Facebook ‘Un-friend’ Syndrome

by Bill Brenner on August 13, 2010

My OCD has found something new to zero in on: The Facebook friend count. Ridiculous, you say? Of course. But having OCD is all about worrying about ridiculous things.

Mood music:

http://youtu.be/LCidbyHPvyw

My current Facebook friend count is 1,169. (Author’s note: the current count is 2,016) That may seem like a freakishly high number, but it makes sense when you consider that those connections are a broad mix of family, friends, associates in the security industry and people who “friended” me simply because they read this blog.

Here’s the stupid part, though: It was 1,174 a few days ago. So now I’m worrying about who I might have offended. But I have so many connections that it’s pretty much impossible to go through the entire list to see who’s missing.

The reality is that this shouldn’t be about the number of friends you have. I see people on Facebook all the time who friend everyone in sight because they want to broaden that number. In my case, I just happen to know a lot of people.

If I remember someone from high school or from Revere, I friend them because I want to see how various lives have evolved in the last 25-30 years. On the security side, I’ve met a lot of people in six years and they’ve all taught me something valuable about the industry, so I want to stay connected.

I’ve imposed some rules on myself when it comes to using things like Facebook and Twitter:

–Don’t bitch about the little things. There’s a ton of drama on Facebook already, and there’s a lot of drama in this blog. I’m not going to complain about the little things on top of that.

–Never complain about work. I wouldn’t anyway because I love my job, but I see work grievances on Facebook all the time, and it’s just not smart when you consider that the boss is probably watching.

–Keep the sex life to yourself. The reasons for this are simple. I’m an ugly guy with a hairy back and a bald head. I’m not about to gross people out or scare them. Hell, I get scared and grossed out when thinking of myself in a romantic context. Yet there are folks out there who think people really want to know about their sex lives. I’m not talking about someone who shares their joy over a new romantic relationship or the sadness of a romance that dies. I’m talking about those who give the several-times-a-day, blow-by-blow account of the ups and downs. I’m happily married and my wife loves me despite the fact that I’m funny looking. That’s all anyone needs to know — or would ever want to know.

–Do you really care about what I ate for dinner? Well, given the nature of this blog and the fact that I focus a lot on my binge-eating addiction and the food plan I live by today, I guess you would care. But I’m also sure I’d piss you off if I mentioned what I was about to eat before each meal. I get annoyed when other people do it. My younger brother is a chef and he talks about it a lot. But that’s different, because cooking is his craft.

–Politics. I love to talk politics with people, especially those who really know what they’re talking about. But some folks will take their disdain for Democrats or Republicans too far. Being a moderate myself, I think both political parties are damaged beyond repair. But I try not to get mean, arrogant or hateful about my positions. I’ve un-friended people for being that way.

— Religion: I’m pretty sure people have un-friended me for sharing my Faith. I can’t get around it because my Faith is at the core of everything I do, especially when it comes to marriage, parenthood and my program of recovery. If someone has dropped me because they don’t believe in God and they think I’m an idiot, I don’t care. I’m not about to change on this one.

Here’s what I will continue to do on Facebook and Twitter:

–Share some of the things my kids say. Because my kids are pretty damn witty.

— Post my blog entries, three times a day. The blog is one of the things I have to offer people. It’s one of the things I’m on here to promote. I push out each entry three times a day, to ensure it’s seen by those who do most of their social networking in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening.

–Post my security articles. This is my livelihood. Many of my connections are security people, so there’s no getting around this one. If someone un-friends me because they don’t want so much information about information security, I’m cool with that.

–Share family and travel pictures. Who doesn’t do this?

So with all this in mind, you would think I wouldn’t care to keep such careful track of my friend or follower count. But the truth is that I do. It’s definitely an OCD trigger.

I don’t care about the number itself, but what I do obsess over is why someone un-followed me.

Was I outright offensive?

Does someone think I’m stalking them?

I guess I just want to be sure that I was un-followed  — and that the connection was initiated in the first place — for the right reasons.

But what’s right to one person is wrong to another, so you can’t really measure this sort of thing.

I will also admit straightaway that some of these concerns are about ego. As I’ve mentioned before, OCD cases almost always have runaway egos. Especially me.

If you’ve un-friended me because I was being an asshole at some point, or you decided you didn’t know me as well as you thought, or you realized my writings aren’t for you, I understand.

