“Friends” on social networking sites

I was at a panel discussion the other night where the participants discussed the social networking phenomen. Andrew Weinrich, Founder and CEO, MeetMoi a mobile dating service caused quite a stir when he said that he manages his social networking quite carefully and would not accept just anyone that friended him. From Mr. Weinrich’s point-of-view, accepting everyone that “friended him would devalue his network. Eric Alterman, Founder and Chairman, KickApps seemed to be Mr. Weinrich’s counter-point for most of the evening and from his perspective it didn’t devalue his network and all depended on the context. More on the context in another post.

But all this got me thinking about the whole concept of a friend. A major practice of your life is cultivating your friends, your networks of support. Today on the popular sites, you have people who are categorized as friends but who are clearly not. Every week I have two or three requests from people that I don’t know requesting to be my friend. It’s like being 7 (or whatever age it was) years old again when this was a natural expression of creating our place in the world. It was a clean slate back then, cause we had no friends to start with. We were building from scratch and had little criteria for selecting friends.

Hey! He smiled at me. He must wanna be my friend.

Wanna be my friend?

Sure!

And the more friends you had the more of a person you were.

Hey, I’m cool look how many friends I have!

And then amazingly at some number of friends, even back then, you start to wield your friends as power. You started to not accept any old request, and you stopped making requests. People asked you, not the other way around.

This reminds me of a Seinfeld line where he describes the enthusiastic efforts of a guy who wanted to hang out with him. Seinfeld’s monologue of I have all the friends I need, and I’m not interviewing right now, still cracks me up.

Thanks, but I’m not interviewing right now. Perhaps I can create this response on my social network sites.

What does this mean on social network sites. Is it a complete mirror of our growth and development in real life. We’re creating our online identity (and many of us haven’t pegged our real life identity with the online one) and it’s looking like a similar development to our early school years through adulthood.

First we’ll be friends with everybody that wants to and then we start to become a bit more selective. I think Mr. Weinrich is correct. Blindly accepting everyone that asks into your network of friends, brings the value of your entire friends network down to it’s lowest common denominator. So I’m firmly in his camp of being selective of who I accept into my networks.

So what do you think?

Person Eric Alterman
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3 Responses to “Friends” on social networking sites

  1. Internet creates new space for social networking. And it might be different from your real life. You an re-create yourself in the Internet (your virtual identity). It is easy and fun (facebook, or myspace), and, for sure, can be serious. I would suggest that in contemporary society the whole concept of “friend” is changing. Mobility. I keep in touch with few of my best friend via email, social networks, and text messages (sometimes for months) and I don’t feel gap (meaning, you dont start from the very beginning) when we meet in persons. No doubts, I prefer to be selective while “adding new friend” (on facebook, for example). But I have few online friends with whom I have great conversations and I can easily “unfriend” those who became “dead souls” (and probably add me just to increase the number of their friend).

  2. While I understand your perspective, I think it’s being bitchy, shallow and “snubish”!
    I think we look at “friend” as one we can get something from (wealth, prestige, recognition/fame) and so determine if he/she can be on our “network” – BS! Aint no one can bring the “value of your entire friend network down to it’s lowest common denominator” but YOU!!

    However, for me, “friend” has deep meaning, so it takes me a VERY long time to consider one as such.

    Social networking sites are designed/categorized to request “friends” as it was the intention to include just that (eg. facebook). Be blessed my dear PG

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.