Q&A: I regret removing friends from Facebook during a random Facebook cleanse

Dear Sofie,

I did an online detox of Facebook in October 2015. I removed over 50 of my 450 connections. Now I feel s*it about it. The thing is that I met one of the contacts I removed at a work event and we said we would stay connected on Facebook to discuss a potential work project that would be great for me to be involved in.

At that moment I could not tell her that I’d removed her from my network. When I removed some of my friends I did it randomly and there was no real reason behind it, I just never see them or connect with them online. I felt I had too many friends and I thought it would be easier to manage my Facebook account if my network was smaller and included mostly people who care about me and who I also care about.

I really would like to connect with my ex-friend again so I can get involved in the project.

Now I also totally fear going to events where I might meet the people I’ve removed. Some of them work in the same industry as me, and I feel awful about my ridiculous Facebook cleanse.


As long as there have been ways to connect and stay connected online friendships have both started and ended online. Digital breakups can be painful, confusing and really bad for friendships, networking and your career.

In your case you have put yourself in an awkward position. You can be honest and tell your friend that you’ve cleansed your Facebook network and would like to continue the work project over email, or you can pretend that it was all a mistake and connect again on Facebook, you just have to hide your shame and see what happens.

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We live in a connected world and part of that involves staying connected. If there is no real reason to remove someone it’s probably better to keep connections than remove them. Many friendships lie idle for 20 years and then suddenly flourish again, you just can’t tell.

If you belong to the same community and group of friends it is complicated removing friends from Facebook or similar networks. The real power of your friendships and network come from friends of friends. Introducing a friend to a friend is one of the most generous things we can do. Many new meetings don’t lead to anything exceptional, but some meetings do. Maybe your networking and connecting skills will lead to new partnerships, marriage and other collaborations. If you remove people from your online network you are reducing the opportunities for these kinds of meetings to happen. We remember people by who knows who, and your Facebook network is a big phone book

In the past some friends on my Facebook network were removed, and I spoke to them about it (in these cases there was no reason whatsoever to disconnect). It turned out that none of us had actively removed each other; so it must have been either an accidental click or a flaw in Facebook’s infrastructure that caused us to be removed from each other’s networks. In your case, if you like acting, you can blame a new Facebook bug and cover it up in technical language so your friend won’t understand.

Some final tips:

Many people un-friend their ex-partners and their ex’s friends. For some this works well and it gives them time and space to recover from broken relationships.

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If someone has hurt you and been totally rude to you in real life or online there might be reason to remove them. For your own sanity it’s good to wait until you’ve calmed down if you are considering removing someone online. Taking decisions with anger in your blood and mind can lead to devastating outcomes, so calm down first. Leave it for a week or two and then remove the person if that is what you want.

If you don’t want to see a friend’s updates on Facebook there is a way to hide their updates by ‘unfollowing’ them. Just click on their status and you can hide their updates, and in that way you are still connected.

how to unfollow on Facebook. Sofie Sandell's Social media Q&A









If for any reason you don’t want someone to be able to find you on Facebook you can block them.

how to block someone from Facebook









Some people have very high standards about who they let into their online network and others are more open. For me who I accept and let into my life changes. Some weeks I accept everyone who sends me a friend request, then for a while I’m more restrictive and don’t accept people I’ve not met. There are some requests that I always decline and those are from people who don’t have any real profile pictures, e.g. they use a picture of a cat, and people who set up a company page as a friend page.

Many people are uber-connected online and have almost reached the friends limit on Facebook, which is currently 5,000. Some of my connections have turned their personal profile into a Facebook Page to be able to have more friends, and then sets up a new profile, and for me that’s equal to removing me as a friend. To do this smoothly you have to warn your network at least one month beforehand on a regular basis that you are moving away from your old profile and give people the opportunity to connect to your new personal Facebook profile. When you’ve done that you can convert your old profile on Facebook to an open page.

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One final thought, you can choose to deactivate your Facebook account for a while or forever. If you are considering doing this then it is a good idea to warn your network a while beforehand. It’s socially disturbing to find out that someone has moved away from Facebook when you want to reach out to him or her again. Make sure you give people other options for connecting with you.


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