Friendship needs a new Definition

Posted: November 16, 2008 in Social Media
Tags: , ,

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship the past couple days. I feel this word really needs to be re-defined. This first came into my mind way back when I had a short conversation with Matthew Ebel about “digital circles”, basically meaning who you are connected to online via blog posts, twitter, Second Life, IM, etc. Then Kathleen Danielson came up with the great idea that you don’t actually consummate the friendship until you meet in real life.

So my question is simple. How do you define what a friend is? I know what my real life friends are. I see them, interact with them, go out with them, and share things with them. But how would you describe someone you interact with on various Social Media sites, who may even live in a different country, but you have never actually met. Surely this is different than a real life friend. You could call them an acquaintance, but that seems far to impersonal for the amount of interaction going on.

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below if you wish.

Next up: “Is Social Media like a Frat?”

  1. Ken says:

    This is something I’ve thought about a lot as I’ve been involved in social media for probably about 15 years, beginning with a very close-knit listserv built around fans of a specific band. Many of those folks have become good friends, some of them thru meetings. In my current position I use Facebook and Twitter, as well as email, to grow and maintain a community built around my radio station (WXPN) as well as my interest in music. I consider many of these folks to be friends and have carried on some rather intense and personal conversations that might not have happened face to face.

    I guess I would say that Social Media allows us to expand our true social network more easily and faster because we can let our guard down and talk to people we might never have met in the first place. You get to know them and in many cases make a determination as to whether or not you actually “like” the person. Then you make the next step of meeting them face to face, and, as Kathleen says, “consummate” that friendship.

    Online I’m a bit more gregarious and outgoing than I am in person. This makes the friendship process move more smoothly.

    I love when my online social network and real life social network collide. As a result, I have hundreds of those “small world” experiences. Gotta love social media.

  2. Brian Polensky says:

    Awesome reply. Thanks Ken!

  3. Robert Rowe says:

    I’m with Kathleen on the “consummated friend” thing. Even on Twitter, though, I have “friends”, and “people I follow” depending on how well I know them.
    People have gotten used to me referring to “My friends from Harrisburg” when I’m talking about people I’ve met through Twitter.

  4. A friend is someone you connect with. Plain and simple. I connect with lots of people via the internet. They are my friends.

    There IS something about face-to-face meeting, though, that will never be replaced by computers. Watching someone move (and smelling them, too, as long as we’re “going deep”) tells your subconscious things about them that makes you love them or dislike them more.

    I bonded more with Tracy and Melissa (tapps and meadowsling) in the past few days, while they were here, than in all the months I’ve spent chatting with them (although I’d hung out with them IRL before. But, you know.)

  5. Brian Polensky says:

    Great thoughts guys! Thank you very much.

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