The Rise and Fall of Friends

We have been transformed. We have been transformed from a culture of Leave it to Beaver, where friends were next door neighbors or maybe work or church associates, into a culture where “friend” is a status symbol peddled by the gazillion social networks. It’s not uncommon to hear someone at a tech conferenct like Blog World Expo, where I am for the next few days, or Web 2.0 Expo, where Ray is bringing us coverage, proclaim, I’ve got 3500 friends on Twitter or I capped out at 5000 friends on Facebook. They won’t let me add more.

Silliness, of course, and I’ve talked about it before.

Putting aside the cliché friends bit, social media has definitely altered the way humanity interacts with each other and it’s not at all a bad thing. Cultural divides are falling, business relationships are being built. Heck, people are even getting married because of Twitter.

I can’t help but think that there is somewhat of an ebb and flow that takes place and we are on a retreating slope. At the very core of our human existence, we want relationships. While the inundation of networking opportunities, associates or “friends” is satisfying in its own right, it challenges the ability for humans to have their most basic relational instinct satisfied.

The other night on The Aaron Brazell Show, I cornered guest Jim Long (a minor demigod on Twitter) about who his favorite people on Twitter were. I knew I sent him a curve ball and expected him to dance out by making a diplomatic statement like, “Everyone is my favorite” or “I don’t have one”. Instead, he noted that as the quantity of friends go up, it becomes increasingly difficult to “see” the people he loved to see.

In essence, he was stating that, though Twitter satisifed a communications need and a desire to be connected, the ability to “relate” was getting more lost.

On another episode of the Aaron Brazell Show, my friend Jessie Newburn talked about the ebb and flow of generations and how the 4-part cycle of generations demonstrated and ebb and flow of how things were done. In Generation X,  loosely disconnected from previous generations and went their own way, but that the Millennial (often incorrectly called Generation Y) generation has a tendency to regroup.

Sort of like social media. The influx of friends, the followers, the contacts, the blogs, the feeds, the networking opportunities, the parties, the conversations…. all relatively empty from a human instinct perspective. For my part, I’ve spent less time engaged in all these things and more time in one on one relationships. I haven’t read my Google Reader in over a month. I get on twitter and Friendfeed in small spurts. I don’t go to DC for as many social events as I used to.

However, my Twitter direct message box is full. My IM is going all day. My phone book is full.

It’s all about being personal?

Friends vs. Fans

I think that maybe we’ve done some serious harm to the concept of friends with all this social media stuff.


On Facebook, how many of your friends are really friends?

I have over 2000 followers on Twitter. How many of them know my real name without looking?

How many events do people with significant online personal brand go to where people know who they really are?

Or is brand all that really matters in friendship?

Is it more important to have presence? Or relationship?

What do we do off camera, and who really knows?

If a tree falls in the middle of the woods, and everyone sees the tree online, did it really happen?

Do you find more value in spending time with four people or forty?

What does technosailor mean to you? Aaron Brazell?

Food for thought. Questions to be answered. Have we hurt our human experience or helped?

La Intersección de los Círculos Sociales

¿Quiénes están incluidos en tus networks sociales? ¿Que criterio utilizas para incluirlos? El tema se puede poner de lo mas controversial. Hay personas cuya meta es tener la mayor cantidad de “amigos” en Facebook, por ejemplo. Otros hacen un esfuerzo por limitar su exposición en estos networks. Si la utilidad de un network social depende del número de conexiones que tengamos (y esto es debatible: cantidad vs. calidad), ¿en qué momento comienza a decrecer el beneficio que obtenemos?

Tenemos también el caso de nuestros amigos de la vida real y aquellos de nuestra vida online. ¿Como incluimos a un grupo dentro del otro? Si un amigo de la infancia quiere conectarse por Twitter, ¿como afecta nuestra relación si lo rechazamos? Es posible que no queramos mezclar un grupo con el otro, sin que esto signifique que nuestro nivel de amistad haya cambiado. Si eliminamos a un amigo de nuestra lista de Facebook (quizás porque nos manda muchas invitaciones del juego de los Zombies), esto no significa que seamos más o menos amigos… aunque mucha gente pueda tomárselo así.

Podemos dividir nuestras relaciones en varios círculos concéntricos: la familia, los amigos, los conocidos, los agentes (vendedores, repartidores, proveedores, etc). Pero también podemos tener círculos paralelos en la vida offline, en la vida online, en la oficina, etc. A veces estos círculos se conectan entre sí, a veces no. A medida que un mayor número de nuestros amigos comienza a utilizar herramientas sociales online, esta intersección se hace más evidente y más dificil de separar.

Tecnologías como OpenSocial, Plaxo Pulse, Facebook PlatformArchitecture, OpenID, etc. que prometen permitirnos interconectar nuestros networks sociales, ofrecen esperanzas de que algún día podremos mantener todas nuestras conexiones ordenadas, separadas e interconectadas a la vez. ¿Será 2008 el año?

Grokking What Makes People Tick via Skype

Total fun for a Friday. I’ve just realized that I have to laugh at people (including myself) when it comes to Mood Messages in IM. So in the spirit of good natured fun, let’s see what people are about via my Skype contact list (people online right now):