I have a love/hate relationship with web-based social networking. This may sound funny coming from a regular Second Life user, but it’s true. The thing for me with social networking on the web is that I’m just young enough to see the potential and utility of it but also just old enough to eye it with a bit of skepticism (and I’ll leave it to you to guess my age, tyvm!). Of course, SL provided just the right amount of social interaction for me for quite some time. Then a friend talked me into getting a Facebook account to play the now-defunct Scrabulous. Then, of course, I got a Twitter account. Finally, Plurk rolled around and I got hooked. Where I’ve been active has often been an outgrowth of my second life and used as an opportunity to connect with friends I’ve made in-world. I found that being involved with these sites stretched my horizons and let me meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise; in short, I met some of my closest online friends through web-based social networking. And for a variety of reasons, I’ve mostly been taking a break from being active in my social media spaces.
Despite being mostly silent on my social networks these days, I do peek in on my accounts from time to time. But there were two interesting things I noticed in the past week that got me thinking about web-based social networking again. One was that even though it has been around for a while, all of the sudden everyone on Plurk was talking about the importance of claiming your name over on Avatars United. So, like a lemming, I decided to go and do the same thing. Then, someone else pasted a link to a blog about banning Fake Facebook Profiles, or, what appears should be named “Let’s ban Second Life avatars from Facebook.” But just what did you find interesting about these sites, Lanna? In one word: friends.
One of the things that I have found fascinating are the different approaches people take to adding friends on these sites; some take the word literally, while others appear to view it as a synonym for contact. At some point I will post about friending in Second Life, because I take a very different approach there. But for now, let’s talk about friending on web-based social networks. So I’ve been asking myself one simple question: Just whom do you call friend, friend? Read on after the jump to find out…
Here’s a bit of confession. Did you ever see the movie Super Size Me? In it, Morgan Spurlock sets out to see what would happen if he ate all he meals at McDonalds for thirty days. He only had two rules: All food must come from McDonalds and he must say yes if asked to supersize his meal. It is an interesting movie that is well worth watching.
I’m not sure why, but somehow, I decided to do something similar with my social networking experiences. If someone requested friendship – or even suggested that I add someone as a friend – I said yes. So when I start on a social networking site, I tend to friend about 20-30 people that I know somehow and then sit back and see what happens. Now I’ve not done this to simply accumulate friends as many friends as possible, that would require more active work on my part. I like to think of it more as mingling at a cocktail party and, over time, has resulted in meeting lots of people. There have been times where I’ve regretted the noisiness that results from this approach, but it has also led to meeting some wonderful people I might not have otherwise encountered. What’s more, I have also realized that no matter the size of your friends list, on most networks it is a small group of people with whom you have regular interactions.
As time has gone on, I’ve realized that it isn’t so the quantity or quality of friends you have on social networking sites, but what you choose to do with them. Now, given my Super Size Me approach to friending, I don’t expect all the people on my friends list to actually be my friend; I save that distinction for a much smaller group of people. But there have been times where I’ve taken the time to get to know people through those sites. Part of the process of getting to know them depends upon taking the time to see what they’ve posted about themselves and the other part has to do with how you interact. Conversely, I assume these people look at what I’ve posted and make decisions about getting to know me. Toward that end, I post a link to this blog and the same little blurb about me: “Second Life resident, pathologically curious, curiously nice and a nice wise ass.” It is my little attempt at telling people something about whom they are friending and what they might expect.
Between the Super Size Me gorging that seems to be going on Avatars United and efforts to rid Facebook of Second Life avatars, I started thinking about my own expectations for friends on social networking sites. I’m guessing there was some sort of negative experience with a Facebook friend who turned out to be pseudononymous avatar that got Lucifer Midnight to start the Fake Facebook Profiles blog (and lets leave out the ironic fact that he is also driving this pseudononymously). He is correct in pointing out that it is a violation of the Facebook Terms of Service, of course, but I can’t believe someone wants be that officious without some personal reason driving him. (And, of course, by bringing attention to myself through this post, I’m sure that I’ll be seeing my name on that list shortly, but I’m not going to be losing sleep over that.) Sure, I’ll add someone as a contact to my Friends list rather easily, but like any relationship of value, I take my time and build up a history based on mutual interaction with a person before I begin to consider them a friend.
So my questions of you, how do you add someone to your Friends lists? And at what point do you consider them a friend?