really don't think so. I think I have created the boundaries in which I'm comfortable. There is no one that I follow on Facebook that I would want to exclude from any of my posts, who I wouldn't want to know personal information or to see photos that I wouldn't share anywhere else.

For me, Facebook is more than just being acquaintances, more than being friends.

Twitter is next. Yesterday, I stopped following about 30 people because either I knew nothing about them, never read their tweets anyway, or they were simply too much of a distraction.

Social media, I feel, needs to be more than making random connections. Those connections have to have meaning, or else they are noise in an already hectic and fast-paced world.

What matters to you?

(I can see myself losing connections over this post.)

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