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This is your call to arms

June 28, 2008

I’d heard talk of a Facebook application which tracks who views your profile and, perhaps more arrestingly, one which alerts you when you’ve been removed from a friends list. I’d dismissed it when my friend told me about it. “Nobody in their right mind would install that application,” I’d snorted with derision.

In case you’re not a Facebook user or if you are and you don’t understand what I’m banging on about in the opening gambit, let me explain. One of Facebook’s major advantages in terms of managing one’s friends list is that should you find yourself in a situation where you want to “remove” one of the people on your friends list you can do so without them ever knowing. It says so when you click on the remove button. I know. I’ve done it often enough. “They’ll never know I’ve done this. It’s the best way.”

The reasons I’ve had for removing people from my friend’s list have been largely self-centred. As someone who frequently suffers as a result of misinterpreting electronic communication and worrying that others might possibly misinterpret similar electronic presentations of my own, I figure the fewer people I have to worry about on a distribution list the better. Facebook is just that. Nothing more than a email distribution list with a few pretty bells and whistles. Keep the distribution low(ish) and there’s a little bit less to worry about whenever I do something – anything – on the internet.

Consequently, I have from time to time, engaged in a spot of culling. The principle is the same as pruning the bushes outside my front door. There are some people who don’t engage on Facebook and clearly haven’t logged in to the system for months. If they’re not engaging then their presence on my list is only serving to boost my own popularity. Seems a little exploitative on my part. Best cull them.

With the action of removal confirmed, I’ve always been amazed when some people have almost immediately got in touch saying something along the lines of “Ouch” or “You fucking bastard” but never really appreciated how it is they knew what I’d done. Did they spend all day refreshing their friends list, cross-checking a list of database entries with a diminishing list of friends on their profile? Did their friends alert them via SMS or telephone call as soon as the dastardly deed had been done?

Nope. They had the “Who deleted you?” application installed on their profile. They were emailed the moment I’d clicked on the remove button. It was like an ambulance was rushing across town swerving in and out of long lines of traffic intent on alerting the victim of the callous act I had just committed. “Jon Jacob has just been an arsehole. You’ve been removed from his list. Quick. This is an urgent call to arms. Send him a snotty message.”

Of course, not everyone responds in the same way. In fact, there has even been one ocassion when the action was carried out in the belief that I had the application installed myself. I hadn’t. The only disappointment I experienced when I’d discovered I’d been removed from that person’s list was the realisation that the person in question had beaten me to it. I did so want to be first.

I did try installing it yesterday afternoon after a friend had let slip on his news feed that he too had installed it. I followed my nose. Maybe I should join the throng, I thought. Maybe it would be worth my while to keep an eye on what’s going on. I clicked on the checkboxes and pressed confirm. A sick, dirty feeling descended soon after.

Why did I care what people did with their friends list? Contrary to what some might think, my day to day happiness is not predecated on the number of friends I have nor whether those same friends remain my Facebook friends or not. My online persona is very different from my real-life persona anyway. I never go out of my way to offend someone either in person or online.

Consequently if someone feels they’re getting tired of my virtual friendship why should I care whether or not they remove me from their friends list? Why would I want to know if they did remove me? Is it really that important?

Inherent in the almost real-time alerting capabilities of this pernicious application is the understandable desire by some to monitor exactly who they think their friends are and who are not. Such a facility is no different from statistics monitoring and, whilst some organisations may regards statistics as vital in terms of monitoring their successes and failures, personally I’d prefer to keep my sights set on being the best person I can be rather than doing what I think everyone would be like me to do.

Seconds after I’d installed the Facebook application I quickly removed it again. I don’t want that kind of thought process hanging over me. I have plenty enough to deal with anyway just recently. Lets keep things simple, I thought. And, of course, there’s a moral highground to occupy as a result of this action. I do so love the moral highground.

So the conclusion is short. Seeing as I don’t define my day to day life with my activities in a virtual space, I really couldn’t give a flying fuck if you want to remove me from your friends list or not. In fact, if you do you might do me the good service of messaging me first so that I don’t have to wade through the list and cross-check against my rather paltry spreadsheet of contacts.
Even if you don’t, I figure I’m well-adjusted enough to know that removing my name from a distribution list doesn’t mean that much anyway. Admittedly, there are one or two people who I wouldn’t help even if they were on fire, but for the vast majority of people I’m happier in my ignorance.

Go ahead. Delete me if you want. I don’t care.

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2 Comments
  1. doodlebug permalink

    It’s more monitoring of my friends than I would like, I haven’t added that one. I haven’t deleted you, by the way, you’re still on my list! 🙂

  2. Jon permalink

    Loving you.

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