If there's anything I've found to be painfully clear about social media, it's that having friends is exhausting. Privately, I don't care if it's your birthday. I secretly hate you. But society now forces me to acknowledge your virtual existence.
So, if you're anything like me—admit it—you feel like a willful prisoner of the accepted technologies of the day. It's not just about keeping track of the people you don't truly care about. That's one thing. It's that there are "close friends" in your life that you don't give two shits about, but still have to RSVP to their asinine Facebook events or @reply them on Twitter. Close only because you share a few too many drunken pictures together.
But, for one reason or another, you can't break the friendship. Breaking up is hard to do, be it for complicated group associations or having to see them everyday. So what can you do? Lie. And lie well.
Be as Passive Aggressive as Possible
Let's face it. If you were one of those "I say what I mean when I mean it" types, you wouldn't have this problem. That kind of honesty sucks. Hell, the only reason I write this now is because the people in my life that this applies to don't read Gizmodo—if you do, you're safe. You can trust me. So, the only feasible way to go about keeping friends off your back is by keeping them at a distance while making it seem like you care.
That means you can't go off grid. You can't just turn off your accounts, because A) The friends you actually care about are still there, and B) Having more friends/followers is cool. Don't be stupid and risk losing your friend count. And for all you know, your actual friends hate you and are playing this exact game with you. You're stuck.
Know What You Use
I barely use my Tumblr these days. I don't worry too much about what's happening on LinkedIn, though I'll be sure to change some of my settings ASAP. Really, my social networks of choice are Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare, and Google+. In that order. So my behavior in these spaces naturally informs how and when I lie. You need to know what you habitually use and how they connect before you can be an effective liar. Otherwise, you'll get caught or stuck going to a party or baby shower you don't want to be seen at.
Also keep in mind that a lot of the services you use will, by design, try to keep you honest. Not because they esteem honesty as to shun those who break the 8th/9th Commandment. Rather, telling the truth is just easier. For a computer. You, on the other hand, are human. You should celebrate that fact. Therefore!
Be Creative... Within Reason
Scenario. A few of your friends have invited you to hang out for old times' sake. You haven't seen them in some time, and it really would be nice to catch up. Only they live across state lines, and your last bender has left you a little broke.
Simple solution right? Just tell them you can't come out. You're all adults. They'll understand. Except you let things get to the last minute, and if you flake you look like a bastard. Considerably more complicated. Now what? Well, you could start with a few well-placed tweets or status updates, like "Ugh I feel awful" or "I can't believe this happened!" +1 an article on WebMD. Instagram a sad puppy. All stuff that's specific enough to catch their eye but vague enough as to not feel forced. Later, when you have that talk to break plans, you'll likely hear, "Yeah I saw your [insert here]. Everything ok?" Perfect.
Take it a step further. Say you opt with the "My dog died" range of excuses. Like saying your father got into a car accident and you need to rush to his side. Don't check into the hospital on Foursquare. It's classless, hurts your credibility, and you won't get points for it. Instead, a few choice tweets from the trip here and there is enough to get some sympathy and good will. But be careful! Never overdo it. Short of paying people off, you don't wanna wind up having no one to corroborate your story.
Always Have a Plan
Ultimately, this is a numbers game. The law of averages has it that you're gonna screw up somehow and get caught in a lie. Now, if it's little enough you can talk your way out of it, provided you come prepared. It's just like how in Catholic school they teach that lies only beget more lies. That's not so terrible if you know what you're doing.
Now, you just stood up a date, telling him you have to do some work. But they just busted you. It wasn't hard. You just tweeted how great a time you're having at the party you ditched him for. You even checked in at the location. Been there, done that. All you have to do is send a picture of yourself doing something domestic. A picture you smartly took of yourself beforehand. Then sober up the best you can, and make a phone call from a quiet place to allay any suspicions. Tell him you were making gentle fun of the friend who's party you're at right now. She never even invited you, but you found out on Facebook anyway. The bitch. It sounds ridiculous—it is—but by now you've got him laughing. Good. While it's not the most airtight of solutions, it sows enough reasonable doubt to get you out of hot water.
However, if it's a big enough lie...
Be Prepared to Confess
Well, you can't win 'em all. Sometimes you get caught, and you have to keep it real. This is a good thing. Friendship should not be taken lightly, and lying is wrong. But most importantly, getting caught keeps your sharp for next time. So be ready for it, because it's gonna happen eventually. Don't be afraid to beg for forgiveness. It may not come lightly. It may not come at all. If it does, good for you. You keep a friend, and maybe you can begrudge them a little more respect. If not, who needs them? Either way, lesson learned.
You Are Not a Sociopath
You're just a victim of circumstance. There's no reason you shouldn't use your know-how to get out of a tight spot, and you'll probably need that know-how more these days. The ubiquity of all things social network-y means that you'll find yourself in all sorts of situations that demand you deal with people's bullshit. And people's bullshit can overlap and overwhelm in surprising and uncomfortable ways. No one has 900 friends in real life. At the same time, having even 50 regular friends bombarding you with their lives and plans can be very stressful. This is about survival. I'll concede that honesty is still the best policy. But, even for the most noble among you, a good lie can be an excellent back-up.
You can keep up with Kwame Opam, the author of this post, on Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally Google+.