Reset Facebook: Have Fewer Friends

2018 has been a difficult year for Facebook. There are lots of suggestions from lots of people about how the company can fix its own problems. Kurt Wagner on Re/Code made a suggestion for us users – have fewer friends. He said that “it’s time for Facebook to build a new feature: A reset button.” This reset button would get rid of all your current friends so you can start again and build a more intimate experience. He thinks this would help us share and consume better information.

Fewer friends won’t just change what you consume, but it might encourage you to share more yourself. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously suggested people could maintain just 150 “meaningful relationships” at any one time, a number that’s been put to the test thanks to services like Facebook.

Check It Out: Reset Facebook: Have Fewer Friends

3 thoughts on “Reset Facebook: Have Fewer Friends

  • Happy New Year, Charlotte.

    It’s not clear to me what specific problem amongst those that have surfaced with FB this past year in particular, if any, Kurt Wagner’s reset button would solve, apart from the catharsis, perhaps, of an instant winnowing of one’s friends list to naught. His citation of anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s suggestion that we can maintain little more than 150 meaningful relationships notwithstanding, the way in which many people use FB is less about two-way communication than it is about personal expression and the sharing of whatever one wishes to share about themselves or what moves them. Wagner opines that a smaller list might enable more sharing of oneself; whereas it seems most regular users have little trouble accomplishing precisely that, irrespective of friend response. Would that this encapsulated the whole FB paradigm, people like yours truly would now be FB free. Alas. I remain an unwilling hostage.

    In clinical psychiatry there is a term, ‘hostile dependent’, which refers to one who is dependent upon another, but is at the same time hostile and resentful towards that person, who is made to feel that hostility. Think of two relatives with a dysfunctional relationship, but one of whom is ill and dependent upon the other. This does not describe my relationship with FB, but perhaps the term ‘hostile obligate’ does.

    For me, it’s not the number of ‘friends’ I have on FB, but their location and their dependence on FB and related apps, like Messenger and WhatsApp, to communicate with me. I spent the better part of last night and this morning responding to New Years greetings and well-wishes from staff, friends and colleagues in low income countries whose principal means of contacting people like me are FB and its apps. This obliges me, unless I wish to be a cold-hearted SOB, to log in and respond in kind.

    To understand what a hostile obligate is; think of a train in a low income country. You’re aboard the train on a long haul trip. At some point, you have to use the toilet. You go to the toilet, open the door, and OMG! WHAT’S THAT SMELL! AND WHAT’S THAT ALL OVER THE FLOOR!? I HAVE TO STEP IN THAT?!! Still, at some point, you are obliged to use that toilet. You have become a hostile obligate. That’s my relationship to FB.

    It’s not the number of contacts that mars this experience. It’s the stench of deceit, treachery, power abuse, and unregulated and unchecked malfeasance that is the modus operandi and standard of practice at FB that is the problem, and the inability of users to enter into a consensual relationship with FB over the terms of use of one’s personal data, and the ability to terminate and reclaim one’s data at anytime and for no particular reason other than this being one’s choice, no less than being kept informed in real time if, for any reason, those terms are violated, that mars the experience.

    Here’s to hoping that some of this changes in 2019. In the meantime, I’ll keep my face mask and Wellies on hand; you know, for the next time I’ve got to go back in.

  • Feels like a real lack of control on FB. Like security is obfuscated by design. Also, suggesting friends who are coworkers? How is that possible? How do they find out? People you knew from 20 years ago suggested? Creepy. Your account compromised? Not good at all. I had an old account that I didn’t really use for very long and now get fake emails from fake contacts I had. How is that possible? Currently, my account is deactivated. Many of the people around me don’t use it for anything personal at all. Just tracking news and so on. And Instagram is pretty much the same thing. There’s a lack of security. There’s a true lack of a feeling of control over any of your information. Privacy controls are complicated. It’s all part of their plan.

  • I don’t have a problem geeting rid of some acquaintances and have done so on a number of occasions. Family is tougher, though I have blocked some on the extended end, others are simply unfollowed.

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