Saturday, August 25, 2007

If friends were only that easy to make

There is difference between companionship and friendship. This is especially true with social networks where friends are as easy to come as water in oceans. Under the all that veneer of choosing relationships, lies the (often) superficiality of online relationships.

Is that co-worker who you befriended really your friend and not the obnoxious jerk he is in real life?

Meg Pickard writes about the ‘one-size-fits-all’ friendship that is in vogue on social networking sites – Facebook, in Meg’s case.

The problem with Facebook, Meg thinks is this:
The trouble with Facebook is that it’s a confused social space. There are too many different facets of personality being exposed through social openness. So much so, in fact, that it gets a bit difficult to manage. For example, at present on Facebook, I have (among others) the following listed as “Friends”:
* My husband
* Several people I’ve known since I was 11
* College friends I haven’t talked to in 15 years
* My boss
* A couple of people from university I’d lost touch with
* Several people I know from t’internet, but haven’t met / don’t actually know
* A few people on a mailing list I belong to
* A handful of family members
* A few people who work for me
* At least one ex boyfriend
* People who I’ve seen around the office but never exchanged more than words of greeting with

While I obviously wouldn’t have connected with these people via Facebook if I hadn’t wanted to, it’s pushing the definition a bit to lump all of them together into the same bucket, labelled “friends”.

Why? Because most of them aren’t strictly friends (although they’re all lovely, obviously).

After mentioning the ‘eccentric fellow who keeps trying to befriend me and everyone out there’, Meg also offers suggestions:
1. The ability to add unfriends — the people I don’t know but may want to and vice versa, the people whose befriendings I’ve ignored because of the way Facebook works.

2. The ability to create personal-invite only groups and then be able to manage permissions etc. – Meg thinks Online Friendships should start with groups, under which users are able to group their friends and that ‘eccentric fellow’.

Jeff Jarvis also offers his suggestion on how to deal with the Friendship problem and this similar to Meg’s Group Solution.

Jeff wants Social Networking sites to give users tools to show ‘some folks some stuff and others other stuff and let us deal with that’.

Managing Friendships is a tough business in real life.
Managing Online Friendships has become all too algorithmic and only relentless self-promoters are enjoying the Million Friend Parade.

Check out Meg's writing on the issue in detail here, which is supported by great graphics.

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At 3:02 PM , Anonymous NakedBiff said...

Hi Pramit,

Love your thinking. I've only just found your blog (through Kent Newsome) but am four posts down on the first page and loving every bit. Your thoughts on friends, and the typical 'walled garden' social networks that dominate the web today are right on the nail.

I've been writing the Naked Yak for about eight weeks now and trying to pin down an idea called Open Messaging which should (in theory) solve the problems of closeness and intimacy in a large network (the kind of large network we're in the process of building at Naked). I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

So, for now, thanks for putting me on to some other great writers who are thinking along the same lines...and I'll see you soon in another comment box on the next post that makes me go "whoa!!!"



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