A Minimalist’s Social Networking

I’ve had an off-and-on relationship with Facebook since it was just for college students from select schools. The first time I got it, I was a wide-eyed high school graduate about to start life in a new state. I didn’t want to lose touch with all of my friends from high school, so when one of my friends showed me this new thing called “the facebook”, I signed up.

When I was a junior in college I stopped seeing the appeal. I wasn’t really friends with any of my “friends” on Facebook (they dropped the “the” in front of their name by then) except for about three people, who I talked to and saw in real life. All of my friends from college I talked to and saw in real life as well, and I decided to cut my ties with Facebook at the time because it felt a little redundant.

I signed up for it again after graduating college. I moved to Tennessee, another place where I knew absolutely no people. Since I didn’t want to lose touch with my college friends, the same cycle repeated. I only keep in touch with about five people from college, and (like before) I see and talk to them in real life, making Facebook redundant again. I cut Facebook out of my life for the second (possibly final?) time about a year ago and haven’t felt the loss.

That’s the feeling I get from a lot of my minimalistic endeavors though: I realize once I get rid of something that I feel lighter, and I find out that I didn’t really “need” that thing in the first place. Not only that, but getting rid of Facebook freed up some time for me as well since I don’t compulsively check it to see if anyone’s posted a funny article or something for me to waste time on.

Losing touch with Facebook also makes my social life feel a little more natural. There’s a theory that humans can only maintain relationships with about 200 people. If true, that means that a friends list of anything over that amount is mental clutter that is impossible to maintain. For me, that clutter is just as bad as an overflowing closet of things I’ll never use. The people who add value to my lives add value with or without Facebook, which is a good indicator that Facebook isn’t really relevant to me anymore. If we value a relationship with someone, we shouldn’t need Facebook to maintain that relationship.

Facebook can be used for good, but in my experience the “good” is harder and harder to find. For me, it was mostly a vehicle for drama between my friends and between my family. (Relevant XKCD.) I think that social networking of a general nature should happen face-to-face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the internet and what it does for making connections between people with specific interests (like minimalism!). But “friendships” of the vague and nonspecific kind that I’ve always had and seen on Facebook seem to be counterproductive.

What I am curious about, though, is whether or not Facebook can still be a useful tool for minimalists to connect with each other. It seems like most people use Twitter or something else, but Facebook does still have a place for the time being. While it probably won’t see any light in my personal life anytime soon, there could be hope for its use in my professional, online life!

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