I started out writing a blog about unfriending. That post became 2800 words and since I’ve vowed to do better about length? I cut it in half. Then that grew to 3200 words. So I had to cut it again.
Aaand then again.
Apparently I have a lot of opinions about unfriending.
After almost a thousand blog posts I seriously cannot believe we haven’t talked more about this. Unfriending. What an awful word. Un-friend. To be un-friended.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I actually posted some thoughts on the whole “unfriending” thing and there does seem to be a generational difference. Young people will unfriend someone who’s misbehaving then add them again later. From what I understand it’s like a time-out.
I will say that, us older folks?
It is NOT a time out.
I can promise that us older folks will take being unfriended far more personally because we grew up in an era where the word “friend” held a very different and more significant meaning.
But the reality is that, in the digital age, barriers and borders have been removed. It’s as if we are all living in a giant fishbowl. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the social media lexicon itself has created problems. When we add people we “friend” them. Trust me, the masterminds behind social media chose this word very deliberately.
We have a saying in political science, Say it once. Say it twice. Say it three times. Say it four times. Say it five times and they will believe.
If we refer to complete strangers as “friends” the mind forms a deeper emotional attachment than say with a “follower.” This deeper emotional attachment is a double-edged sword. When creating a brand, it forges a deeper perceived intimacy with those around us, one that actually can be a powerful driver of sales. Why? Who do we buy from? People we know and people we like (code for friend).
But this is also why “unfriending” can land us in hot water. It’s a form of social rejection and the people on the other side of that screen actually do have a beating heart and feelings and we’re wise to remember that.
Before we look at how this unfriending unnecessarily hurts feeling and why it’s probably best to avoid and all that jazz, we need to step back and appreciate why we really might want to think twice about culling our friends list at all. How it actually is highly beneficial to have a lot of “friends” regardless of whether they talk to us or not.
By the way, when it comes to getting rid of stalkers, bullies, trolls? Feel free to unfriend and we WILL talk about how and when to do that…on another post. Today’s discussion has to do more with just people’s need to “tidy” up a friend list.
Well they never interact with me.
Okay, well Facebook’s algorithms might just never be putting your stuff in their feed so they never see it. If they aren’t causing a problem? Leave it be.
I know this blog is mainly for writers who are building a brand but I also know regular people who are not building a brand also follow this blog so I will say it. Unfriending is just unwise. Today we’re going to look at why we shouldn’t unfriend from a purely self-centered perspective. Why is a large friend base good no matter who you are?
First, Ditch the Old Ideas About Friendship
One thing I hear all the time (and it irritates me) is that on-line friends are not real friends. That’s just crap. Of course they’re real friends if we invest time, effort and energy in those relationships just as we would in person. I’m sorry, but the people I know on-line have been far better friends to me than people who live five miles away.
People on-line have traveled across oceans to come and meet/visit me, whereas people I see in person have trouble taking me up on an invitation to come over for dinner.
No idea why it is harder and harder to connect with people in the modern world, but again we can talk about that on another post.
The simple fact is that there are always different “levels” of friendship and there have always been. Back in 1992, who did you prefer to take you car to for service? Some random person you looked up in the yellow pages or that “friend” or “buddy” from high school?
Did you really have to hang out braiding each other’s hair to consider this relationship a “friendship”? No. It’s was just pretty much understood that this was a loose connection, not a friend you’d ask to be your best man at your wedding.
And here’s the deal, we can feel free to cull all our relationships down to only people we’d trust to rear our children upon our untimely death, but life is going to be really hard that way. Life is already tough, why make it tougher?
So what are the advantages of having lots of friends?
Humans are precious resources. The more humans we have in our network, the more resources we have to draw from and the more connections we can take advantage of should the need arise. The greater the intellectual capital in our bank, the smarter the hive mind we can tap into.
Even before social media I was known as the gal who made stuff happen. Why? I had a vast network of connections. I have had people make the joke about the Six Degrees of Kristen Lamb, but seriously, I know everyone.
And if I don’t know that person, odds are I know someone who does. It is why having me as a connection is highly valuable. Because…
I know people.
Having a lot of friends isn’t an ego-stroking thing. It’s just plain smart. Trust me, it’s always been about who you know not what you know. These days if we want a new job? We have a far higher chance of getting that job if we know someone.
Even if we know someone who knows someone. Because if we don’t? Then we just better hope we wrote our resume and cover letter with enough keywords to make it past their computer filter’s algorithms designed to reject us and that is a sucky way to get a job.
We need other people.
Most people get job recommendations from “loose connections.” That person you cull out of your friends might have been the one person you needed to land that dream job.
Every big break I have ever gotten came from knowing someone. Sometimes these folks never interacted with me…but were watching. I actually got my very first professional speaking gig at RT Booklovers from a lurker in my Facebook friends. She really liked my posts and was on the panel to choose speakers.
She chose me.
What if I had cropped her out of my friends because she wasn’t a “real” friend? I actually might never have made it where I am today because that was the event that opened all the doors. I was quoted in the L.A. Times and suddenly speaking invitations piled in faster than I could accommodate. I had one year I gave up on wearing a watch because I criss-crossed the country so much.
Because of a quiet Facebook friend ;).
I’ve used my network for all kinds of things. We got hit with tornadoes one year and needed repairs done to our roof.
Hey, you guys know anyone in XYZ area who’s a good and dependable roofer?
Humans are a naturally helpful bunch. Let them.
We don’t need to know everything if we have a solid network. What’s better than google? People. I save vast amounts of time researching simply because I go to my following and ASK.
Hey, writing a book set in South Africa. Can anyone give me some idioms and tidbits to make it authentic?
Aaaannnnd all of Kristen’s friends from South Africa perk to life and are thrilled to help. This is way faster than hunt-and-peck through Wiki articles hoping I get it right.
I have all kinds of people message me about guns and martial arts and hand-to-hand. It might be about writing for a scene or even just life.
So instead of my good friend Gry (who is in Europe, btw) trying to pore over articles or test out a bunch of ill-fitting forms of martial arts, she just came to me to narrow her search and get an informed opinion.
For the normal-not-writer-people out there, trust me, you need the hive mind too. Maybe your kid has to do a paper. Perhaps you’re contemplating frying a turkey and want to make sure you don’t accidentally create a bomb. Maybe you’re thinking of applying for a job at a certain company and need an opinion of what it is really like to work there.
You just don’t know when these people are going to come in really handy.
Yes, it’s true. We cannot actively be friends with hundreds or thousands of people at one time. About the max humans can handle is 40. So once we pass a certain number, the folks we actively engage with is only a small percentage but that is fine. They’re inert until something wakes them up and queues them to engage. Again, people LIKE to help.
Here’s an example of how networks DO matter. My husband is not even friends with this gal. This was reposted by one of our friends who lives in San Diego. My husband reposted it since we live in TEXAS. Maybe this woman knew no one in Texas. She did not know my husband….but her friend was friends with someone in Texas.
Social media is social so the more connections we have the better. We never know when part of that network will be very valuable so my recommendation? Leave them be. Yes, even regular folks.
We will talk more in coming posts about this unfriending thing, but what are your thoughts? I’m going to explore this a lot more. I really had no idea how BIG this topic was until I started unpacking it.
Why do you unfriend? Have you had someone unfriend you and it made what should have been a small tiff a BIG deal? I know I got cross with a family member and normally we would have resolved it pretty quickly…but she unfriended me on Facebook and I turned into Tony Soprano.
You unfriended me. ME? UNFRIENDED? You are DEAD to me.
We have since patched things up, but I will say the unfriending was like tossing a match on kindling.
I really DO love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*
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