8/26/08

Social Networks

I'm relatively new to FaceBook. I got a FaceBook account a few months ago in order to be able to download a song from a friend's band. (I had a Myspace account briefly for the same reason, but abandoned it after I started to get friend invitations from girls who only had first names.) Yeah, I felt that maybe I was too old for FaceBook.

I was, and am, surprised at what a time sync it can be. But, I generally check it out once or twice a day (early morning and then evening). And I am trying not to obsess with following every potential link to every comment or tag in a photo. On the other hand, it's an easy way to keep tabs on "friends" and I have found that some people prefer writing on "Walls" (which are pubic) to sending private email. I wonder if it is the feeling of community: we're all sitting around in the same coffee shop or family room and overhearing each other's conversations, etc.

I was thinking of these things when something from writer Kevin Kelly came up on my radar (news aggregator) screen. He talks about something he calls " Friendability." (I think there must be a better word. I'm trying to think of one that doesn't cause hurt feelings or insult.) He's asking the question, "Are all these 'friends' really friends?" Here's his breakdown:
  • Friend: Most of the people that Facebook calls "friends" I call Acquaintances.
  • Actual Friend: Someone whom I've had a meal with, or has visited my home.
  • Real Friend: Someone who would drive me to the airport at 6 am.
  • True Friend: Someone who would get me out of jail.

This all reminds me of a song or two from my formative years. The first, is a Simon and Garfunkel song, "Old Friends" (you can look up the lyrics in the Internet), about the old men they saw in NYC neighborhood parks. The song ends, "Old friends. Memory brushes the same years. Silently sharing the same fears."

It also reminds me of Harry Chapin's song, "Let Time Go Lightly," that has the bridge, "Old friends, they mean much more to me than the new friends, Cause they can see where you are, and they know where you've been." I have some old friends.

And, finally, I am reminded of the unattributed quote, "A good friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a body."

I actually have a few really good friends. And they know who they are.

A friend commented:
After reading your post, I first took the opportunity to invite you on Facebook. Then I wondered which type of "friends" we may be.

We never met, never had a phone talk, exchanged a few emails, chatted a few times, ... but we've been knowing each other for 15 years. We first became aware of each other back in the early 1990s, at the FWTK, Gauntlet and TIS days. Or let's say, that I learnt your name thanks to comments in the FWTK code and some of your security talks or presentations.

As of today,
  • are we "Friends"? yes for Facebook, but I agree that a better word is "Acquaintances"
  • are we "Actual Friends"? no, as we've neither had a meal together, nor has visited each other's home.
  • are we "Real Friends"? yes, according to the definition: I would be happy to drive you somewhere even at 6AM if you happen to come to visit Europe! I'd wake up even earlier, just for being able to meet you and chat.
  • are we "True Friends"? yes, according to the definition: I would be happy to do my best to get you out of jail (even though I hope you'll never be in such a situation)!
As I believe you expected me to say "no" to the 2 last questions, maybe a 5th category is missing. I am grateful for what you did, and your added value to the Internet and security communities.

So let's call that 5th category "fans" or "aficionados".

Best regards,
Well, Olivier, maybe "friends" is sufficient. :-)

2 comments:

Fred Avolio said...

I just read an interesting follow-on to this discussion at the BBC News Magazine on-line, at What's the ideal number of friends?

"Far-fetched it may be, but five close friends is about average."

Fred Avolio said...

A former business associate, Monique Elwell, blogged Why I Used to Hate Facebook.