Tech Tips for Nerds are my posts about nerdy, technical things. My entertainment fans may or may not be interested, but when I have to search the net for answers on something, I like to put what I find here on my blog to make it easier for the next person!

The other day I noticed that I had 5,593 friends on Facebook. Obvs, Facebook has traditionally had a limit of 5000 friends, so I wondered if they had finally lifted that arbitrary limit.Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

As an early-adopter, I was on Facebook almost as soon as it opened up to the public and so I’d accumulated most of my contacts (aka Friends) long before they separated things out into unlimited “Pages” vs limited “Profiles”. I’ve come up against Facebook’s annoying friends limit in the past, as I talked about here: httpv://

Well, it appears that the reason people may have recently seen their Facebook friends count increase is this: Facebook is showing you former “friends” (contacts, really) who have deactivated their accounts, and thus those deactivated accounts are showing in your friends count. Why would they do this? Well, first and foremost it’s a stupid way of handling a problem they have. But it IS intended to handle a problem: In the past, people have gamed the system by doing nefarious and evil things on Facebook and then deactivating their account for a week or so, before jumping back online.

But why deactivate one’s trolling account? Because previously, people couldn’t unfriend an account that was deactivated. So, say I went onto your Facebook wall and posted five photos of you drunk at a party with insults written on your face in Sharpie. Or say I started a “YOU SUCK AND HERE’S WHY” page about you. Then I quickly deactivate my Facebook account, leaving you unable to unfriend me or untag the photos or report the page. I wait a week until you’ve pretty much forgotten about it, and quietly reactivate, still “friends” with you and thus able to see your “friends only” info, tag you in photos or whatever.

Stalkery people also used this technique to prevent their exes from unfriending them after a breakup. Say you break up and she wants to unfriend you to leave you out of accessing her “friends only” info. Previously, if you’d deactivated your account before she could unfriend you, she would have been unable to unfriend you and thus you could just quietly reactivate days, weeks or months later and “spy”.

Facebooks (typically clumsy) idea to make deactivated accounts visible will now allow you to unfriend or block these deactivated accounts, which is good. The bad is that now people have artificially inflated Friend Counts, and for those like me who have many thousands of Facebook friends, using the slow interface to deleted those deactivated accounts is impossible. And, since I still can’t add any new friends (or, bewilderingly, favorite any new pages) until my count is below the arbitrary 5000 limit, I’m even further away from having a normal and free flow of friends and fans. Le sigh.



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