For the last couple of months, I have been working on getting my Facebook friends down to a couple of hundred as I focus on quality over quantity. Imagine my surprise today when I noticed that the number of friends I had on the social network suddenly doubled overnight.
I checked around with a few people and they had all seen the same. Most people were seeing an increase of between 50 and 100 news friends suddenly added to their friends lists. After a little bit of investigation, it seems as if Facebook is pulling a pretty dodgy move in an attempt to increase interaction, draw people back into the site and boost their numbers.
Friend Totals Increasing
I noticed that my friends had increased from about 200 to close to 350 and after checking with a few other people, they had seen the exact same thing with most seeing an increase of at least between 50/100 "new" friends. Check yours and you will probably see the same (leave a comment here to let us know).
Removing De-Activated Friends
Unfortunately, removing all of these new ghost accounts takes an awful lot of time and effort as you have to scroll through the list and remove each one individually. This is not something that most people are going to be bothered doing as it would literally take a couple of hours.
You can't actually see any of the information on the deactivated profiles, but they can see your info if they are subscribed to you. This seems like one of the most pointless actions ever, but the good news is you can actually get rid of all the accounts if you choose to.
What Is Facebook Up To?
It's a very strange move and the only logic is that Facebook is either trying to get users who have deactivated their accounts back onto the service or trying to artificially boost their numbers. They've just added billions of new connections on the site, even if the most of them are ghost accounts. The guys over on Web Pro News have the following statement from Facebook:
We recently changed the way we count the number of people you are friends with to include some accounts that are not currently active on the service. It is important to note, that while we are showing different counts, no additional user information will be available. Due to our internal infrastructure we can provide an even faster experience for those that use our service by showing these modified counts.
So Facebook is saying that they are not really doing anything wrong (technically they are not), and that in fact this is all to do with improving the speed of the service. I personally find that very hard to believe and given the number of people already noticing this on Facebook, I think they can expect a mini-firestorm of negative publicity about this on Monday morning when the tech press wakes up. Very strange move indeed from Facebook. Have you noticed a large increase in your Facebook friends?