Like many, I’ve amassed large numbers of online friendships. Many of them were the result of being an early adopter who attended many social media conferences. It was a practice to “friend” or “connect” with other registered attendees even if you didn’t really meet each other. One day that I apparently know more people than I really know. It was during a spring/early-summer cleaning I undertood that found I really only recognized about 60% of the people in my Facebook network, and probably only engaged with about 10% of them on an ongoing basis.

Facebook has become something of a personal engagement platform for me. So, I decided to bring the size of my network down, closer to my Dunbar’s Number. I managed to shrink my network from over 1,300, getting it down to about 500 people. That meant ‘unfriending’ a lot of ‘friends’.

I suspect many didn’t notice. Some may have been offended. In September I received a note from Larry apologizing for what he suggested might have been “hitting a nerve” in an online comment to me which followed my network-cleaning.

He hadn’t hit a nerve. There was no malice in his online posting nor in my unfriending him. But, it kicked off an exchange which reminded me about the nature of in-person and online relationships. Many of my online connections with people I’ve only briefly met or met only online are more genuine and fulfulling than relationships I have with people who I interact with in my own neighbourhood — even some of my own family.

Some of my online connections from around the world are more likely to roll up their sleeves and help me achieve a goal than people I see several times a week. I realized Larry, who I met six years ago, was a likely candidate for that category. My Facebook network isn’t for my professional calls-to-action. However, it’s nice knowing I have those relationships in case I ever do need them. Larry helped me realize that. So, I’m happy to announce we’re officially Facebook friends, again.

How strong is your network?