On Monday of this week, Julia Angwin had 666 friends on Facebook. Today, she has none.
On Monday of this week, Julia Angwin had 666 friends on Facebook. Today, she has none. - 
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On Monday of this week, I had 666 friends on Facebook. Today, I have none.

When I first joined Facebook, I enjoyed stumbling across the high-school math teacher who inspired me or the girl who stole my college boyfriend. I liked keeping up with the Pakistani journalist who once visited my office on a fellowship.

But over the years, Facebook lost my trust as it continuously blocked me from keeping the names of my friends private. As a journalist, I need to protect my sources. And as a human, I prefer not to have a hidden audience keeping tabs on me when I reach out to friends.

At first, I tried practicing privacy through obscurity. I accepted all friend requests (even creepy ones) in the hopes that my real relationships could hide in plain sight among the fake ones.

But I found myself sanitizing all my posts as I tried to address a wildly diverse audience that included my boss, my sources, my kids' friends' parents and strangers I had friended from Brazil. I realized that my approach had erased my ability to have a real relationship with anyone on Facebook.

Still, I wasn't ready to leave Facebook entirely. I still wanted to be able to find people and to be found by others. So this week I decided to unfriend everyone and just keep a bare-bones profile. It was hard. I felt awful when I tried unfriend a former calculus student or the page for my upcoming high-school reunion.

I ended up having to pay a real, live friend to come over to hit the "unfriend" button for me. Over and over again. It took seven hours, but I feel like a huge burden has been lifted.

To those I unfriended, I apologize. But as bizarre as it sounds, I am actually trying to protect our ability to have a real relationship, without a hidden audience watching.

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