The title of this column was picked up in the dry and parched wadi of a Facebook posting. Someone disapproved of something, somewhere, and then posted it so that their friends could be outraged. They obliged, and then added their own cries of spitting indignation – one of which introduced the phrase ” thinning the heard “. It was either a typo or plain ignorance, but I think it a gem.
It precisely describes what I do when I go through the daily Facebook feed and remove ambitious advertisements and smarmy political jibes. It is no new thing – I started doing it months ago during the campaigning for the American presidency. I got so sick of the local beermat experts re-posting everything they could find that I needed to do something or go mad.
The business of entirely exiting Facebook seemed complex, and as it would have removed a useful secondary line of communication, seemed counter-productive. The business of de-friending and blocking the worst offenders also carried with it the problem that I often meet the same people in my live social groups later on…and it makes for a frosty meetings if I have already cut them electronically.
For some while I practised the art of “resting” them in a virtual time-out with the thought of eventually letting them onto my feed again when their fit had passed. This worked for some, but I would forget to let them back or discover that they had not improved and would have just postponed the decision.
Then I realised that the most annoying and valueless opinions being presented were not the ones from the actual Facebook friends. Personal posts from them could be quite sensible. It was the random ” rip and read ” posts that they tacked onto their own timeline that made it all so tedious. So I instituted a rule for myself of deleting all ” Shared ” posts. All ” What He Said ” commentary as well. At once, the burden lightened and I could read things from my friends that really reflected what they thought. It might still be rubbish, but it was genuine rubbish – not fake news.
Until now, I have not had a name for this sorting process – now I have it:
” Thinning the heard “.