Catching Up with Friends Project

By NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (NASA Image of the Day) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So I’ve actually been on a secret project for a few weeks now where I’ve been filtering out my friends based on two criteria:

  • Is that person willing to meet up with me once a year if we’re geographically nearby?
  • Am I willing to meet up with that person once a year if we’re geographically nearby?

If any “friend” didn’t meet either criteria, I’d unfriend on Facebook.

The objective was to leave behind only real friends so that anytime I go through my Facebook timeline, every update was related to someone I really cared about.

This to me is the purpose of social media, which is a medium to let me better keep in touch with my friends.

And the learnings from this project have been quite profound:

  • I’m surprised by how many real friends I still have
    • I was half expecting my friends number to drop from 550+ to around 100-200, but right now I’ve drop to 361 (as of Jul 16th 2016) and the pace of unfriending has dropped significantly
  • It’s been a quite heart breaking experience too
    • There were quite a lot of friends when I glanced at their names and realized that we were quite tight before. Now quite a few of them had become quite distant due to my procrastination. Newton’s law of an object in motion stays in motion really applies in this situation when you the word replace “object” with “relationship”.
  • “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”
    • You can really filter out who really gives a damn about your relationship with them when you try to get an appointment with them. People who really want to see me maybe too busy at this moment of time, but they would always proactively propose future dates that might work out. People who don’t want to see you would either not reply you or just say something to the extent of “oh I’m busy”
  • I have OCD with people replying me within 48 hours
    • I’m not sure if it’s because I’m really self centered (people should respond to me!), I’m impatient (I want things to happen now!) or my professional habits spilling over to my personal life (48 hours is standard business etiquette! Oh wait, this is a personal interaction…), but it REALLY GETS INTO my nerves when people don’t reply me within 48 hours (actually I already start getting irritated if it doesn’t happen within 24 hours…). I’m really unsure if it’s just good etiquette to reply people within 48 hours unless your physically unable (dead, seriously ill, no internet connection etc.) or if I’m just being a dick (could simply be that I’m just a dick). But anyways, I do see a strong correlation with unfriending and people not replying me within 48 hours.
  • Many friends are actually going through tough times
    • But at the same time, it’s hard to discern if someone’s not replying you within 48 hours because they are physically unable, or if they’re going through a tough time. One thing that surprised me most was how many of my friends were going through tough times simultaneously. If it weren’t for me reaching out because of this secret project and really following up on people who weren’t responding, I really wonder how many friends have I overlooked or ignored when I could’ve lent emotional support? Or to put it more bluntly, how much of a friend am I?
  • I find myself to be very boring
    • Like boring for other people. I love investing and anything related to investing (psychology, history, sociology, economics, finance, engineering, maths etc.), and I’m always reading, thinking or learning about it, so it’s really exciting for me to talk about these topics, but I sometimes catch myself just always talking about the same topics over and over again. I had deja vu just now when a friend of mine kept talking about the same topic over and over again on the phone just now, which absolutely drove me a bit nuts. I’m surprised how many of my friends haven’t flipped their tables on me yet (Or maybe they have psychologically and are proactively avoiding me, which probably is why people don’t reply me within 48 hours :/).
  • I burn people out, like literally
    • I sometimes question if I’m too hardcore when it comes to relationships. I take every conversation quite seriously (unless it’s just a joke), so I’m always diligently replying or following up and always putting serious thought behind what I’m about to say. One example of burning someone out with my intensity was the girl I’ve been seeing, where she told me that she really tried to adopt this intense method of communication with me but ended up just burning out because of me and along with other things going on in her life. Thankfully we’re still friends, but any progression beyond friendship is definitely out of play.
  • I have a hard time being very close to people
    • Follow-up to my previous point, my intensity either makes people burn out or make people feel uncomfortable. Either way, reflecting upon my whole life so far, I’ve realized I’ve never had a “best friend” by conventional definition since I would always never hang out with the same people out of school / work. I’ve always just been too intense, which is why I end up needing personal time and my friends ending up burnt out.
  • It really sucks when people don’t reciprocate
    • This should’ve been a given, considering my aforementioned point, but it still stung. Each time. I still remember today where there was a friend who was going to Bangkok and very happily shared his / her boarding pass on Facebook. Seeing that the barcodes were explicitly shown (it actually contains a lot of information about you), I gently reminded him / her about the security risk of doing so and wished him / her a safe trip. He / she promptly covered up the barcodes with images and deleted my comment. I promptly unfriended him / her as well. Although this was an extreme case (1st case where not responding = unfriend), I just got pissed off how my suggestion was adopted, discarded and not thanked for.
  • It’s starting to get hard to keep in touch with people
    • Basically for any meet up I’ve had with friends in past few weeks, I’ve basically scheduled to meet up on a more regular basis. The good side is it meant I was consistently seeing friends I wanted to see, but the downside is that time and energy is just not on my side. As much as I love to socialize, I’m an introvert by nature, so I realized that at most I can only have 3 appointments every week lest I start burning out. And if I have 361 friends (maybe around 150 after taking out colleagues whom I see everyday and people who aren’t geographically nearby) and there’s 52 weeks in a year and my objective is to see my friends that are geographically close at least once a year, then my weekends have to be packed full since I will be overlapping with existing recurring appointments whom I would see more than once per year. So far I’m managing, but I need to really figure out a system to deal with this
  • Starting to compete with life’s other priorities
    • Related to the above point, but in terms of time and energy, being a good friend has meant that it’s been competing with health and work and giving up on family. Spending so much time going through annual reports and 10-Ks as part of my investing hobby is almost like a second job in a sense, which leaves so much less time to cultivate other interests or organize / join socializing activities. Also every time I have an appointment during the week, it absolutely wrecks that night’s sleep and possibly 2-3 more days of sleep as I just always get sleep deprived on the same night due to appointments always lasting until 9-10 pm. It starts making me question where I want my priorities to be.
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