28 Aug On online friendship
The notion of friendship, especially as it is embodied in most social computing applications is, to my mind, a little broken. This is usually because the friendship is binary in nature – either it is, or it isn’t. Sometimes this works. At other times, it bothers me.
On Facebook, someone is either your friend, or not. I think on something as rich as Facebook, where you can engage for hours, there needs to be greater granularity – so in order of most to least familiar, I’d like to be able to mark someone as family, friend, colleague or contact.
On Twitter, the distinction is less problematic. The continuous partial attention nature of Twitter and the lightweightness of it means that the follower/following notion just works.
On LinkedIn, you simply have contacts. For a business-centric tool like LinkedIn, the relationship is clear – this is someone you know professionally (most of the time). The only point it actually matters deeply is when you recommend someone or are recommended. Then what matters is the roles you filled and where. LinkedIn handles this more than adequately already.
Thus far, I sound like a little bit of a curmudgeon. Let me put the record straight. I absolutely love social computing for everything it lets me do.
I can meet (virtually) and work with people that were simply out of my reach less than five years ago. I have some very rich, professionally fulfilling relationships with some of these people despite never having met them face to face – something I hope to remedy next week at Office 2.0. I even call some of these people real friends.
I can maintain relationships with friends interstate and overseas that would be much more difficult without social computing. I can meet people that I might otherwise never encounter. This is incredibly exciting (and for a natural introvert like me, not a big hurdle).
I don’t tend to friend anyone that invites me, there usually has to be an existing link. That link could be an introduction through another friend or colleague, having met somewhere or being members of a community of some sort.
Like Anne, I’m not a gatherer of friends online. I have a circle of people that exist on all the social tools I use and others that appear on just one or two. Unfortunately there’s no easy way of coordinating that issue yet.
Over at Global Neighbourhoods, Shel Israel has posted his Facebook friends policy. It pretty much matches mine.