OMG! are you my REAL friend or my Facebook Fair Weather Friend or?

As Facebook continues to rock the digital personality and social networking landscape I’m starting to build up my Facebook friends list and planning to develop some travel based communities using Facebook at the social networking platform.

However I’m somewhat frustrated with what appear to be dramatically different definitions of the word “friend”. Facebook emails to “add friends” make it seem like you should have a real “relationship” with the person before you add them even though this approach seems to be breaking down quickly as Facebook use, abuse, and social networking explodes.

Robert Scoble to the rescue with a great definition of “friend” over at his blog – here was our exchange over there:

  1. Robert what’s the appropriate way to define “friend”. I have been confused about adding people to facebook thinking Facebook seems to want me to really “know them” to add them though I already have some folks on there I have not met. I’d say the more the merrier, but that will get out of hand quickly.

    What is your rule for adding friends?
    Comment by JoeDuck — July 25, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  2. Joe: in social networks a “friend” is someone you want in your network. No more, no less.

    If you try to limit it to “real friends” you’ll be missing a lot of the power of these things.

    I wish they’d stop calling these things “friends,” by the way. Twitter has done just that. People in Twitter are “followers” for people who watch you and “following” for people you are watching. Much better name for these things.

Thanks Robert – excellent!

I think Robert’s definition has several advantages, most notably it encourages people to have *more* people who they call friend.  I see this as practical, fun, and a small step towards the elusive goal of more global friendship.

Hey – did you just read this?   We’re friends so feel free to send me an add request to Facebook.    Do you blog travel or your local region?    PLEASE help build a network of regional blogging travel enthusiasts to rule the travel world!

4 thoughts on “OMG! are you my REAL friend or my Facebook Fair Weather Friend or?

  1. Perhaps you could briefly mention in what manner Facebook is making such great strides as opposed to the performance of other social networks? Name recognition? Organization? Interface?

  2. FG – Although MySpace is still much larger community than Facebook these things are notable:

    Facebook is growing faster than other major communities
    Facebook’s user interface is easy to use yet it’s far more “elegant”, organized, and professional than Myspace’s interface.
    Most importantly, Facebook is providing a robust set of APIs (program interfaces) that allow developers to basically create their own communities on top of Facebook. Community is the new cornerstone of web success for good reason – the internet has always been about people, not about technology . As sites like Facebook tear down technological barriers to adoption we are seeing a second explosion of interest in the online world – this will end with pretty much every person on earth having an online presence of some type (everyone who is free to choose that is).

  3. In many situations the ability of users to do it themselves rather than wait for ‘new releases from the vendor’ has turned out to be better. Even if its going to take the services of a programmer some new feature coming from users often proves better than waiting for a vendor to issue an updated version of the program.

    Ofcourse the best thing is to have the ordinary user able to easily create the program on the fly!

    Whether its “people not technology” or “information not technology” remains to be seen but the essential point is that the technology should be transparent. Users say “channel 2” not “channel 02”, but TV remotes often insist upon “02”.

    I don’t know why its “more elegant, organized and professional” but that seems to be a good thing. Often the original innovator executes something poorly and initial growth is based on being the only player. I wonder if some of this is ‘hype’. Facebook originally concentrated on students, I believe, and as students graduate into the real world, they use the software they are familiar with. That is why large vendors give schools free software and banks give students teaser credit cards. If a commentator says the “look and feel” is more elegant, do users start to believe that or does it really have to be more elegant for the growth to take place?
    How many social networks will there be? Is there a finite limit? How about a finite limit to coffee vendors in Seattle? Or are ‘social networks’ going to become “mashups” of an underlying identity-server: so that Facebook will merely serve one of your selected personnas?

  4. FG your questions about “how many social networks will there be” is very important. Ideally I’d say we’d have *ONE* social network which would include everybody on earth and then slice and dice our interests, friends, niches, etc however we see fit. This is the goal of many though it’s not clear if a private entity like Facebook can take this on without creating troubles because they are a profit entity and thus might have to compromise some user goodness in exchange for cash.

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