Personal Facebook Cleanse

Facebook Friends

I was thinking about a juice cleanse … everyone is doing them … they are all the rage. Of course, my doctor talked me out of it. He told me that my liver was healthy and that was its job. He went on to emphatically state that there was no truth to the marketing mythology about detoxification through juice. Bummer … I thought it sounded awesome.

While juice cleansing was on my mind, I tapped my social networks to learn about probable success or failure. The results were mixed and helpful, but during the process, something else occurred to me – it’s time for a Facebook Cleanse.

What’s a Facebook Cleanse? Well, there are several different protocols, but the one I’m thinking about is simple. I’m going post a simple message to my personal profile, “I’m doing a Facebook Cleanse, like or comment here if you want to remain my Facebook friend.” If people don’t like the post or comment, I am going to unfriend them. The goal is to achieve under 250 Facebook friends. Why?

Well, I think there’s a reason that I fell out of touch with most of my grade school and middle school friends. I’m not sure that the PTA people I friended when my kids were in school still need to be in my inner circle. Some have become lifelong real friends, but the others were really only there so we could sort out who was handling snack after various games and meets.

After I go through this exercise, I’m going to spend some quality time with my news feed and see what items interest me. If I don’t want to comment or like after three posts from the same person, I’m going to unfriend them.

The result should be a very small group of people who I really care about and who really care about me. These should be people who I know well … well enough to hang out with whenever they’re in town … well enough to want to share family gossip with. My Facebook Cleanse is going to be awesome!

But … what will happen if I want to find and re-friend one of my semi-friends or acquaintances? What if I delete someone I really should stay in touch with, even though I don’t? What about the backlash from the group that likes getting my updates, but doesn’t really interact much? What about people who will simply be offended that I unfriended them?

I’ve never done a juice cleanse, but I can imagine that the process is not hugely pleasant. I imagine that some bodily functions are dramatically impacted by simply ingesting juice for five days. My guess is that a Facebook Cleanse will be equally uncomfortable. But unlike a juice cleanse, a Facebook Cleanse will yield real benefits, and I’m sure the benefits will outweigh the risks.

A close friend of mine owns a high-end print shop — one of the few left in the world. He specializes in printed invitations for weddings, sweet sixteen parties, etc. When AIM was in its heyday, the average number of AIM buddies was 125. Back then, he told me that the buddy list number was virtually identical to the average number of people that would receive printed invitations to an important life event. I always thought that was an interesting statistic.

But that was then, how about now? According to some recent numbers prepared by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the average number of Facebook friends in various generations goes something like this:

  • 318.5 — Average number of friends a Facebook user age who is a Millennial / Gen Y member has (ages 18-34)
  • 197.6 — Average number of friends a Facebook user age who is a GenX member has (age 35-46)
  • 124.2 — Average number of friends a Facebook user age who is a Baby Boomer has (age 47-65)
  • 78.4 — Average number of friends a Facebook user age who is Silent Generation member has (age 66-74)
  • 42.0 — Average number of friends a Facebook user age who is G.I. Generation has (age 75+)

How remarkable that for Baby Boomers, the number of Facebook friends looks the same as the AIM buddy number and the average number of invitations to important lifecycle events. What’s the right number? What’s your right number? Is it time for your Facebook Cleanse? It is absolutely the right time for me. I’ll let you know how it works out. Anyone got any juice?

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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