It's Not You, It's Facebook

Read more on this topic in the three part series:
How to Get the Most Out of Google+
How to Delete All of/A Lot of Your Friends on Facebook

By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD

Recently I deleted my entire Facebook friend list. You would think that it would take days, but in about ten minutes I was able to disconnect with all 1,200 people that I have "friended" over the last several years. “Operation Facebook Cleansweep” may seem like an odd move for a self-described optometric “social media evangelist,” but in fact, a massive Facebook shakeup is something that I have been contemplating for months, but only now (with the introduction of Google+ have felt comfortable putting into action. To be clear, I didn’t delete my Facebook account – just my entire friend list.

I’ve never “liked” Facebook. I’m much more of a Twitter guy. There is a famous tweet by Shayla Maddox, “Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life.” I totally believe that. While I have successfully used Facebook to connect with people and promote my practice, I never felt comfortable with it. It is too “busy”. There are too many deliberate hooks set to drag people into using it. It is no accident that Facebook is the most popular website ever – Facebook builds it that way.

And I have found that it has only gotten worse with the accumulation of more Facebook friends. Sometime after I crossed 1,000 friends, it literally became impossible to keep up with all the events, all the notifications, and all the pictures of dogs. I would log onto Facebook to make one quick update to my practice page, and get sucked into a half an hour of pleasant but completely frivolous clicking and commenting. In response, I have developed several Facebook defense mechanisms: never being available to chat, blocking all apps, and ruthlessly hiding people and brands.

This “like/hate” relationship with Facebook continued for a long time. And then three unique things happened. First, in March of this year I read about the Great Facebook Reset in Wired Magazine. It got me thinking about what Facebook could be like with a better friend list. Then in June, Facebook began using the ultra-annoying “ Happening Now” feature, which I disliked so much I considered simply deleting my account outright. But since I use Facebook literally every day to promote my practice, this was not a decision to make lightly. Finally, Google+ recently became available, as I described for Vision Monday readers here.

Over the last few weeks, I have used Google+ more and Facebook less. I have grown very comfortable with the Circles, which are flexible friend lists on Google+. I use them to control who sees what I post, without having different pages. This is a critical difference between Facebook and Google+. With Facebook, if someone wants to friend me, I either have to decide if I want to be their friend or whether encourage them to “like” my professional Facebook page. With Google+ I can encourage them to add me to their Circles, but I only will Circle them if I want them to see what I am sharing. I can add them as a “friend,” a “patient,” an “optometrist,” or any other classification, and then they can only access the information I want to share with each group. It is great.

Google+ is very flexible. Browser extensions can be used to modify its look and feel to make it more fun and less cluttered, which I like. Using extensions (See 'How to Get The Most Out of Google+'), I’ve added functionality like cross-posting to my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I want. I’ve even exported my friends list and pictures from Facebook, but haven’t put them all into Google+ yet. Not least, I have gotten very comfortable with the Google+ app for my iPhone.

So after all this time with Google+, it dawned on me. There is no reason for me to delete my Facebook account at all. I can just start over - a clean sweep. By deleting all my friends, I can add back only those that I really want to hear from. Even non-friends can still always message me through Facebook. I just don’t have to be exposed to every single thing they do in real time! By preserving my account, I can continue to use Facebook Connect to log in to hundreds of different websites. And I can continue to use Facebook to promote my practice. When patients ask to re-friend me, I simply explain that my account is now for private use, but I would love for them to like my professional Facebook page.

If you are interested in finding out exactly how to delete your Facebook friend list, read this.

And the results of “Operation Facebook Cleansweep” so far? Some mild teasing from friends and a few questions about my motivation to do it. But mostly, a vastly improved Facebook experience. I can go on and see things from my family that I would have missed and be in blissful ignorance of the rest. Will there one day be a need for “Operation Google+ Cleansweep”? I hope so, because that will mean that the network has succeeded. With the announcement that powerful business pages are coming in the month or so, I am hopeful.

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, FAAO, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, Tampa, Fla., is an optometrist specializing in the vision of infants and children. A social media evangelist, he helped create "Peripheral Vision" which educates eyecare professionals about social media. Dr. Warford was a speaker at the first CLICK Conference last year. He is the chair of the social media committee of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and is chair of the Florida Optometric Association's Children's Vision Committee. He is a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry and is an active volunteer in many charitable organizations. He founded Foursquare Day in March 2010.