Victus Spiritus


Death by Over Friending

12 Jul 2011

This will come as little surprise to astute social network users:

I reconnected on Facebook and rediscovered the network of everyone is pure noise

I'm pretty active online and enjoy reading, commenting, coding, and contributing towards topics that spark my interest and enthusiasm. Last year I decide to cut ties with Facebook, because each visit there felt like a net loss of my precious free time. After warming up to Google+ my interest in large connected networks was renewed and I decided to give Facebook another try. After all, it couldn't hurt to catch up with old friends.

This time I friended a small kernel of folks that I wanted to reconnect with, but didn't see, email, or talk with regularly. It spiraled out of control far too quickly as the Facebook friend suggester kept feeding me like a starving hippo at an all you can eat buffet. My friend list grew quickly beyond a tight group and now I've received, accepted, and even sent friend invites to dozens of folks that I haven't seen or talked to in years. Individually I'm confident I could have a fun conversation with anyone I've friended on the network, but all their updates combined felt like a meaningless mess. On Facebook, the sum is certainly less than the parts.

Worst of all, very little of my self created Facebook inbound hell is close to anything resembling an area I'm interested in. No web hacking or design, little tech, no startups, and a few terrible Facebook game updates shared by friends. It is clear to me that following a broadcast stream which is the sum of all people I've ever known is not valuable, and that I'll need to take drastic filtering action to make better use of the weakest information graph.

Polite hiding

First off I'm going to try ruthlessly hiding posts from anyone who's updates have little chance of resonating with topics I'm interested in. The topics that catch my fancy are fairly broad so I likely won't achieve much with this first effort. I assume there's a view all option so if mood and free time both coincide I can once again dip into the fire hose of everyone.

I'm a firm believer that each of us can have only a handful of meaningful close relationships in a lifetime. I find it socially satisfying spending greater time with fewer people. It can take years to ease folks into my snarky wiseass remarks, and for me to recognize their finest attributes ;).

There have to be additional tools which can help me harness the pearls buried within my friends news streams. I'd like to extract the fascinating posts topically, and differentiate them from updates which fail to register. I'll turn to and other social filtering tools to help at this level.


I've considered filtering out all updates but images. That would transform Facebook into another flavor of Flickr or Instagram, and it may prove to be a viable alternative. I could quickly glance at a wall of images and explore further when a picture grabs my attention.

I'm open to suggestions of how others have adapted their Facebook usage to derive maximum value from the app. If you have any Facebook advice I'm all ears.