Do You Really Need 500 Friends on That Social Network? Is It Time to Unfriend Some People?

Giving someone the blowoff or the kissoffI was talking to one of the Cat Herders (Project Manager) at Matrix Group today.  She said she was trimming her Facebook friend list and unfriending some people.  Unfriending.  It sounds so… ummmm… unfriendly.

Facebook says that the average user has 130 friends but I know people who have hundreds, even thousands of friends.  500 friends?  I can’t imagine many people who have that many friends with whom they would willingly share personal updates, photos, even their full birthday.  So I asked around and got some good insight into the friending and unfriending business.  These findings don’t represent a large group, just my friends! :-)

  • There is a group of Facebook users who will accept friend requests from anyone and who actively try to expand their friend network.
  • There is another group that views Facebook as a place where they can communicate freely so they only connect with true friends.  For these folks, Facebook is a place for personal communications, often about self, family, kids, friends.
  • There was a general consensus that the new Facebook homepage, which splits updates between News Feed and View Live Feed, makes it harder to see updates from your entire network of friends, which makes it more challenging to have a large network.
  • Many people have been cleaning up their lists on Facebook, Twitter, and other social network recently.  They’re actively unfriending people so they can manage the communications and flood of updates.
  • Even if  a person has a large network on a platform like Facebook, they are more than likely only interacting with a small subset of friends. Indeed, the Facebook sociologist says that no matter how large their friend network, Facebook users tend to “comment on stuff from only about 5-10% of their Facebook friends.”

So just how does one end up on an unfriend list?

  • If you never respond to direct messages.
  • If you never update your status.
  • If your relationship with a person is tenuous at best.

BTW, if you unfriend someone on Facebook, the person does not receive a notification, but they can no longer look at your profile and they can’t request to get connected again.  If you unfollow someone on Twitter, they don’t receive a notification and chances are, they won’t notice since many people have so many followers and people they are following.  It is quite another thing, however, to block someone on Twitter; if you block someone, they can’t follow you.

As for me, on Twitter, I let most people follow me on Twitter and I follow nearly 700 people back.  On Facebook, however, I only accept friend requests from people I know, people I would gladly have lunch with, and with whom I don’t mind sharing information about my son.  So while I’m connected to nearly a thousand people on Twitter, I only have 170 people in my Facebook network.

How about you?  How large is your social network on the different platforms?  What criteria do you use to assess friend requests?  Are you doing any unfriending lately?

12 thoughts on “Do You Really Need 500 Friends on That Social Network? Is It Time to Unfriend Some People?

  1. I have a few hundred friends myself, but I am pretty generic about the stuff that I post, and don’t share my birthday. I also have some customers on my friends list, so for the most part, my online activites are “consumable by the masses” so I generally accept every friend request I get and have never defriended anyone.

    -Garry

  2. Garry, thanks for the comment. Do you reserve any social network pages for your true friends? I read somewhere that men are more likely to have large networks and accept all friend requests? What do you think?

  3. Yep sure do! That social network is called “My Speed Dial” – or the people that I want to call when I’m bored on a Friday night. :)

  4. I actually did this for my Twitter followers a few weeks ago. If a person that I was following did nothing by tweet and re-tweet links, I un-followed them. I try and use Twitter for making connections in the web industry. I will let anyone follow me, but I am very selective about who I follow. On the other hand, I use Facebook for just family and friends.

  5. I solved part of this problem by creating two group I call “No Status Update” and “Not Close.” Into the first group I put people who don’t merit hearing about my thoughts/life because they never post a Status Update or comment on mine. But I don’t want to unfriend them, because I do like them and if they ever started using FB actively, I’d be happy to take them off thta list.

    And the “Not Close” folks are for just that — people I’m happy to remain in touch with (former clients, for example)–but who I don’t want to see my entire profile. There is often overlap with these two groups.

    And then, I use Privacy Settings to carefully restrict what those two groups have access to.

  6. I have yet to “unfriend” anyone, but I do put my friends into groups and alter some of the restrictions on what people can see on my profile. It helps give me some privacy, but I can still stay connected.

  7. I have 191 “friends” (but have only been on facebook for about 3 months) I know people who have over a thousand! I think some people view it as a popularity contest…I do feel a little inadequate compared to some other facebookers!

  8. Thanks for all the comments. It’s fascinating to learn about how people are friending, unfriending and managing their social networks.

    Chris, thank you for introducing me to Dunbar’s Number. I wonder what Dunbar would say about how the size of a company, team or department affects the relationships in a company. For example, does fraud increase past the stable number? What happens to efficiency and the networks that ultimately allow people to work together?

  9. Interesting graph theory problem. World population is about 7 billion (7*10^9). If everyone wants to link
    to everyone in six steps, take the sixth root …. about 43.7 friends is enough.

    As far as Dunbar’s number goes, check out Ramsey Numbers. All users of social networks need to learn this
    stuff. R(3,3)=6 means that at a party of six people, there will either be a clique of three mutual acquaintances
    or three who are complete strangers to each other.

    Tony Goddard
    @d4maths

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