The Wailing Wall
18 month ago my facebook was a mess. I disliked it, most posts were from people I had no recall, and too many times the posts were troll, people whining about the world, if not purely xenophobe. Every 5 minutes there was 30 new posts, so I couldn’t catch up with anything.
As thousands of friends were stacked from my past involvement in Rotaract (a worldwide humanitarian organization related to Rotary) a big spring clean up was just too big to be done at once -been there, failed several times. When browsing my contact list it’s hard to find who’s been posting what. Some I didn’t recall and some I’m happy to keep as “maybe” contacts when I recall them. Reviewing each FB friend takes 30s to 1minute… I’m set for dozens of hours.
I was about to give up Facebook at all (I barely checked it every 3 month already), until I decided to go backpacking for a few months in South Asia.
Then I had to use FB again. Many travelers use it as a go-to communication platform, it’s a cheap and easy way to send news to family and friends. Then there’s the ton of pictures you want saved on the cloud before your phone get wasted in sea water (been there). I had to.
Split second filter
As a last resort I went for another approach : to forget the past, then to focus on practical issues only as they appear. As for Facebook it came down to one simple rule :
if I strongly dislike your post, I unfollow you.
Literally 1 second.
In less than 2 days, a Pareto law of annoyance was revealed before my eyes : 80% of the annoying posts are generated by 20% of your Facebook contacts. Actually more like 90%/10%.
Suddenly my wall became a place I had pleasure to go to again.
Originally I learned that approach in dealing with technical debt in software development : you give up solving the whole mess proactively and just start reacting to bugs as they are discovered or rediscovered. Here I had a few more learnings.
1) Only afterward did I discover what I was looking for
- the positive and appreciative people
- the proactive and socially progressists
- sharp humour
- Internet / music curation of my liking
- news of people I care about
- news of parts of the world they care about
Those who annoyed me were
- the ones whining about anything
- the pessimistics and cynics turning anything negatively
- the lecturers (“Do a detox diet coz you suck at eating, all right?”)
- the Facebook frenzies (one post every 10 minutes)
- the boring (“hey my bus is late”)
2) My biggest assumption about the need of a big cleanup appears wrong
my forgotten friends are mostly silent. Some become active sometimes and are actually nice contributors to my wall.
3) Friends can be a very efficient source of world and local news
This comes with a clear filtering bias but this bias is more obvious to spot than bias in conventional media (or my own choice of news media)
Not fun conclusion : in the wake of the Paris attack 3 month later I was away in Hong Kong. My Facebook became my primary point of communication and news. I’m glad I had this place to be surrounded by these good people and read their fine words.