Who were all those Facebook friends anyway?

It’s been a year since I’ve dropped off of social media. I occasionally fall off the wagon when I check the Twitter account for creativewritingmfa.info but for the most part I’m social media free and happier for it.

That said, I was a bit curious about who the people I was friends with on Facebook were. I’d engaged in some ruthless pruning of my friends list, clearing out the people posting racist and sexist stuff (and then in 2020 also anyone who thought that that Plandemic video was worth sharing). Maybe a better person could have engaged with them and brought them to reason. I’m not that person.¹

In my last days on the site, I tediously made a list of all 420 people I was friends with on Facebook and put them into a spreadsheet so I could make all sorts of nerdy charts graphs and calculate random statistics.

First off, how did I meet these people?

Family 5.7%	Early childhood 1.4%	Grade School 10.7%	High School 16.2%	College 14.0%	Grad School 18.1%	Church 7.4%	Music 6.0%	Work 1.7%	Online 4.8%	Writing 6.4%	Type 1.4%	Other 5.5%	Never Met 5.7%

 The categories are arranged roughly chronologically and there is some overlap (e.g., people I knew from early childhood—i.e., non-family who I knew before I started kindergarten, were often also grade school classmates and grade school classmates often high school classmates, but no other overlap beyond that really) which is why the percentages add up to more than 100%. The big categories, grad school and high school come down to when Facebook was a big thing (Facebook became a big communications medium for my MFA program) and the fact that early on, I used to accept/extend invitations to pretty much anyone I went to high school with.

Some categories call for explanation: Music is folks I was in various non-church-related musical groups with over the years (once upon a time I was a pretty active bass player), online is folks I only ever knew from online communities, writing is people I knew through writing activities, and type from my days when I was big in the typography world.

Given where I grew up that was overwhelmingly white and the overall state of American society, my racial breakdown of friends isn’t so great:

? 0.2%
Asian 4.5%
Black 3.8%
Latino 6.9%
White 84.5%

The gender breakdown was 56% male and 43.8% female with one person of unknown gender (I have no idea who “Dain Deon” is or was). I may have misidentified some people’s gender who don’t identify as male or female.

One thing that I found interesting was that Facebook “outed” a number of LGBT folks² in my friends list. In some cases it was their own activity, in other cases, it was the algorithm suggesting that because C⸻ was interested in a pictures of men in their underwear group perhaps I would be too. In most cases though, it was more a case of the person being out and my just not realizing they weren’t straight. My possible undercount had 5.7% of my friends being LGBTQ with almost half of them outed to me through Facebook.

Other interesting stats: 2.4% of my Facebook friends were dead, 11.2% were musicians, 27.4% were writers, 2.1% clergy, 2.1% used pseudonyms, 5.5% had deactivated their accounts and 2.9% were people that I looked at their profiles and had absolutely no idea who they were (although in some cases, I was able to figure it out eventually).

  1. And let me just say, a huge number of the people I grew up with are disturbingly racist. And this was a big motivator to dropping out of Facebook. They weren’t people that I would have continued friendships with later in life if Facebook didn’t exist so why would I want them in my life just because Facebook does exist. A couple of hours in a banquet hall every ten years for a high school reunion is plenty of exposure to these folks for me.
  2. My prize-winning outing story, though, would be the actor Dennis O’Hare who I met on a walk from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica who was outed to me by Gus Van Sant when the director appeared on Fresh Air.






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