A Positive Perspective on Unfriending, Unfollowing, and Unaccepted Connection Requests
Be honest, have you ever looked at your profile on a social media platform and noticed the number of friends, followers or connections had gone down…and immediately felt bad about it? The truth is, I used to do it way more than I’d like to admit.
But, then I got a wake up call… and in a weird way it provided me a new, positive perspective on the situation---which allowed me to stop using friends, followers and connections for validation or to determine my happiness.
The “friends” lesson was the catalyst for the positive perspective I now have on the topic. As often happens with public figures, I have several Facebook pages, and on my personal one, I had maintained the maximum limit of 5,000 friends. Then one day, I saw that it had dropped to 4,999. After gasping, I thought to myself,
“why would someone not want to be my friend?”
In an effort to get to the bottom of it and “fix” the relationship, I immediately used one of those software programs to see who “unfriended” me (which I no longer do).
In just a few seconds, I learned that the person was someone I had been fairly close with for many years, but who had passed away months earlier. My mind immediately flooded with memories of him and I was overtaken with emotion. After regaining my composure, I looked up their spouses account and found a post that stated she was taking down her husbands profile. She expressed that maintaining his had been too painful and was keeping her wounds open. I sat there gobsmacked looking at her words.
I thought to myself, what a jerk I had been! Why was I worrying about whether I had lost a “friend” on Facebook or not...the truth was I HAD LOST A FRIEND! That eye-opening moment taught me that just like in "real life," when it comes to social media, I need to forget about the numbers and focus on the people. It’s simple and we all know it, but I had gotten lost in the “new norm” of being online in our society. In addition, there are other challenges that are out of our control...like with the way algorithms work. At best, you probably only see about 10% of your connections and what they are up to…so just like in real life, you need to work on maintaining your relationships.
On platforms like Twitter and Instagram, it can be even more difficult to cultivate those “real relationships.” There are people who employ strategies in an effort to gain followers. They’ll follow everyone possible, then when you follow back they unfollow, and it makes their ratio look as though they are incredibly important and a major influencer. There was a time when publishers and producers put lots of stock in those numbers, now it’s more about engagement…and that’s what I care about.
In fact, I started looking at my Twitter feed like I was throwing a party. Since I have over 10,000 followers, the truth is some people are going to get tired of "the music I play," my dumb jokes, or they will simply want to bounce to another party…and I’m okay with that. In fact, I really only want people who are enjoying themselves at my party as opposed to wanting everyone to show up. That’s a much different mentality than I use to have.
I took the “party idea” and adjusted it for LinkedIn…I started thinking in terms of a meeting room or classroom setting and I was doing the presenting/teaching or sitting in on someone else’s meeting or class. This made sense to me since most of the content shared on that platform is professional in nature. I quickly became comfortable with the idea that some people won’t want to take my class, or agree with my viewpoints and that’s okay. But, when it comes to LinkedIn, there can be other challenges. I have the maximum 30K connections and once after I met someone at a conference where I spoke, they reached out with a connection request, which I unfortunately couldn’t accept because of the limitations. Within hours, they sent me an email telling me that I was a crappy leader. I did email them and explain, but they were already scarred, which was unfortunate. The lesson is, continue to do your best regardless of the constraints, because those who want to connect won't care about the platform at all...they find another way.
What I’ve found is that in our lives, we will hopefully connect with lots of people, have something valuable to offer and attract some followers, and if we're fortunate...will make some great friends along the way. But, the simple truth is, people will move in and out of your life. There are people that I used to do something with every week for a decade, and then our children grew up, we moved away, our interests changed, and now we are more like acquaintances. It’s the cycle of life and will be the same whether in person or on social media. So, my advice…do your best to treat people as well as possible and STOP worrying about the numbers.