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Some people view Facebook as a popularity contest. Having more friends means you’re seen by your peers as being more popular, right?

Well, maybe. Once upon a time, Facebook was all about adding; more social used to equal more fun. Not anymore. Now it’s all about deleting Why Is It So Hard to Delete Social Media Accounts? Why Is It So Hard to Delete Social Media Accounts? You can't just go to your account settings, click Delete and watch your profile vanish into a collection of ones and zeroes. The Internet is very good at remembering things. Read More .

In fact, having a four-digit number of friends really isn’t sensible. We’ll take a look at some reasons why you should start deleting some of your Facebook friends…

It’s Bad for Your Brain

Research suggests that we struggle to maintain more than 150 real-life friendships at once. It’s called “Dunbar’s Number” after the Oxford University anthropologist who discovered the phenomenon. He claims that any number beyond that starts to “strain the cognitive capacity of the human brain”.

According to Dunbar, that figure translates into the online world too:

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“The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends, but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world”

If we take that number as a base, then add on a few long-lost school friends and other people you intermittently need to keep in touch with, you’d probably reach an absolute ceiling of 200-250 Facebook buddies.

This number is borne out by the facts. The mean average number of Friends on Facebook is 338, but the median is only around 200. That means a significant portion of people have a much higher number of friends, and they are skewing the mean average.

You’re Sacrificing Your Best Relationships

If you are one of the 15 percent of users who have more than 500 friends, you could be jeopardizing your nearest and dearest relationships for ultimately unimportant online kudos.

Maria Konnikova was the first to raise the point while writing for the New Yorker:

“With social media, we can easily keep up with the lives and interests of far more than a hundred and fifty people. But without investing the face-to-face time, we lack deeper connections to them, and the time we invest in superficial relationships comes at the expense of more profound ones.”

Dunbar supports her claim. “The amount of social capital you have is pretty fixed,” he said. “It involves time investment. If you garner connections with more people, you end up distributing your fixed amount of social capital more thinly so the average capital per person is lower.”

unfriend

It appears that the key here is to recognize the difference between real-life and virtual. Should you be using your phone at a family meal to make some witty remark on the photo of someone you met on a beach in Thailand? Clearly not. But is it a good thing to have that relationship logged in Facebook in case you ever want to revisit it in the future. Probably.

Privacy

Away from the academic reasons, there are also plenty of practical reasons.

Chief among them is privacy. Yes, we know Facebook theoretically has lots of tools Facebook Privacy: 25 Things The Social Network Knows About You Facebook Privacy: 25 Things The Social Network Knows About You Facebook knows a surprising amount about us – information we willingly volunteer. From that information you can be slotted into a demographic, your "likes" recorded and relationships monitored. Here are 25 things Facebook knows about... Read More to keep photos, posts, and personal data limited to certain sub-sets of your friends, but very few people use them to their fullest extent. (Be honest, how many of you have taken the time to set up customized groups of close friends with whom to share stuff?!).

facebook-privacy-v2

Facebook is now 12 years old 10 Fascinating Facebook Facts And Figures 10 Fascinating Facebook Facts And Figures Believe it or not, Facebook is now 12 years old. Given its age and its ubiquity, you might think there is nothing left to learn about Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room project. You'd be wrong. Read More , and if you were one of the early adopters there is a very good chance you’ll be one of the aforementioned 15 percent of users who have more than 500 friends.

You need to ask yourself whether you want all these people creeping on your life (and whether you want to keep creeping on theirs). You know how it is, you’ve got people on your friend list that you’ve not spoken to since primary school, but you know the name of their kids and how many times they’ve been married.

Worst of all, all these people know the same stuff about you. That’s just weird.

Clean Up Your Newsfeed

This is also a great reason for unliking random things like airlines and hotels Learn to Love Flying Again with These Secret Travel Tips Learn to Love Flying Again with These Secret Travel Tips Use technology to completely change your flying experience. Here are some not-so-secret flying and travel tips to make your in-flight experience more bearable. Read More – it will all make your newsfeed much cleaner and more enjoyable to spend time on.

Do you really care that your old boss has checked into a restaurant in Prague? Or that a random bar you liked back in college is selling tickets for their latest Tuesday night extravaganza?

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It all comes back to what Dunbar and Konnikova were discussing. Clearing out your friends (and likes) will mean the news you should care about will be more prominent on your feed, allowing you to better develop your meaningful relationships and discard the unimportant ones.

People Are Just Annoying

There has been plenty of research around “annoying” Facebook posts.

