Cluttered home pages call for November spring cleaning

When it comes to social networking, I consider myself a generous person. I am willing to click like there is no tomorrow, joining Facebook groups I don’t care about and becoming fans of things I’ve never heard of just so its owners can get one more popularity point.

These are the sacrifices I make for my Facebook friends, allowing them to spam my account as often as they please. I also do not discriminate harshly when it comes to accepting friends or following people on Twitter, and so my homepages are scattered messes of statuses and Tweets.

Although I’ve considered mindless clicking gestures of support for many years, there comes a time when the clutter becomes too overwhelming.

Luckily, our social networks offer features to help us do spring cleaning in November.

The first step is realizing you are in too many digital relationships. Telltale signs of this are myriad Facebook messages from club promoters, friend requests from people you’ve met through Twitter or a home page filled with meaningless trending topics (#StuffThatsAnnoying, etc.). At one point in time, connecting with all these people might have made sense to you, but the extent of your social life has no doubt made your networks unorganized — and it’s time to fix it.

Cue list functions. Facebook introduced one a long time ago, and if you don’t use it, you should. By grouping your friends according to various categories, you will significantly increase your Facebook experience. For getting rid of status updates from people you could care less about, clicking the hide button on their news feed post is highly underrated and relatively painless to the person you are blocking.

Twitter, on the other hand, just recently introduced an organizing system that could actually be complimentary. Unlike Facebook’s function, Twitter enables you to see public lists you have been placed on, allowing you to know how (or perhaps more importantly, if) your friends categorize you. If you check your follower count compulsively, you have likely noticed the new “listed” category that has come to fruition. This number lets you and everyone else know what Twitter lists you’ve made it on.

Twitter lists not only offer a whole new way to cut your online clutter, but they offer a whole new way to use the system itself. A lesser-known fact is that lists allow you to “follow” users without actually following them — you can add anyone to lists as long as their account is public.

Because Twitter is a social network where follower counts halfway determine user legitimacy, it is odd that lists were introduced with this feature.

However, it has simply turned the “listed” count into the new number to rack up. And lists themselves connote a different type of popularity — they suggest that your Tweets have some purpose, and the label of a list gives you an idea of what that purpose is.

When grouping users, you have almost infinite freedom. You can put blogs, customers or comedians together. Lists can help you sort your news by location and your friends by sense of humor.

If you make your lists public, people can see where you’re putting them, and that allows you to acknowledge their online significance to you. Think of it as offering your support.

More so than Facebook, you can group people temporarily. For example, if you are planning an event, you can collect the Twitter usernames of people coming and encourage them to follow the list you put them on. After the event, they can all go their separate ways.

Lists are a somewhat underused feature of most social networks.

This is understandable, as college students have enough trouble organizing their schedules and music database. However, they offer a lot of benefits to you and those you group. They help refine online personalities by imposing labels, and they can allow you to follow less people or be organized with your social networking habits.

It may take a few minutes, but optimizing your Facebook and Twitter is only a few clicks away. Or if you’re simply too lazy, you can follow other people’s lists.

Relying on your peers to do the work? A perfect demonstration of one of social networking’s key benefits.

Jen Winston is a junior majoring in communication. Her column, “The Memeing of Life,” runs Tuesdays.