Facebook Including Deactivated Accounts In Total Friend Count [UPDATED]

    June 15, 2012
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

UPDATE: Facebook has told me that your friend count does in fact include some deactivated friends –

We recently changed the way we count the number of people you are friends with to include some accounts that are not currently active on the service. It is important to note, that while we are showing different counts, no additional user information will be available. Due to our internal infrastructure we can provide an even faster experience for those that use our service by showing these modified counts.

Facebook said that the reason they show you your deactivated friends on your list is so that you can defriend them and to “prevent any possible security risk posed by temporarily deactivated friends.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Although my Facebook Timeline says that I have 593 friends, I actually only have around 564 at the moment. It appears that the discrepancy is due to friends that I once had – but have now vanished from the Facebook landscape. You know, the ones that got away – the deactivators.

And apparently, I’m not the only one. One of my Facebook buddies recently posted a status that read “Apparently, FB did a recount today and gave me 120 new friends…WTF.” Tons of other users responded with similar stories. “I got like…40 new friends,” said one user. Another said, “yeah, I gained like 100 myself.”

It appears that the extra friends appearing on people’s friend tally are merely phantoms, sadly. You’ve haven’t had an overnight boost in popularity – the increase in your total friends is coming from the inclusion of deactivated accounts in the figure.

One reddit user posted that Facebook was showing deactivated accounts on your friends list, to which they received a reply:

“Yep. And my friend count jumped up more than 30. I just happened to see it the other day, and saw a friend post that there number had mysteriously gone up so I checked.”

A quick look at my friends list confirmed that Facebook is displaying deactivated accounts in my friends list:

Clicking on the names of one of those deactivated friends prompts this message from Facebook:

It’s true that only you can see your deactivated friends on your friends list. If anyone else looks at your friends list, they’ll simply see a blank whitespace where a friend should be:

Facebook explains the difference between deactivation and deletion of accounts in their Help Center.

[With deactivation], people on Facebook will not be able to search for you. Some information, like messages you sent, may still be visible to others.

We save your profile (timeline) information (friends, photos, interests, etc.), just in case you want to come back to Facebook at some point. If you choose to reactivate your account, the information on your profile (timeline) will be there when you come back.

While your former friends who have deactivated their accounts are indeed invisible to everyone but you, they are still being included in your friend count. The rash of users commenting that their friend count jumped up overnight would lead us to believe that this is something new – that deactivated friends we not always counted in your total. I’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this article accordingly.

  • Sansa

    DAMN!! Why did they do that?! It was so handy in order to prevent someone from unfriending you ><
    And when I deactivate my account I want to be totally invisible!!! damn :(

  • Sam

    I agree Sansa. It is actually quite sad to have people unfriend you, which was one main reason for me deactivating my account. How do I actually delete my account? I do not need a case of depression from seeing my “friends” list go down by three or four at a time.

  • Adam

    SO how are they dealing with people having hundreds or even thousands of friends over the 5000 limit? And the user is now responsible to individually delete each friend over 5000 to gain usability of their account back because Facebook won’t allow multiple deletes? This is the biggest FU by Facebook, ever! Looks like the evolution will continue: Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, NEXT>>

  • Daniel

    Where are you getting this “comment” from Facebook that they added deactivated accounts so that we could unfriend them? From many of the complaints I have seen on the community help forums, a huge part of the problem with this bug/glitch/update is that the deactivated accounts CAN’T be removed! Some of them are still invisible, but being counted in the total friend count. Other are visible, but people still can’t remove them. I had one person say she did remove the deactivated accounts, but they came back.

  • Roslynn Black

    I had the deactivated friend issue several weeks ago. I “unfriended” them all. Since I keep my FB friends to only family and close friends I only had to delete 40 people. BUT this past Monday my friend count jumped again, 64 to 103. I counted all my 64 friends, which they all showed up. NO blank space, no ghost pictures of other accounts..nothing. I have absolutely NO WAY of knowing WHO these extra people are. They just do not appear in my friends list. I would delete them if I could find them. This is a serious issue, some people are accusing FB of allowing a virus,or a hacker to track accounts. I think it’s a glitch. I posted my issue in the help section. The response was over whelming of so many people having this same issue.

  • GregM

    In some cases it appears that both deleted friends and deactivated accounts are being counted although no one else can see who the ex friend was. Why… would be the question? There are good reasons to delete some people and most of us do not need to see the ghost of that bad experience left behind.

  • http://plumbersedmonton.net Kelly

    This is a pain, I went from 4800 or so friends to over 5500. There is no way I am going to go through this list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tatianathedog Dora E. H. Crow

    I have been able to successfully remove (unfriend) deactivated accounts – but there are also some accounts on my friend list that have the generic “ghost” profile photos… but the names listed next to them are BLACK, not BLUE; the black text names do not have a link which allows me to unfriend them.

