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article imageOp-Ed: Jimmy Kimmel's NUD(ging) advice may not be for introverts

By Waqar Naz     Nov 18, 2010 in Internet
Compared to other late-night TV talk show hosts, who started way before Internet became ubiquitous, Jimmy Kimmel has been, relatively, a newer kid on the block. He is promoting "unfriending" on social media sites such as Facebook.
He may not be as "hooked" into the world of Twitter and 24/7 status updates from day one as, say, Jimmy Fallon, but he has done well carving a niche for his show among the dot com generation demography. As handsome and hip as he appears on camera, he is no spring chicken, mind you.
His monologues often feature hilarious video clips, frequently sourced from the world of YouTube. On balance, his attitude towards this newer, always-interconnected world is not necessarily hostile but perhaps somewhat old school. He may not have a personal vendetta against hand-held devices or social networking. Perhaps this idea came from a daily brainstorming session among his team of writers but he declared November 17, the National Unfriend Day (NUD). The tremors of the online NUD wave have subsided a few hours ago but there may be lingering aftershocks and a rubble of trashed egos piled up for days and weeks to come.
Technically, NUD, as a concept is applicable to any modern social networking platform but, obviously, being the largest such network, FaceBook was the primary target. "Friendship is a sacred thing and I believe Facebook is cheapening it," were Kimmel's exact words. This may have started out as tongue-n-cheek humor but, more likely, it is employing an advertising strategy that makes use of "running gags" and recurring themes. Coke experimented with it in the 90s with a series of ads, starring Michael Jackson, telling a story about him escaping trouble by jumping over and between buildings. Many of us also remember "serial ads" by a popular brand of coffee that titillated us by turning their TV ads into a few episodes of a vague but family-friendly prime time soap.
The advertising industry may have given up on these "campaigns" but they are still quite common and popular in sketch comedies as well as talkshows hosted by comedians. For all we know, Jimmy Kimmel may have started this as a way to simply deepen his roots among his fans and also to broaden his fan-base but truth be told, his advice to "cut out some of the friend fat in your life" may not be off-base. It seems like everybody and their brother are on Facebook these days. The 500 million active users on FaceBook include lots of pets as well as imaginary figures and other non-human characters. Recently, the almighty 'God' himself paid a virtual, albeit, brief visit.
Even the British Monarchy now has a presence on FaceBook. According to a news report, 92 percent of under-two-year-old babies in the U.S. are online. A research study conducted by Robin Dunbar, a professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, found that the human brain is capable of managing only 150 friendships at once. Cutting some of this excess "friend fat" may be good for our social health but this should be considered a prescription medicine rather than an over-the-counter headache pill anybody can pop. Special caution should be exercised by those of us whom the Briggs-Meyers Type Indicator labels as Introverted.

Introverts are a special (basket) case

Once upon a time, before the world was not hustling and bustling with 6 billion souls, when people lived scattered all over in small pockets and rural communities, introverts were in charge and in-vogue. People of fewer words were left alone and even considered wise. There was no requirement to be the life-of-the-party in order to climb the corporate or even the social ladder. Most sensible folks "reached out" to you and gave you their "two cents" only when solicited.
Fast forward to modern times and it's a different ball game. Introverts now live (and survive) in an extroverted world. Up to eighty percent of jobs are not advertised. Employer (and employee) loyalty is a thing of the past. If you work in any industry reliant on changing technology, you better be LinkedIn. Cell phones have all but eliminated the I-wasn't-home excuse. You can't say, "the letter I wrote you must have gotten lost in the mail." You hear, "how hard is it to send an e-Card or fire off an email ?" When betrayed or insulted by our "friends", the first words many spurt out are "I am so going to unfriend them ... that'll show 'em" !
For introverts, unfriending may not be a panacea and it is a placebo we don't really need. Our social circle already has a limited radius. We already exercise restraint and judicious selection of who we Befriend, offline or online. Most of us do not need more than our hands to count our real close friends. We don't need to send a fake message, as a litmus test, on FaceBook or Twitter, asking friends to help us move this weekend, in order to apply the old adage "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
Social scientists warn us of the dangers of investing too much in the online world and losing sight of real world relationships. For introverts, social networking may actually be an antidote to the extroverted sphere we hover in. It jives well with our cautious and laid back approach as we take time to get to know new acquaintances through the thought-out words and find common grounds leading to lasting bonds. It may even keep us from putting our proverbial foot in our mouth hastily.
Online "friends" are one thing. Followers are another species ! Introverts, after all are only human. It's flattering to see people follow us because of our expertise or the value of our opinions on any given subject. As long as they are not bugging us with frequent PMs, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the vanity ride. Also remember another adage of keeping your enemies closer ! If we suspect that some of our "frenemies" are in our circle just for gaining something from us, well, we also have the option to turn the tables and do the same.
Over Capacity Twitter Whale
The Twitter Whale indicating Twitter is Over Capacity.
Flickr.com
New Twitter HQ
The new-look Twitter offices as the team attempt to move everything in 72 hours.
Twitter Team (@Sal, @DougW)

Cutting the branches we may be sitting on, not warranted

There is no real need to go on an unfriending spree. We can always tighten our privacy settings on Facebook and other networks as well as hide our frenemies from our news feeds. In addition to individuals, we are often invited to join a plethora of groups or causes. It's okay to decline those as well as detaching ourselves from groups that may be ill-conceived or may even be hoaxes, and will fade out if enough of us abandon them, for example ...
* Rednecks for Obama
* Find-Larry King-a-wife Club
* Gille Duceppe Federalist Movement
* People for the Ethical Rehab Treatment of Charlie Sheen
* Canadians for a higher HST
* So You Think You Can Burp Talent Hunt
For those of us introverts, who think that they may have recently been bitten by the social networking bug, it helps to remember that prevention is often better than the cure. Don't fall into the friendship-at-first-sight trap. He or she may just be one of many and not "the one". There is no need to be click-happy. According to Jimmy Kimmel Live, more than 190,000 unfriendings have already taken place and the count is ticking up by the minute.
Having said that, think before jumping on the NUD bandwagon. If you think you need to loose a few (hundred) pounds of "barely friends", go ahead and make your (own) day ! There is no need to rub it in by sending them a message on another network telling them that they have been unfriended. It is also not necessary to send the remaining friends a sanctimonious message saying that you value them enough to keep them. Don't expect (or demand) that November 17 be declared a statutory holiday. On the flip side of the coin, if someone unfriends us, it may be for the better, for we introverts already know and cherish that less is more.
P.S. Don't forget to tweet and post this piece on your (remaining) friends' walls !
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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