Unlike most people, I regularly pare back my Friends List on Facebook: instead of actively trying to increase the size of my network, I decrease it. Occasionally, people notice this and ask me why. I’ve explained it on an ad hoc basis in the past, but never actually laid down the law in print.

Although I send messages to friends from time to time, or organise events, I don’t use Facebook primarily as a communication or social networking device. Rather, I use it for entertainment: I follow statuses and wall posts as a multifaceted, but disjointed narrative, featuring my friends as the main characters. Think of it as very eclectic, content-heavy and interactive television. Every moment I spend on the site is informed by this.

So, I limit my Friends list, choosing quality over quantity. I have a number of rules I follow in determining who my Friends are; I accept only certain people and cull others:

No minors. This is my strictest rule. I figure that people can search out my blog before they subscribe to the feed, or read my tweets before they follow me, but in the case of Facebook, they have to friend me sight unseen. Some of what I say is definitely not for under-18s, and frankly, I’d prefer not to censor myself for the sake of a couple of Friends.

Stupid and offensive. Offensive behaviour is forgivable, and ignorance is correctable, but the combination—particularly when repeated—is the mark of an irredeemable boor. I don’t watch television which pisses me off; why should I waste my time on people who do the same?

Strangers-by-choice. If you couldn’t be arsed even clicking the Like button on one of my posts in the past 12 months, then why should I pretend that we’re associates?

Strangers-by-circumstance. Given the number of federal, state and local politicians on my Friends list, I end up as something of a freak magnet. As a rule, I don’t accept Friend requests from people I’ve never met in person. I do make rare exceptions, however, particularly if we have common Friends whose intellect, taste and opinion I respect. This is my loosest rule, but it’s not unusual for me to Friend someone, then unFriend them moments later when I realise that they’re a total tool.

App requests. I’ve installed all the Facebook apps I could ever want, and even some of them shit me to tears. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Catbook.) I don’t want app requests, and if you make a habit of selling others’ identities for a Skinner box, then I have little faith in you as a human being. (On a similar note, clicking on a link in Facebook does precisely nothing to support a given cause. All it does is waste time and clog your inbox with misery porn. Count me out.)

So there you go. If, one day, I disappear from your Friends List, or I don’t appear at all, then it may just be that Facebook ate the request. Or, it could be that you’ve done something to annoy me. You work out which.

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