Sunday, February 1, 2009

How Many Friends Do We Need Anyway?

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Holly, a contestant winner of “Almighty” on a local radio station. She had to undertake a number of tasks to collect $25,000. One of her tasks was to eliminate over 360 friends from her friends list on the social network Facebook and reduce it down to 20. She did it, but at what cost? She got $1,000 to do this task, making her deleted friends worth less than $3.00 each. The question is whether she will keep her friends’ list to the few “real” friends.

This got me thinking: how many friends do we need anyway? People join numerous social networks, Myspace, Facebook, WAYN, and Second Life, to name a few.

I’m not immune to this internet phenomenon, I have a Facebook account, two blogs, and a Twitter account. I’ve helped create Facebook profiles for the techno challenged, and have watched them take baby steps and then leaps and bounds adding friends, applications, photos, all with great confidence. I started my Facebook profile initially to keep in contact with my family members in other cities, and that opened the floodgates to others, long lost friends, old classmates, recent friends and just random people. When I began using Facebook, I made a mental note to myself to keep my friends list to 100 but it is getting increasingly difficult to adhere to it.

I think I need to establish a set of social network friends criteria. Do I set a limit on how large my friends list should be? Do I eliminate people I’ve accepted as friends when more desirable friends ask me to be their friend, and what about family: are they friends for life? Should I explain to friends I’m considering deleting what I’m about to do to them? How do I explain it? How would I characterize and streamline my friends? Should I keep those who are in contact with me on a regular basis, those who seem interested in me personally? What about people who just like to be my friend but never ask me how I am doing, or express any interest after the initial contact? Most of all, in my effort to connect with my friends, my pet peeve is people who don’t answer emails. How many chances do I give them to answer my email before deleting them from my friends list?

What about me? Am I a good friend? I think so. I take interest in my friends, inquiring about their wellbeing, commenting on their wall, emailing them occasionally. But honestly, not all the time. What is the social network friendship protocol? Are these networks really about collecting as many friends as you can? Do they or don’t they operate on the same social rules as “real life” friends? Do other social networks operate on a different basis?

Follow. My new interest is Twitter. I see Twitter surpassing other social networks because it does not require much effort and it is satisfies our need for immediate results. It lets us connect with people who have the same interests, check out their blogs or websites, easy.

It is about networking in a real sense. (see stephen Fry) People you connect with are not called “friends” but rather the relationship is defined as “followers” and “followed.” So what are the rules for relating to your followers? Or those you are following? It can seem like a kind of friendly stalking, but with the consent of the stalked. Or it is possible to remain a “lurker.” Maybe these relationships are more similar to business acquaintance and the more followers the better.

I’ve noticed people can have anywhere in the tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. How do they keep up? Or do they? Do they have an obligation to keep up? The traffic must be an amazing tool for businesses.

Indeed, the world is flat.

How does our affiliation on social networks define who we are?
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1 comment:

Carol Omer said...

Yes, you are a good friend Angelina!

Great discussion...it reminds me of how I did not get a mobile phone for years and was very happy without one...now my address book has loads of numbers and it has become an extension of my every day interconnectivity.

Someone deleted their facebook account recently and thus my 'friends' list dropped one...took me ages to work out who it was and only happened when I tried to contact her.

We live in times a looong way from pen friends and weeks in between letters!

Carol

XX

Going away to places that have no phone reach and leaving the computer behind was a great way to 'detox' from all this technoelectricity filling our cells!

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