Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Friend is a Friend - but...

The lyrics of this lesser-known, but great Pete Townshend song keep running through my head practically every time I use any web site with any form of "friends" community... (doesn't hurt that it's on my ipod at the moment)...
"When eyes met in silence - a pact can be made"

I visit facebook after a few weeks' absence, and see that I have 6 or 7 new friend invitations. Of course, human nature strikes first - and I think "yay!" - and then I see that I only actually really know a couple of them... so I quickly accept those and then click on the names of the others to jog my memory - clearly I must know them, but just don't remember... let's see
"A lifelong alliance - that won't be betrayed"

This first person's name actually sounds familiar, and we do apparently have 3 friends in common - hmmm... two of whom are popular bloggers with, in one case, 5,000 friends (I think I just saw the facebook friends limit)... so now I notice that this 'friend to be' of mine has 2,300 friends himself...
"A friend is a friend - nothing can change that"

...and so, clearly this person really is depending on my friendship ;) - so I accept (for the first time, actually giving in to becoming friends with someone blindly - unless my memory is really failing me here and I actually was roommates with this person in college or something). Hey - a new "friend" - what could be bad about that.
"Arguments, squabbles - can't break the contract..."

Then I look at the profiles of some of these other friend invitations - hey, they're pretty friendful too... 1800, 1300, etc... is that good or bad? Clearly some of those hundreds of electronic friends are actually friends - but can they tell the difference anymore?
"...that each of you makes - to the death to the end"

And now I feel compelled to look at my own profile. 131 friends. huh. Is that too few? or is it too many? I remember a while back, when I stumbled upon my proile page on YouTube, it boldly announced back to me in something close to a 24-pt font,
"You Have No Friends".

I stared at that message for a while and really contemplated it with an ever so slightly broken spirit (drama: mine)... thinking about my friends... Luckily, I was able to conjure up a few real friends at the time and closed that window with a slightly higher velocity, middle-finger click. Interesting that when I went back to find that message again (wish I got a screen shot), it was no longer there... even though I still have no YouTube Friends...
"Deliver your future - into the hands of your friend"

So, I'm sure, as I know you are too, that online friends are a mix of offline-online friends and online-only friends... but I'm also wondering to what extent the simple peer pressure to have lots of friends has driven the activity - the compulsion - to connect to people online. Clearly there is monetary motivation for bloggers and recruiters. Fair. But for the rest of us - once you go beyond your "real" friends and acquaintances - and start inviting - or accepting - online friends... what's the motivation? Is the usefulness of that action becoming diluted - and will we reverse the process eventually - where everyone online is everyone's friend - and then the compulsive action can be to trim down the list to the smallest possible list of true friends.

In the real world - when my laptop is off - YouTube(0) isn't right, but it is closer to the truth than Facebook(131)... Being a good friend to a dozen or so people is plenty if they really are friends.

"A friend is a Friend - nothing can change that" - Pete Townshend

1 comment:

Bryan said...

On a related note (of sorts) Blogger just rolled out some new features including some "social networking" stuff...