We are the Facebook generation. Most of us probably remember the surge of excitement when, upon finally receiving our .edu mail account, we first became eligible for those coveted accounts.

But progress marches ever onward, and our friend counts have grown in fits and starts to come to the point where the “purging” of friends is tempting, as a solution both to privacy concerns and snore-worthy newsfeeds. However, once de-friended, there is no politic way to rebuild that bridge with someone.

Considering a good editing sweep through your friends list? Be sure to weigh the pros and cons first!

Pros

1. Fewer People will have Access to Your Updates

The easiest way to lock down privacy for your profile is to set everything to “Friends only.” But you’ll need to pare down your Friends list so it’s only the people you actually know if you want to make the most of that.

2. Your Newsfeed will Improve

You’ll be greeted with a feed that actually reflects the lives of people you’re interested in, without the hassle of having to “hide” dozens (or hundreds) of users. No more flooded updates of inane cat pictures, engagement pictures, and food pictures. If you’re rolling your eyes every time your old group member from freshman seminar masters a new recipe—you know it’s time.

Sure, there’s a fine line between the total strangers (de-friend) and the boring distant friends (hide). But there’s no reason to continue providing almost-perfect strangers with access to your profile if you no longer have any interest in theirs.

3. You’ll Break those Habits

If you de-friend with discipline, you should be able to curb some of the Facebook bad habits to which we’re all vulnerable. These include but are not limited to: checking up on an ex’s state of (un)happiness, fixating on the changes evident in the popular crowd from high school, and wasting time looking at or comparing your life to distantly meaningless engagement, wedding, or baby pictures.

Cons

1. You Might Lose Professional Connections

You never know when a former Facebook acquaintance will provide a helpful professional connection. This is a very real concern when you’re staring down that “Are you sure you want to remove Anna from your Friends list?” pop-up.

But try to remember that Facebook is primarily a social network, and if you’re deeply concerned about losing a potential professional connection, try establishing it on LinkedIn instead. This can put your relationship on clearer grounds, plus lessen the impact of an eventual de-friending.

2. There’s No Looking Back

How many times have you seen your Friends list number drop by one, felt sad for a second, then gone back to engaging with all your same friends and forgotten about it? Exactly. Most people won’t notice—or care—about the de-friending.

But if someone does notice your absence on their Friends list, there isn’t much you can do to take away that sting. Nor is there any easy way to ask someone about it. We’ve matured beyond asking, “Why don’t you like me anymore?” and passive-aggressive de-friending, so make sure you’re making these decisions with your head, not a bruised ego.

3. You Risk Offending Mutual Acquaintances

Unless you keep your Friends list private, mutual acquaintances will be able to see what ties you’ve cut—to possible offense. Let’s say your college roommate was so sure you’d love her best friend from high school and you all went out for drinks once and, boy, was she awful. Of course you accepted her friend request on Facebook, but that was four years ago, and the time for de-friending may be nigh.

However, keep in mind that your mutual connection—here, your former roommate—might notice and take it the wrong way. You might consider checking in with the favorable acquaintance at the same time to reaffirm your interest in the original friendship.

As long as you don’t make an issue out of it (announcing an impending purge is particularly bad form), the Friend purge can be a beneficial move. So now that you’ve got the dirt, go review your Friends list. The little “x” button is ready and waiting. But if you’re not quite ready to commit, consider adding those former acquaintances to your limited profile list while you think it over.

One more tip: Consider making your Friends list private—it’s not a contest to see who has the most Friends. And considering how employers may judge you based on whatever information is up there, a private profile with a public friends list full of inebriated profile pictures will not work in your favor.

Photo courtesy of Harsh Agrawal.