On online friendship | acidlabs
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On online friendship

On online friendship

Spike and Jack by ninahale - http://www.flickr.com/photos/94693506@N00/1252171932/

Steve Rubel and my Web Worker Daily colleague and friend, Anne Zelenka have both written particularly eloquent posts on the nature of online friendships.

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.

In taking a look at the social networks I use with any regularity – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – one of these presents me with issues, the other two don’t.

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.

Stephen Collins
No Comments
  • elsua: The Knowledge Management Blog
    Posted at 23:17h, 28 August Reply

    Friendships in the Connected Age: High Quantity AND Higher Quality – It’s All about Trust!…

    Here is my take on Steve Rubel’s recent weblog post “The Web Changes How We Define Friendship”, where I am mentioning that it is not all about quantity or quality of friendships, but more than anything else about the effort you put into it through b…

  • E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez » Blog Archive » Friendships in the Connected Age: High Quantity AND Higher Quality - It’s All about Trust!
    Posted at 23:19h, 28 August Reply

    […] I am sure that by now a whole bunch of people out there in the blogosphere have been commenting around one fine weblog post put together by Steve Rubel under the title The Web Changes How We Define Friendship. I am not going to link to each and everyone of those different entries. Not to worry. However, I am certainly going to link to a few of the folks that I have been reading for a long while now, as they are all adding some really good insights that I think you would find interesting and worth while a read. So here they are: Stowe Boyd, Anne Truitt Zelenka, Matt Hodgson and Stephen Collins. […]

  • Nina Hale
    Posted at 00:31h, 30 August Reply

    Your “office 2.0” terminology is great, in this age where avatars who have never met in RL are getting married on Second Life, all previous notions of relationships are shattering. Just as you can develop strong friendships with colleagues whom you would never have become friends with outside the office, so you can also create strong bonds with people you have never physically met. Office friendships are often based upon mutual respect and collaboration rather than political or recreational commonalities. I joke that I am determined to succeed on LinkedIn where I failed miserably on Friendster, but grow weary of people pursuing connections for the notches on their belts.

  • Gary Barber
    Posted at 01:49h, 16 September Reply

    Its funny but SNS like linkedin do tend to lend themselves to belt notching by some people.

    Still after all that I can’t really get the concept of friending people that I haven’t met of at least conversed with at length online. The MySpace collections of friends at any cost is a little surreal to me. Guess I’m just a little out of it, eh!

    However Twitter on the other hand allows a degree on personalisation, like you have been allowed into a segment of the personal life of the people you are following. This is even more so if the feed is private. This means acceptance implies a degree of a certain level of trust.

    But like and unlike in real world situations you can have people having misunderstandings leading to people being upset. Often just blocking or stunning the other parties. Socially face to face this would often be resolved. In the virtual world it can spill over into years of segmentation.

  • Chris G
    Posted at 06:20h, 31 August Reply

    Fun to find these posts that are a few years old and see all the changes. Facebook has grown so much and the capabilities are endless and Twitter has become a mainstay for marketers.

    • Stephen Collins
      Posted at 06:25h, 31 August Reply

      More interesting, Chris, is that my view pretty much hasn’t changed.

      I don’t automatically friend back, I try to meet anyone it physically possible for me to do so when I can and I do look for some for of existing personal or shared interest relationship before I will reciprocate a connection.

  • Chris G
    Posted at 06:28h, 31 August Reply

    I have changed big time, but I agree with you in keeping the social places just that, social. Don’t try to sell me anything unless it is your brand making my experience better.

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