    Do you know what the status is of these types of “friends”? Possibly something different from those that are deactivated?

    • http://www.facebook.com/captscratch Captain Scratch

      I notice that too, I have bunches that are blacked out, and nothing I can do to delete them.

  • ct

    This may open them up to an SEC investigation as the number of friends is directly tied to their impressions which is tied to their advertising rates which is tied to their stock price.

    If they are manipulating this they are potentially trying to prop up their stock price.

  • carolyn rose goyda

    is anyone working on an app to help with this – lord i have now over 5500 friends – and am blocked from slipping in new real friends unless i go check off like 500 people – good lord

    are you on Facebook and how and where do you find this type of info out from FB ??

    i love the miracle of global reach but the lack of FB contact is maddening

    thanks for the info

  • http://www.nikken.com/jmjwellness janice Ann

    wow…lots of interesting items here…thank you for sharing…

  • http://www.panchovsworld.com Pancho V Saltywaterrecords

    Man this is killing me to go threw and unfriend all of my deactivated accounts ‘ I use to keep my friends at around 4995 so that i could see who was requesting me. Now im at 5255. My subscriptions are at 1100 and still going up, but i cant message them and it was better to have them friend request me.

  • Brandee

    Okay..this is really ludicrous! I have spent days trying to delete the deactivated accounts! I have always kept my number right around 4,800 and jumped to over 5,500….I went ahead and began the tedious process of unfriending all the deactivated accounts. I finally found an easier way to do that.

    Yet..ALL of THAT did not solve the problem. It looks like Facebook is counting all those “blank” spaces where friends used to be! I have deleted/unfriended an additional 100 people and it has not affected my counts.

    Does anyone know if Facebook has any desire to fix this?

    Thank you!

  • Jaquiline Rose

    this doesn’t explain my frind count jumping by about 500 from about 880 to 1380ish

    • Scott

      There has to be more to this.. I always delete deactivated friends yet I STILL had 100 more friends when I woke up the other day. I currently have NO DEACTIVATED friends but my friends number is still enormous.

      • Swanny

        How do you delete deactivated accounts if they are… deactivated? Their account vanishes when it’s deleted. You can’t remove them.

  • Bill

    Be careful. Some of my friends who show as deactivated are not.
    Just a huge mess by FB.

  • http://www.rockitz.net Paul Magill Smith

    I’ve been on Facebook years now, and I haven’t liked a number of changes made without notifying their patrons, but this change is the worst one yet. I hope they fix this glitch soon, or at least remove the 5000 friend limit. As a music festival organizer, who uses Facebook extensively for notifications to the 200 musical acts I work with, and with new acts coming on board regularly, I must have means to add new people to my list.

  • Apryl

    I have all of those too. 250 friends jumped to 500. It was crazy.
    I spend 3 hours deleting the zombie profiles.
    I still have one all black profile and then those blanks.
    At first I had to be sneaky to find the zombies because they did not always appear in my list. I started by doing friend search by typing A, then B, C, then after A-Z I started doing sounds such as Sh, Br, Al, St, Sa, etc and found another bunch that way. I still have just the hidden ones…so damn annoying. BUT now I finally saw my ex who disactivated his account long ago, and I never knew his email address to block his butt. I guess this is the real reason.

    FB really needs to find a way to easily sort friends. Scrolling is so old….

    • Apryl

      oh and another tip…if you do the alphabet way like I did and you have a list showing, click to remove but do not click OK to refresh the page until you have done as many as possible. Saves time.

      • sanjay

        Really worked…Thanks a lot

  • Tom

    I had 88 friends when i went to sleep one night. the next morning i had 109. i counted them and counted 88 active and 5 inactive. so i’m still trying to figure out who are the other 26 that are unaccounted for and are completely invisible.

    • Michael

      Thanks for the workaround. Worked perfectly.

  • http://www.argaive.com Argaive

    Y’know, following @Apryl’s procedure, I noticed that Facebook is also counting accounts that I *know* have been *banned* – how else to explain five “deactivated” accounts with the same name? (Not to mention that I know these people personally…)

    By the way, thanks Apryl; I’ve blogged your solution: http://photography.argaive.com/journal/2012/06/stuff-Facebook_Friend_Count_Bug.html


  • Michael

    I have 6 friends on FB. I have no other listed friends anywhere. (deactivated, deleted, or de-anything). Yet facebook counts my 6 friends as 46.

  • http://Fb Roy

    My wife’s list under info shows 69 friends but when you look at the actual list it only has 65 actual profiles, then on the bottom it says 65 of 66 friends. WHY? Anyone know??

  • http://Ssingh.com S Singh chuohan

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  • Mikey

    I deactivated my facebook account on 12/22. Why am I still getting friend requests and event invites. And why is my profile still visible to my friends?