Ever considered using Facebook to “Cultivate” your relationships?

I’m paying more attention to Facebook (FB) these days as I realize it’s an essential ingredient in not only staying connected with the people I’m close to, but also building an exploring all sorts of new relationships that could not exist without a medium like Facebook.

I now have 413 “friends” on FB.  Impressive huh?   Didn’t know I was so popular did you?  And the more popular I get, the more popular I get; I keep getting friend requests, and FB suggests people that I might want to friend.  So my tally grows and I am finding people from my past that I had even forgotten that I knew.  There is definitely some value to that.

Interesting thing though; as I start to get all of these friends, I became more sensitive to what I share with them … because … drum roll please:

They are not all my FRIENDS.

At least not in the way friends existed before there were online social networks.

So why do I have these people on my network in Facebook?  I’ve been thinking about that a lot and in effort to explore who these people are to me, I’ve been categorizing my “friends” into various lists or labels/categories that FB allows me to create.  So I’ve been going through my 413 buddies and putting them into my lists.

What occurred to me as I did this exercise is that FB and other social online networks allows us to visualize, categorize and therefore consciously “manage” the relationships in our lives.  FB allows me to see the choices I make about which relationships I choose to grow, which ones I choose to maintain for one reason or the other, and the ones I allow to exist for no other reason than I might choose to change their status in the future; for whatever reason.

It occurs to me how easy it is to grow any one relationship; that I could choose to grow any relationship if I choose to.  I could pick any one of my 413 friends and build a meaningful relationship, just by being in communication with that person.  Reminds me of the choice we all have about the friends we have in our daily lives, and whether or not we realize that we do have a choice in who we call our friends.

For the most part, my guess is that most of us do not actively manage our relationships, or as I prefer in the language of living life as a practice, most of us do not cultivate our relationships.   (The metaphor of relationships as plants in a garden is a good one I think because cultivating friendships takes similar effort and yields similar reward.  Lack of attention and care also yields commensurate results in gardening as well as in our lives.)

The quality of the people you have relationships with and the strength of those relationships are perhaps the best measure of the power you have to achieve, as well as the overall quality of your life.  Online social networks now offer a very basic way to visualize how well you are tending to your relationship garden(s).  I’m sure they will offer even more interesting ways to help you cultivate them in the future.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.