In 2014, 2,000 people were asked what were the main reasons they’d delete someone on the site. The top ten included:

  • Excessive bragging – 68%
  • Pointed statuses – 56%
  • Game requests – 48%
  • Attention seeking – 41%
  • Excessive selfies – 38%

It makes sense to get rid of people whose posts annoy you online Facebook Makes Us Angry, Windows 10 Users Hit With Ads... [Tech News Digest] Facebook Makes Us Angry, Windows 10 Users Hit With Ads... [Tech News Digest] Facebook makes everybody emotional, ads appear on the Windows 10 lock screen, Apple wants to make the iPhone impossible to hack, Siri is coming to Mac, and bullying robots looks like fun. Read More . Why let yourself get frustrated and irritated by someone else’s social media feed? There are already enough issues in the world to anger us.

If they’re a genuine close friend you can mute them, if not, give them the elbow.

How to Decide Who to Unfriend

Making these points is all well and good – but when push comes to shove and your mouse is hovering over the unfriend button, it all suddenly feels a bit final.

How do you know you won’t run into them again in five years’ time and become BBFs?! What if they realize that you’ve binned them?

Each person needs to decide their own parameters for unfriending. As a rule, focus on old school chums, old work colleagues, people you met on vacation, and random mutual acquaintances from years gone by. You won’t miss them, I promise.

How many friends do you have? Have you undertaken a “clear-out” recently? Or do you believe in more-is-better? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Alaena
    November 22, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    It might sound awful but I have been using the Facebook "wish them a happy Birthday" feature to help me unfriend. If Facebook says it's someone's birthday and I would feel weird wishing them more than a generic happy birthday, do not know them, or have completely lost touch, I just unfriend them. I figure that after a year or two of this I will slowly but surely pair my friend list down to the people that matter without having to go through a big emotional vetting process all at once.

    • Wesley
      December 3, 2016 at 1:13 am

      That's exactly what I do.

  2. Farida
    October 19, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Please delete all as I donot know them at all .

  3. CarlosParadox
    October 2, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Stalkers, Spying, Stealing Posts...

  4. Drew A
    August 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I went cold turkey on FB in December. One minute I was there, the next I wasn't. Haven't heard a peep of concern from any of my FB 'friends' afterward (if they wanted to, they likely had other ways of contacting me to ask me what happened). While I've thought about re-activating my account for logistical reasons (i.e. to stay in the loop of my kids' school's social media), I do occasionally peruse my wife's account.
    This proves to me the value of FB...and it isn't much when it comes to true friendship. So, I say to all reading this--get over yourselves on FB and leave it behind.

    • Ann
      September 21, 2016 at 5:58 am

      I am also going to cold turkey this time consuming rubbish. I only joined FB as it was the only way I could see my nieces and nephews who are growing up overseas. Its a true waste of time as most of the time my complimentary comments are totally ignored and to be honest I seldom get a comment about anything I might post on FB.

  5. Anna belle
    August 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

    I send birthday wishes to every FB friend and have even gone to dinner with them and not one" not one sent well wishes on my birthday. I did not wish them happy birthday only to receive it in return, but I am thinking of unfriending them all and just letting them remain on my professional FB page.

  6. tired of crap
    July 23, 2016 at 8:15 am

    This is a very informative article. It is especially helpful for those who have not realized the GOOD sense of avoiding these ANTI-Social networks altogether. Hopefully for all of our sake, the users of these services will cease-even if it is just a small bit at a time. :)

    • Drew A
      August 26, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Absolutely agree. I went cold turkey on FB in December. One minute I was there, the next I wasn't. Haven't heard a peep of concern from any of my FB 'friends' afterward (if they wanted to, they likely had other ways of contacting me to ask me what happened). While I've thought about re-activating my account for logistical reasons (i.e. to stay in the loop of my kids' school's social media), I do occasionally peruse my wife's account.
      This proves to me the value of FB...and it isn't much when it comes to true friendship. So, I say to all reading this--get over yourselves on FB and leave it behind.

  7. kerry
    July 22, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I have deleted people who are attention seeking,like to flaunt their spelling,education,smartness,and thrive on getting more friends.Also
    people who report every detail of every day,and post and post,and try to get
    you in a conversation that can sometimes go on for an hour.One I deleted kept
    posting animal abuse photo's that ruined my sense of peace and happiness.

  8. Napabrown
    April 10, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    I've found that almost all posts that irritate me (backward political posts for example) are actually reposts and not typed by my friends. I have become disciplined about blocking the original source of the idiocy using the little arrow in the upper right of the offending post, then clicking 'More'. Now I can see where my friends are and what they are doing on the planet sans the idiocy they feel the need to repost.

  9. Joe Orsak
    March 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I think the logical fallacy comes in the assumption that the purpose of Facebook is ONLY for maintaining close friendships. I'm a very socially engaged person. I use Facebook to market, to communicate events on a larger scale, also to get a pulse on what people are discussing and what is relevant. There's many angles to how Facebook is used.

