Knowing the difference between Friends & Networking

Knowing the difference between Friends & Networking

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?

image used under creative commons by basykes
About Simon Salt

Simon Salt has been creating online content since 1993 and blogging since 2000. He is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He can be found on most social networks as "incslinger". When he isn't working he is either taking photographs or riding his motorcycle - sometimes at the same time.

  • Annie

    We only connect through effort and how deep our connections become and with whom is entirely up to us.

    The trick is for people to know what tools are available to them and how to use them to connect more effectively!

    Good post. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kirsten Wright

    I couldn't agree more with you about how we equate friends in social media. The reality is that real friends, the ones you can talk to once a year and still be super close to are few and far between, but those are the friends that count. And those are the ones that you don't actually even need to be connected with on facebook to know that they are there. The other friends, the ones you know through social media and have met in person – those are acquaintances. If you disappeared for a few months, they would too. Then, there are the "friends" that are only virtual. Those are friends that only exist in the social media world and were you to disappear for a couple days, they might forget about you too. We need all three, but we need to know the difference

  • @LucretiaPruitt

    100% agreed. Some of the best friends I've ever had in my life are people I've met online. It's not the method of meeting someone that matters, it's the misuse of words that creates the confusion.

  • @tsudo

    It is an important distinction to understand but to say that online relationships aren't solid enough to become real friendships is a terrible lie.

    18 months ago we started a local tweetup in Little Rock and I cannot list the number of new true friends that I've made through Twitter & #LRtweetup. Yes we have real face-to-face meetups and impromptu lunches but it is even more so that we continually share our lives with one another on a daily basis.

    Example 1:
    This past year 2 couples experience the loss of a miscarriage: The outpouring of cards, flowers, notes, and calls astounded everyone. Beyond that several bloggers bared their soul by writing about their own experience. It became group therapy and created a very tight bond.

    Example 2:
    My wife and I were blessed with the birth of our 1st child a month ago. We had as many visitors at the hospital that we were friends with b/c of Twitter as we did from our own Church. In addition these people organized without our knowledge to bring us food for 6 weeks.

    I have been nothing short of amazed when I see the lasting bounds formed through this online community. When we are hurting, having bad days, need to share a biz plan, or need some help this community turns to one another.

    Invest in others and they become my family. (here's a post I wrote after they threw me a baby shower

  • Von Young

    Great Post! I agree heartily about online-friendships being useful and valid. I've personally made several good friends from online. People that would bend over backwards to help me. People who have and will open their homes to me if I'm in town, and people that we make a point to see each other in person once a year.

  • Heather Masson

    I use different social media sites for different purposes. I use facebook for friends and family, and now am starting to use it for biz purposes as well. Twitter is more for busniness than anything, in fact I don't think any of my in person friends or family even have a twitter account. Myspace is a place where I go to just be with friends, that is my private page, and I keep it that way.

    Yes I do think there is a huge difference – and I think we need to use them according to our own purpose. Great Post!