Burger King ran a promotion this month called “Whopper Sacrifice,” in which a free burger was offered to anyone who deleted 10 friends on Facebook. When Burger King started sending notifications to castoffs letting them know they’d been dumped for a tenth of a whopper, Facebook suspended the campaign. All this got me thinking: what else besides the lure of free fast food makes people un-friend someone? And how do people decide whom to friend in the first place? In an article in the Times this week, a recent graduate of Harvard (where Facebook got its start) advised “culling your friend list once a year to remove total strangers and other hangers-on. Keeping your numbers down gives you more leeway to be selective about whom you approve in the first place,” he said.The real question is: how selective are you in the first place? Do you accept friend requests from everyone, even strangers? If not, what are the rules of friendship? I see people with hundreds of friends and wonder how many of those people they actually know, let alone like. Brian Gies, a vice president of marketing at the agency that came up with the “Whopper Sacrifice” idea said of the campaign: “It seemed to us that it quickly evolved from quality of friends to quantity, which was interesting to us because it felt like the virtual definition of a friend became something different than the friends that you’d want to hang out with.” (I’m reminded of this sentiment every time a particular “friend” of mine updates her status with a different bible verse).
Fortunately, “Whopper Sacrifice” aside, you can un-friend someone on Facebook without him or her being notified. “We believe that relationships change, and users should be able to have the friend list respect those changes without the pressure of a public notification,” said Brandee Barker, a Facebook spokesperson. If only real life could be as free from drama. [NYTimes]