Over the past two weeks I’ve been going through the process of simplifying and organizing my life so that it’s more manageable. While the “work/life balance” (or whatever you’d like to call it) issue always arises, I personally believe it’s important to keep yourself organized. One area where many people are disorganized is there Facebook contacts. I’ve personally boiled down my personal organization to a few items: email, calendar, tasks, documents, and contacts. Facebook should be efficient at effectively managing my contacts/relationships (something I expounded on earlier this week).
Our Diverse Network Of Contacts
I was in college when Facebook first launched. I was a relatively early user as I had a friend of friend who was at Harvard and using the service. If you went out to a party at night and met some new people, the first thing you would do when you got home was to add all of your new contacts on Facebook. Often times you never spoke to those people again whereas others became close friends. For those that you never speak with again you should theoretically purge the relationship but Facebook provides us with intrinsic value to having additional contacts.
The primary benefit to connecting with someone else on Facebook is that you get to view their profile and learn everything about them. No matter who they are, it’s one of the most humanizing processes ever and ultimately it never gets old. While we imagine the lives of others to be exotic, luxurious, and free of restrictions, the vast majority still share many of the routine experiences that we each do on a daily basis. Seeing this not only helps us connect in an unspoken way but it keeps us connected.
Unless you are angry at someone or emotionally damaged by having a Facebook friendship with someone, there is little reason to end the relationship. Even worse is the idea that the individual may be viewing you and will notice when you have removed them from your contacts. While the average person does not have thousands upon thousands of contacts, rapidly collecting both passive and active relationships eventually results in a sort of personal chaos.
Managing Requires Work
I began explaining a system yesterday that would organize all of my contacts and automate many of my relationships. While I won’t describe the entire system in this article, what this system essentially does is enable you to prioritize your relationships and then send you reminders to get in contact with others. There are some fundamental problems with such a system, the most important is that our individual priorities change over time.
When you are young you want to meet as many people as you can. Whether it’s to find a new partner in life, or if it’s to find someone who can help further your professional career, the point is to meet as many people as possible. After you build your network to the point where it serves as a solid foundation for your life you no longer need to hold on to every relationship that you ever had. The main reason is that it is simply not possible to maintain a large number of relationships effectively.
So what I believe we end up experiencing is this cycle which involves purging relationships and then continuing to expand. While it seems rude to purge someone from your life on Facebook, it’s something that everybody did prior to the internet. You simply “forgot” to follow-up with someone and it was as easy as that. Unfortunately the removal of a relationship now requires deleting them from your Facebook, an active action which feels a bit less humane.
With all of this contact management, suddenly managing your contacts because a significant task in your life. Shouldn’t it be a little easier? Also, how much time does it take?
An Organized Facebook, An Organized Mind?
Let me first say that not all people have a disorganized Facebook or contact list. My mother for example only has around 100 contacts and she doesn’t have to deal with managing a contact list which has spiraled out of control. However if we are all sales people in a networked economy, then our network is the most important asset we have. As such, there is an incentive for us to continue building our network. For those individuals that decide to build their network, they will eventually run into the issue of efficient relationship management.
So with the assumption that you are one of the millions of people looking to succeed in a networked economy, how do you efficiently organize your contacts? This is something I will begin exploring over the coming weeks and months but in the mean time I’m curious as to what you all use for relationship management. Do you even bother investing much time in this?