At the time of writing, I have 85 friends on Facebook. A good dozen or so are people I will likely never interact with again. Another dozen are people I’ve met once, maybe twice, and unless they’re also in LinkedIn with me, I doubt I’d even have their contact information. I’ve gotten friend requests from people I’ve truly never met, but we seem to have someone in common. So what exactly is it that makes us Friends?
A few weeks back, Dave Winer wrote a post that I very much agree with, complaining about the types of relationshps available when people befriend one another. My complaint is at a much more basic level – I don’t really like using the term ‘friend’ so casually.
In my world, a friend is someone I can call (or IM or text
or Twitter), in times both good and bad, and know they’ll be there to lend an ear. I mock Twitter above, and one of the reasons comes back down to my view of friendship – my friends know what I’m doing and don’t need to find out my updates from some Web site or service. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people I’m friendly with, but just because I’ve established a positive, non-stranger relationship doesn’t mean we are BFFs.
Clearly on the other side of the fence of this kind of topic is Robert Scoble, who is currently accepting friendships with anyone out there (for now). Again, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but it does make me crave a new word to use for contacts, acquaintances, associates, and other people I “know”.
I enjoy plenty of friendly relationships, and look forward to making many more in this journey called life. I hope for everyone’s sake that twenty years from now people seek more from each other than writing on walls, tagging photos, and the occasional poke. Well, that one’s not so bad now, is it?
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I think the point that a lot of the bloggers are missing about Facebook (and other social networks) is that not all “friends” are as tech savvy as they are or have as many multiple website profiles as they do. A site like Facebook, in my opinion, encourages people to stake a claim on the net and provides a mechanism for users to update all their close friends, acquaintances, and co-workers with their latest pics, videos, notes (w/ optional RSS feed blog entries), and profile updates. Facebook also gives users a window into their friends lives (i.e. personal interests, relationship status, upcoming events, work situation, work experience, etc.) at any given moment in single convenient location.
As for adding acquaintances along side real friends, I don’t think that it’s much of a problem. In fact, all of your friends at one point were acquaintances who later morphed into close friends. Plus, having the ability to join networks on Facebook gives you a key to people who you most likely wouldn’t have access to or known how to contact otherwise.
Damn – Hatr.com, HatrAid.com, and H8red.com have already registered. 😉
I wish my IM client gave me the ability to group folks by closeness (professional and/or friendship) and then to adjust my availability/visibility relative to those groups. Do any of the clients out there do that?
I also wish Facebook and LinkedIn would merge in some way. Though that probably wouldn’t have prevented Plaxo 3.0 deleting Yahoo email addresses this AM that it didn’t find in my LinkedIn account. Sigh.
We have people we refer to as “twitter friends” because they are friends of friends os maybe at first you only get 1/2 the conversation but then they seem interesting, so you follow them too. A couple I’ve actually met now and we’re connecting through LinkedIn and other methods. Call it virtual acquaintenship to friendship
Still on Twitter, Jeremy?
Isnt it time for you to “pounce” on “pownce”?
Daniel – good observation, the thing is I only have time to denigrate one silly service at a time…
Enjoyed your post on friendship, Jeremy.
You and your readers may want to take a look at this post on my blog: http://www.fracturedfriendships.com/blog/friendship-black-white-and-gray
Alexander has a fair point – I was just remarking to a friend today (and fellow grad student in Science & Technology Studies) that we’re all like electronic nomads – staking our claims in each new electronic oasis, hoping it will fulfill its promise (as we were connecting on pownce – in addition to every other site where we make our friendship official). But not everyone goes to every site and sets up their tent their – we do it to protect our “brand” and so we can get our preferred names on each service and be part of the scene – not particularly to meet people.