If it’s because my religious beliefs are beneath you, I don’t care. I’m not about to change.

Social media can be a bitch for someone like me.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan Shimel August 13, 2010 at 2:39 am

Bill, great article. I am actually confronting an issue I have with the Security Bloggers Network today. For the first time in 4 years I am getting complaints from readers about off-topic offensive posts on religion and politics. I sometimes write about religion and politics, but try not to be over the top or one of those “mine is better than yours” types. More importantly I have never censored what anyone writes and publishes to the SBN. But I am afraid I am going to have to today. Thinking of asking people to police themselves, so I don’t have to but don’t know how realistic that is.
PS- I used to be the same way about my Feedburner subscriber count for my blog. But Feedburner screws up the numbers so often I have finally realized what difference does it make 😉

John Rigali August 13, 2010 at 4:47 am

I agree with Alan, this is a great article. Perhaps Facebook should have a section containing essays on good usership, and add this as the first essay.

On the issue of politics on Facebook, I think that I agree with you for the most part. I concur with your assessment that both major political parties are damaged, but I’m not quite ready to admit that the Republican Party is beyond repair. (I’m a conservative Republican.) I also try to avoid being disrespectful, although I think my capacity to be outraged by progressive political activities might cause me to be arrogant from time to time. I haven’t yet “unfriended” anyone that has upset me with seeming intention because I think that it’s important to keep communication open for further dialogue that may bear good fruit. However, there are a few politicians that I “liked” and then, after learning about political activities of theirs of which I vehemently disapproved, “unliked” them. I only advocate this approach to politics on Facebook for people that have the courage to air their sociopolitical views in a public forum and the willingness to suffer the consequences thereof.

Lori August 13, 2010 at 8:56 am

Sometimes people just take a break from FB and shut down their sites for awhile. I think that’s where some of the disappearing peeps may come from. Thank you for your blogging. I’ve been keeping OCD and my food under check and having a kindred friend who’s brave enough to share and help us really is undescribeable…I’m pretty closeted with my OCD. Anyone who judges anyone else’s religious beliefs should take a time out. Take care, Lori

Chy August 13, 2010 at 10:33 am

Great stuff Bill! If it’s any consolation I get concerned when my friend count drops in wonder who I may have offended. LOL and it ain’t EVEN close to yours.

Best,
C.

Mary August 14, 2010 at 6:49 am

Hey! I would NEVER un-friend you!
That’s all that matters! ’cause it’s all about ME! LOL

Faith August 14, 2010 at 8:44 am

Very well put as usual, Bill. One thing that actually occured to me the other day without having read this entry: “Bill’s never really negative in his Facebook posts. I should take a lesson.” Because sometimes I’m guilty of bitching about the little things. The trap with Facebook is that I bitch about something small to get it out of my system, and twenty minutes later I’m over it to the point where I’ve forgotten about my silly Facebook post. Three days later someone comes up to me and offers a shoulder, and I give them a blank stare before I realize what they’re talking about. “Oh, that? I was miffed because I slammed my finger in a drawer. It’s ancient history.”

My biggest Facebook beef, though, is parents who over-post about their child’s every waking moment. (Your little gems from Sean and Duncan are absolutely NOT in this category, for the record – they crack me up.) Some of my friends are new parents, and I do think posting new baby photos or wit from their toddlers or proud announcements about their school plays is great, but I honestly couldn’t care less that little Timmy just went poop in the potty today or that baby Jennifer has her third diaper rash in a month. (Yes, I do see that frequently.) I think this entry here is an unofficial guide to social networking etiquette if ever I saw one.

JPC December 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Hi Bill,

It is possible, with so many friends, that you didn’t lose anyone…they could have canceled FB, or been suspended, or whatever. And if they did leave, too bad for them.

We pretty much met through Facebook ( and you can figure out who I am through my initials, I bet). I enjoy your blog, even if we have differences of opinion on things like faith. I respect your posts because they are never preachy and they always feel genuine. And your family is very sweet. Keep the posts coming!

JPC 🙂

Lisa January 28, 2012 at 5:21 am

I get anxious if someone unfriends me too for the same reasons you said. I worry I offended someone or they thought I was a potential stalker. I also worry if someone unfollows my blog (at least I did until they started counting more than wordpress followers -though I get nervous about twitter followers I’ve had a long time if they unfollow too -yay!)

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