    I do live feed's and I'll have a hundred people tune in. Where can you get the ability to gather a hundred people in a room, communicate on a subject, have interaction, and do it all for free? Why would I UNfriend an audience?

  10. Dann Albright
    March 16, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    I go back and forth every once in a while on whether I should unfriend someone or just mute them. On one hand, what's the point of having a Facebook friend if you're not going to see any of their stuff in your feed? Why not just unfriend them? On the other, being from the Midwest, I'm pretty afraid of hurting people's feelings, and that makes me want to keep them on my friends list and not ever see any of their postings. Right now I'm in an "unfriend unless they're family" sort of phase. What do you think, Dan? Why unfriend instead of mute?

    • tired of crap
      July 23, 2016 at 8:19 am

      goodluck

  11. StevetotheH
    March 16, 2016 at 1:49 am

    150 friends?! If you believe you have 150 something is wrong with you, maybe more than slightly diluted. Most people are lucky to have five, the rest..... well the rest are acquaintances. Would you leave your kids with 149 of those people? Would 149 of those people pick you up from the hospital? If shit hit the fan, would you lend any of those 150 people over $20? They are either not your friends or the meaning of friendship has changes!

  12. Guy Hutchins
    March 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I have 347. I have played music for years and know a lot of folks. Mostly musicians, friends, and old friends are on my friends list but I can see adding people from clubs, gigs, etc. This allows for advertising gigs I will be playing.
    That would make sence but half are people I know but really don't share any interests. I have been unfollowing them as not to offend and leave a communication channel open. I also have misc "friends" that post hot pics of themselves and others. Entertainment value only...lol.
    I have yet to do a purge but plan on it soon. Also I plan on getting into the settings and dividing my friends and contacts accordingly.
    I might try Jack Cola's method. It seems to make good sence.

  13. Jack Cola
    March 14, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    With websites such as SadlyUnfriended.com, if you unfriend your old friends, they may know, which can hurt the relationship - meaning there is no way you will ever be able talk to them again.

    Instead of unfriending, just put them into the restricted list. This way, they will only know when they visit your profile that you have sort of unfriended them - but only do this if you don't want them to see your status updated.

    Alternatively, just unfollow them so you won't receive any of their updates in your newsfeed. But if you want to know what they are up to, you just need to visit their profile.

    I think this is a much better alternative then unfriending... because who knows, years down the track you may wish to talk to them again.

  14. Valine
    March 14, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    I've gotten to the point where I won't initiate adding any people to my Facebook anymore. If someone wants to add me as their friend, fine, but I went through the lesson of adding people and then they dropped me a year or less later for no apparent reason other than we weren't really friends in the first place or I wasn't important enough for them to keep. I've got maybe 150 people on my friends list and a significant portion are what I would consider acquaintances or friends of family or people I knew in H.S. or in college but we don't actually hang out. I would quit Facebook altogether if I didn't need it to keep in touch with the few people I really want to...people who refuse to use any other method to keep in touch.

  15. bben
    March 12, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Many of those FB 'friends' are not friends at all and likely not even acquaintances. And, if you have more than a hundred or so, many are probably people you have never even really met and would have nothing to do with in real life. Then, how can you be 'friends' with a business? You can be a good customer, but they are still a business and not a friend.

    The old Google Circles ( before they decided to abandon the original concept and try to be just like another FB) was good at separating internet people into various categories - Friends, Family, Acquaintances, People I know at work, or whatever category you wanted. Due to their terrible security I have never signed up on FB, but now I find they keep a profile on me without my permission anyway. How is this legal?

  16. Joe
    March 11, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Why not just unfollow your acquaintances and continue following your actual friends?

  17. Dia
    March 11, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    If they'd make it simpler to remove them, vs going one at a time through them, page by page, I would, but I'm not bothering to go to EACH of 1200ish pages and unfriend the ones I don't want to keep.

    • Joe
      March 11, 2016 at 6:23 pm

      You can hover over names in the friends list, and a popup will then appear that you can use to unfriend. It's not quite as easy as a multi-select but quicker than going to each of their pages.

  18. Peter Fitzsimmons
    March 11, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I have 26 facebook friends and most of those are close friends/family.

    Over the years I have deleted many people who I no longer have any interaction with.

    As a rule of thumb, anybody I have not spoken with in the past year is taken off my list of friends.

    My main aim is to completely get rid of Facebook but it does have it's uses.

    The main one for me is using FB as a log in for other websites.... like MUO.

    I know there are other ways to log into sites but that little "log in with Facebook" is rather handy.

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