UPDATE February 2016:
So I kept this strategy up for several months and it was a breath of fresh air. But I got antsy. And more importantly, I started to miss out on connecting with people I cared about. So it was a useful hiatus, and now I’m much more careful about how I say “yes” to people. I’ve got people in lists: Close Friends, Friends, Acquaintances, Work OK, Work Not OK etc.
So your mileage might vary … and whoever said consistency was important wasn’t necessarily right.
I made some drastic changes to the way I use Facebook.
These changes have completely changed the usefulness and interestingness of my feed.
Facebook is now a productive place for me. It’s a place that is going to reap positive returns for time invested, rather than the sinkhole, clickhole time-suck it had become.
I’ve been active over there for about 8 and a half years. For the first couple of years it was revolutionary.
I mean that. For the first time in a decade I was able to catch up with old friends. I got to know old school friends, colleagues and forgotten lovers again.
Most of those experiences were positive. I rekindled old friendships, remembered birthdays. I watched friends’ kids grow up in real time.
So far, so warm and fuzzy.
The second stage is when it became useful for forging new relationships.
You meet up with somebody once. You do a little surreptitious background-checking (or stalking). Then you use Facebook as a convenient way to speed up the growth of a friendship.
And sure, I was spending a lot of time over there, but it was time well spent. You’ve got to invest in your relationships, right?
But – at some stage – things started to shift for me.
I’ve got little self-control at the best of times. It’s never been a strong point.
Combine that with the lure of clickbait-y headlines and “active follower engagement” and it gets messy. Or it did for me. I was losing far too many minutes in far too many hours to mindless clicking and scrolling and asshattery.
I made a point of accepting almost every friend request.
(Chris Ducker told me that he’ll accept most requests if he has more than ten connections shaed with the requester. It seemed a good strategy. I adopted it.)
Which, in turn, meant that my feed soon became full of strangers.
So … I started unfollowing (not unfriending – that seemed far too harsh) more and more people.
Not because their updates weren’t joyful – or miserable – or funny – or thought-provoking. But because they were irrelevant to me.
My breaking point came yesterday. I got seven birthday notifications for people I knew NOTHING about. I couldn’t even tell you where they lived or what they did for a living.
Time becomes more precious as it starts to run out – especially when you have kids – and I made a drastic change that has, in a short time, dramatically improved the quality of my (reduced) time spent on Facebook.
Here’s what I did:
The No-Friends Facebook Strategy
The No-Friends Facebook Strategy is exactly what it sounds like.
I removed every single one of my friends (including my wife) and limited my interactions exclusively to groups.
I created a new Facebook profile, converted my original profile to a public page, then merged my original page with my new page.
Result: I now have one new Facebook profile with no friends and one (larger) public Facebook page.
My feed is now made up of business-relevant and interesting interactions between my clients and colleagues. The amount of spam and (not-so) interesting links is now zero.
Here are the exact steps I took that you might like to replicate, particularly if you want to keep a Facebook page for interaction/advertising purposes, as I do.
1. Create a second Facebook account.
You’ll need sign out of your account and sign back in, using a second email address. If you use wildcard catch-all email address routing – like I do – this is a perfect time to create a “facebook@yourdomain” email.
2. Add your original account as your only friend.
You need to do this only if you moderate groups or own pages because you’ll need to transfer ownership and administrative rights to your new account.
3. Log back into your original account and add your new profile as a group member/moderator to the groups that you control and give your new profile administrative rights to any page you own.
This is important – if you skip this step and you’re the only moderator of a group or page, then those pages will be beyond your control, to languish un-moderated and unloved.
4. Make a note of all the groups that you belong to in which you want to remain a member.
You new profile will request access to join these groups once you have dropped your original profile.
5. While still logged in to your original account, download a copy of all your data.
For eight and a half years worth of photos and messages and friends and such it took about 15 minutes for Facebook to deliver the file to me.
The file was 80mb and a zipped html file. It included all the wall interactions, all non-deleted messages, every photo I’d uploaded and more …
You’ll receive a list of your friends. But you won’t get any of their contact details. So if that information is important to you, make sure you’ve captured them before you take this step.
6. Convert your profile to a page.
This was straightforward. I followed these steps to convert my profile to a page.
My profile no longer existed and I had a new page. My previous friends and followers were unwitting fans of my new business page.
7. (If applicable) merge your existing pages.
I now had two pages. They were almost the same, although the original one – which had been nurtured for a few years – had several updates, photos and stuff on it.
It also had fewer likes than my new page (my profile had more friends than my page had likes) and – when I was merging these pages – Facebook only gave me the option of “keeping” the page with the more fans. In this case, that was the newer page. That meant I lost everything on the previous page except the fans.
Merging them was straightforward. Make sure that your new Facebook PROFILE has administrative rights to manage the page, then go into Page settings and select “Merge Pages”.
Then follow the prompts. More instructions here.
You’ve got time back on your hands.
Log in through your new account and you’ll have nothing in your feed but group updates from places where you want to be hanging out.
I’ve found that this non-discriminatory approach makes it easier to let people know why you’re not accepting their friend requests as well.
I’ve had several over the past few hours (presumably from the “People You May Know” alerts, so I went and created a TextExpander snippet for dropping them a line when they send me a request:
Got your friend request. I’ve got a new personal FB policy, though: no friends at all. Not even my wife. No mates. None. I’ll be active in groups and on my page (http://facebook.com/matthewkimberley), but if you need anything, best to ping me at email@example.com or call me. Hope all well!
Already a few people have replied with some version of “respect”.
Some will think I’m a complete tosser.
But irrespective, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted.
And yes … of course if you have the time or inclination you can manually unfriend – or unfollow – everybody. But I liked the finality and cleanness of this approach.
Your mileage may vary. My instructions might be missing an important step (although I’ve tried to be pretty thorough).
I’m not good at self-control, so by creating environments where I don’t have to exercise it, I’m doing myself a favor.
The same might work for you.
(And if you need to get in touch – here’s how you can do that)