An “unfriend”-ly word

Every now and then, I come close to dropping Facebook.

I always hesitate, because there are a few dozen people with whom I maintain contact through Facebook, and through no other means, and whom I’d miss if I pulled the plug.  

I could, of course, go through the incredible tedium of purging my “friends” list - retaining only those contacts I value as Facebook friends.  

I put that last in italics, because there are a many people whom I value as actual friends, despite the fact that our Facebook connection contributes little or nothing to our relationship.

The problem is that, in too many cases, people whom I respect and like in reality come across as vapid, trivial, or perpetually adolescent on social media.  And I find myself wishing there were some application – some “app” – which would allow me to purge my “friends” list on the basis of certain specific criteria.  

Really, someone should invent that.  

The app would have to be flexible – allowing an individual user to designate categories of material he or she considered offensive or a waste of time.  It would also have to allow the user to set a window of time during which a Facebook “friend” could save the situation by posting something of merit.

In my case, I’d probably say one month.

In other words, this app would permit any user to say, in effect, that any “friend” who failed to post something of merit at least once in a certain time-span would automatically be dropped as a Facebook  “friend.”

If such an app existed, I’d start by asking it to treat as trivial anything in the “chain Hallmark card” category.  This would cover all those solemn, sentimental posts which convey the message, “If you don’t repost this, you don’t care about...”

Occasionally, most of us re-post items we find interesting or persuasive.  But I never re-post anything which insists that I do so to prove that I care.   

These things are just another form of chain letter – and if chain letters worked, I’d have died horribly in my mid-20s.

I’m still here.

If my hypothetical app existed, I’d ask that it treat as trivial any post inviting me to “like” a business – or play an internet game.  I realize that these posts seldom actually come from the “friend” in whose name they appear, but every time this sort of spam pops up, I seriously consider cutting the nominal sender from my newsfeed.  

We could all do each other a favor by taking the time to “unlike” businesses which use our “likes” to generate this sort of spam.

If my app existed, I’d ask it to treat as trivial most things in the “refrigerator door” variety – such as children’s artwork, portraits, and news of developmental milestones which mean much to parents and grandparents – and to few others.

Sure, if your kid publishes a novel, appears on Broadway, summits Kilimanjaro, or finds a cure for a major disease – I’d like to know about that.  But it’s a safe bet that the news media would cover that such an achievement, don’t you think?

I’d also want the app to rate as trivial anything about Hollywood movies or television shows aimed at an adolescent audience.  This would be tricky, because nearly all American-made movies and television shows are aimed at an adolescent audience.  Which, sadly, doesn’t prevent theoretical adults from getting very excited about them.

As a member of the Richmond theatre community, I’m regularly subjected to floods of posts about such things as casting choices for the latest comic-book movie.  For some reason, this seems to be a thing in the local theatre community, which is – on the whole – a pretty young crowd.

I don’t mind when such a post comes from someone who also posts occasionally on serious, thoughtful subjects.  But when the sum total of someone’s posts give the impression of arrested development at the middle-school level, I want an app to detect it and remove that sender from my list.

Finally, I’d dearly love an app which treated as trivial anything having to do with conspicuous consumption.  Anyone who knows me should realize that I’m becoming a fairly serious environmentalist – and that I’m uneasy with our non-sustainable, Western lifestyle.  I’m not yet ready to reject the world and go live in a cave, but a degree of moderation seems in order on our over-crowded, warming planet.

Also, at my age – with a heart attack in my past – I really have little patience with pictures and stories of artery-clogging restaurant experiences.

At any rate, if some technical wizard out there wants to do the world a service, he or she might invent an app to help people remove those “friends” who infest their Facebook newsfeeds with a constant flow of nonsense.

I’d really appreciate hearing about that – even if the inventor is your fourth grade grandchild.

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