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Ask Henry: Does my daughter have too many Facebook friends?

Hi Henry

My fourteen year old daughter has hundreds of friends on Facebook. Wait I just counted, 847. That's ridiculous right? She seems to hang out with about 10 different people in real life. Why?

Mother of Popular Daughter

Hi Mother of Popular Daughter, can I just call you MoPD?

"Friends" is just a convenient word, what your daughter really possesses is 847 connections. Essentially, they are acquaintances.

Of course, they can possibly see a whole lot more of your daughter's life than regular acquaintances can. And that is understandably troubling.

I have a degree of sympathy however, especially given my 686 friends. Yes, I need a cull, but I accepted all of these people in good faith. I probably know about 100 of these friends well enough to actually talk to regularly - the rest are mostly people I used to go to school with. I went to a pretty big high school where adding people you had only talked to once or twice was pretty usual, and I've been at two universities where class discussions etc lead to a bit of friending too. If your daughter's high school (and probably her intermediate before it) is like that I can understand a whole lot of friends - ignoring a request can seem pretty awkward.

Honestly? Your daughter probably shouldn't be putting ANYTHING on Facebook that she isn't comfortable with a lot of people seeing, unless she has a pretty good grasp of the somewhat confusing privacy settings. Still, if you are worried about this, you have two reasonable options.

1) You could helpfully (or forcefully) suggest that she cull her friend list. Don't let her announce the cull. That looks ridiculously narcissistic. Just get her to go through her friends page and delete those she hasn't talked to in more than a month or two. This is somewhat arduous, and could result in small amounts of awkwardness for her, but is still entirely viable.

2) Lists! Essentially, instead of bothering to delete all those people, you could ask your daughter to create a "close friends" list of people who can see her posts. This list can be as large as she likes - 150 is apparently the most "meaningful connections" a human can have. She will need to go to the "Friends" tab on her profile, then hover over each friend she wants to add to this close list and put them in there. After that she can restrict her content (various amounts of it) to this list, right from the "Privacy Settings" page in that little gear wheel on the top right.

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Of course, I'm only assuming you are actually worried about this. You might just be confused. It is definitely not out of the ordinary, and you probably have nothing to worry about. As ever, keep an eye on her activity on the site and on the internet in general. Facebook is actually pretty harmless compared to something like SnapChat.

If you have a techie question you'd like to ask our resident Gen Z expert, email us at editor@essentialmums.co.nz with Ask Henry in the subject line.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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