A few days ago Jason Falls published a post entitled “The Lie of Friendship“. I was actually quite saddened to read this post. I was saddened for a few reasons, firstly, I have, only in the past year started to discover the “Joy of Friendship”. Over the years I have had many many acquaintances, but very few friends. Those people, for a variety of reasons have entered my life, stayed a while and moved on. Recently I have been extremely lucky to find a growing number of more permanent friendships, ones that I have no doubt will endure the tests of time and distance.
Jason’s post implied that online friendships were shallow and for the most part pointless. That those friendships were more likely to drift and die.
When you’re out of sight and out of mind, you drift, as do they. If chance passings in the online realm don’t coincide just right, you lose touch, lose closeness and lose faith.
I think, with all due respect, Mr Falls is mistaken. I believe he is confusing friendship with networking. I believe Social Media platforms are to blame for this, with their use of appealing nomenclature for their networking capabilities.
Firstly, Facebook, with its “Friends”. Now you have to understand why Facebook calls them that. Originally the only users of Facebook were those with an academic email address. To sign up you had to have a .edu email address and therefore be at some kind of educational establishment. So there was a chance that you actually knew the people you were “friending”. Of course today that is not the case. I use Facebook as a networking tool. I make heavy use of its list feature and I categorize my network by my knowledge of the person. I find it an exceptionally useful tool. But I know who my friends are on there and I know who my network connections are.
Secondly, Twitter. Followers. I recently explained this concept to a client in the following way. Think of your car stereo, you are driving down the highway in search of some music, you hit the scan button and the radio automatically tunes to the next radio station. That is twitter. If you find a station you like you stop and listen. You aren’t actually “following” the person as much as you are tuning into their content. In the same way, they are not “Following” you, which has all kinds of stalker like connotations, as much as they are tuning into you.
Finally Linkedin, which to me is the only platform to use a label that is truly representative of Social Media/Social Networking, that of “Connection”. This is what we are building when we utilize Social Networks, a series of ever expanding connections. So to Jason’s point, would I expect any of the people I tune into on Twitter to come pick me up at the airport or any of the network connections on Facebook to do the same, no of course not. But I do have some friends that I know would do that in a hearbeat.
What do you feel about the terms we use in Social Media?