How to free yourself from facebook friendship

by Dan Stokes

During an extended new year break this week, back in the bosom of my family, I found I had ran out of crap telly and exhausted the Sky+. Having watched Love Actually three times, the Gruffalo twice and perhaps the worst film ever made, The Triumph, I turned to mum’s dvd collection.

Other than the handful of free films from the Guardian and the Express (held on to after granddad died with some sentimental attachment), I was left with two choices: Titanic or About a Boy. The 4.5 seconds of Kate Winslet’s naked breasts were tempting, but About a Boy won the day.

I watched it in the usual way: messing around with laptop, flitting between ebay, BBC sport and the femail section of the Daily Mail website. And as I did so, I began to realise that, as Hugh Grant muses in the film, I am an island.

Just a few hours before, I’d made an excuse not to go and meet friends. And these were my childhood friends, whom I loved, whom as the years went by I only had the opportunity to see during national holidays, or more recently, weddings.

“I’m looking after my brother’s kids”, I’d said. The truth was I just couldn’t be bothered.

Growing bored of visible panty lines, crash weight loss and Kim Kardashian (don’t worry I don’t know who she is either), I headed for facebook.

1 friend request. Gemma Barret. Gemma Barret?

Gemma Barret was a customer in the cafe I used to work in. Gemma Barret is 30 years older than me. I haven’t seen or spoken to her for five years. I knew her, sort of, for two. For some reason, and I have no pretentions about this, probably to do with the spooky way facebook links you with people you met once, at the urinals at the services on the M40, she had decided we should, at least electronically, mark our friendship in some way.


Wow. That felt great. Liberating. I lied to my real friends, but this little button allowed me to honestly – if in a rather cowardly fashion – make an assessment on someone’s worthiness to visit my island. What had she ever done wrong? Nothing. Bye Gemma. See you…never.

Filled with the power I can only assume that people – who don’t go on to blogging in later life – get from picking teams at school, I wanted more. Obviously, at school, more often than not, people wanted to be picked. These people just wanted to increase their stats. Demonstrate their popularity. I knew I was just a pawn. They weren’t interested in what I was up to either. But at least I had the good grace not to update my status.

Surely, in moments of weakness, in hungover, needy, pathetic moments I hadn’t applied such a despicably stringent door policy to my online persona?

Friends. Click. View all friends. Click. Bingo.

262 friends.

Bollocks. There is absolutely no way I have 262 friends. Not real friends. Not people I would want to go to the effort to lie to rather than spend time with.

I perused the list. Some of these people I would actively hide from if I saw them in Tesco. In fact I’d done exactly that just two days before. From a chap whose only crime had been to appear genuinely pleased to see me whenever we bumped into each other. What a bastard.

It was time to prune.

Dan Jarvis. Gone. Jack Ayers. Trashed. Cathy Harris. Seeya. Travis Bickle ain’t got nothin’ on me.

I was down to 202 without breaking a sweat. It felt good. In a day filled with ITV2 and I suddenly felt alive.

People from school, junked. People from university, ditched.  Exes, friends, family. Family – the last taboo. If I don’t see you on Christmas day, you’re nothing to me. Dead weight.

186. Catherine Sawyer, yes, you are still beautiful; no, you are not interesting. Be gone.

168. Simon Griffin, I don’t care about you or your “super cute baby LOL!!”. Do one.

144. This feels amazing, like a pressure being lifted off my shoulders.

132. Anna Simmonds, who are you?

124. Dave Freer, you can sod off too with your mafia wars and your pokes and your pictures from Benidorm. I hate you.

100. 100 friends. That sounds reasonable.

But there are still hangers on. Still room to cut. This is the age of austerity after all. I will strike again.

Dan Stokes is an island. And a freelance writer.

Author’s note: All the names in this article have been made up. Any likeness to anyone you know is purely coincidental. Unless you know me. Then it’s probably you – sorry.

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One Response to “How to free yourself from facebook friendship”

  1. Bryonny G-H says:

    Excellent! Enjoyed this breather from the usual fare.

    I heard Daniel Miller (anthropologist at UCL) talk on facebook late last year, his most pithy observation was: the purpose of facebook is not to put you in touch with your friends; the purpose of friends is to allow you to be on facebook.

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