I don’t know how you feel about this matter, but I get nauseated every time I see someone announce their upcoming “friends list purge”. Perhaps I’m assuming much, but I picture that person sitting at home, waving their wand of disdain, as they select who will and who won’t make their final cut. Then, one by one, they “unfriend” those they deem as deplorable, while simultaneously sending squeals of delight into the atmosphere…. I recognize that my assumption is quite over the top, but that’s what runs through my head every time I see one of those god-forsaken-announcements…. You know what annoys me even more? The remnant of people who comment under the purge-post thanking the purger for allowing them to make the cut…. Sometimes I feel like grabbing each of those pour souls by the shoulders, cyber-slapping them upside the head, and telling them “Don’t encourage this kind of behavior! It’s pathetic and sickening!!!”
Well, as much as I despise facebook purges… I must admit that about 3 years ago, after much inner turmoil and deliberation, I chose to initiate my own facebook purge. Before I go any further, I must mention that this is the first time that I speak publicly about it (note* there was nothing glorious about it) Nevertheless, here’s what led to it…..
To preface my reason, I must shamelessly tell you that I am a social media junkie. I regularly lose track of time while scrolling down my FB newsfeed and have been called a “social-media-addict” by many. Nevertheless, I have found social media to be a creative outlet where I can express myself freely. I use it as a platform to inspire others, bring encouragement, spread laughter, and give hope to the hurting. However, 3 years ago, I found myself in an uncomfortable place in life. I had just completed graduate school, I was living in a new city, and I had a great desire to establish meaningful friendships in my community. I was constantly searching for possibilities at work, at church, and at school. I met many wonderful people but nothing concrete emerged…. I then realized that if I wanted to create the type of tribe that I desired to have, I would need to invest time and effort into reaching my goal. At the time, the largest time and energy robber I had was facebook. I had over 1,200 friends, and for some unknown reason, I felt obligated to read through every post made by each of them, daily. My list consisted of childhood friends from my home town, college friends, family members, people I met at church, work colleagues, you name it……. Most of them were wonderful people, but I wasn’t interacting with many of them on a regular basis. So, in attempt to create space for new opportunities in the realm of friendship, I axed about 550-ish people from my friends list….. I know you are probably wondering what my criteria was for friends that made the cut and who didn’t. However, I didn’t axe people on the bases of lifestyle choices, politics, or life philosophy…. I simply axed anyone who wasn’t a family member and who hadn’t interacted with me for the past thirty days…. It wasn’t easy for me. Honestly, I went through the five stages of grief, but in return I created the space that I needed to reach my goal….. and in the process I learned the following:
- I am a people hoarder
Early on I committed to only add friends that I knew and valued. I ended-up realizing that I value a gang-load of people. I have friends that I’ve carried in my heart and mind since I was in the first grade. I’m connected to many of my teachers, mentors, pastors and other life leaders that I had in life. If you had a meaningful part in my life in the past, I’ll do my best to carry you into my future. Sadly, it isn’t always possible…… and that is my struggle.
- Not everybody wants to be part of my life
I never heard back from many of the people that didn’t make my initial cut. I wasn’t surprised. I had one person contact me about 2 years later, out of the blue, asking me if I had unfriended them. They were visibly upset. I let that person throw the tantrum while laughing inside. The person couldn’t believe that I unfriended them, and I couldn’t believe that it took them 2 years to find out.
- I am constantly unaware of the value that others have for me.
A few months after the purge I had quite a few people reach out to ask me if I was alright. They noticed my absence on FaceBook, they hadn’t heard from me, and they were genuinely concerned. This gave me an opportunity to share my challenges of living in a new city with them. I apologized for any hurt feelings and let them know that I had not intended on hurting anyone. Surprisingly, it led to a rekindling of sorts. I ended up reconnecting with many of them in person, meeting for coffee, lunch, and other events. Other people reached out to me simply with a friend request and a message stating that they missed my inspirational quotes.
- Life is best lived in gratitude and constant expectancy
I’ve come to understand that it is impossible to maintain every friendship that I’ve had since childhood. However, I can carry the memory of the times we shared, throughout my life…. And when I remember the good times that we shared, I can be grateful. At the same time, I leave my hand open to the possibility of encountering other people who will light my life with inspiration, accountability, and adventure. I choose to live in gratitude. I choose to live in expectancy.
Photo credit: Foter.com
John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. He has worked in behavioral health, pastoral care, and higher-education. He has found that he is most satisfied in life when he is helping people recognize their potential and assisting them to reach their goals.
He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”