What does it mean to be a friend nowadays?

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The guys at BlogWorld 2007. acnatta/FlickrI’ve been lucky to meet a lot of people over the years.

A lot of chance meetings have turned into an incredible group of acquaintances, especially from my trips outside of the Southeastern U.S. in recent years.

Many of those have turned into friendships thanks in part to the ability to start a conversation with them whenever I wanted to via online tools like Facebook and Twitter.

One thing I’ve noticed recently is how some people tend to remain acquaintances online yet think they know everything going on in my life due to those nearly hourly social network updates. It’s something I think about often – from both sides of the issue.

Now, I even included a lifestream on the redesign of this blog a few months back so that folks who aren’t as addicted to those things but who came by to visit every once in a while could see those even though I know they’re still only getting a glimpse of what’s actually happening.

I decided to post a status update about my feelings after a particular interaction with a Facebook friend offline to Facebook:

Facebook friendship question

The comments (if you’re on Facebook, you get to take a look) were quite varied and it made me happy that I got to have an in depth continuing dialogue about this issue with folks online.

One thing that many people still need to remember though is we’re only getting that glimpse of a person’s life. It appears that we’re OK with being guarded about our lives – unless we’re sharing with our closest friends. Many still feel that there’s not a really good solution to replace actual conversations with folks offline (and I tend to agree).

Those statements normally lead to what can become an extended conversation about what it truly means to be a friend nowadays and if the word has lost some meaning because of how it’s been applied in social networks.

People still friend businesses – and businesses continue to create friend accounts even though Fan Pages exist – and Facebook has become a tool for business even though it was designed to help friends in college stay connected as a way to ensure its long term survival.

We’re still afraid of just how secure our communications are with folks in the system.

The flip side of that argument is just as interesting; I assume that everyone reads every one of my personal blog postsand the articles in b-metro (meaning I still get upset occasionally when someone who I’d hoped read the piece tells me they hadn’t really looked at the site in a while). I’ve learned that its an unfair expectation but one that many people actually have. After all, that approach tends to govern all of our interaction online, doesn’t it?

I did notice that people saw Facebook as a public venue and that some did not necessarily share as much as they would with their friends offline. That was fine by me since that was the point I was trying to get across, but it did finally get me to stop and take the 30,000 square foot view.

Facebook question summary

It sounds to me like the idea of maintaining this digital outpost is one that still makes sense since I can lock down sections and provide access to those I consider my closest friends whenever I want.

I did find it interesting that we still need to put up guards even though we’re supposed to be talking to our friends. I find it weird but comforting that whether you live in a city of 100,000 or 1 million, there’s still a small group of people that you consider truly close. It’s got me wondering if being a friend in the online world we live in changes things…

I also realized that I don’t talk to Albert Maruggi nearly as much as I need too…

What does it mean to be a friend nowadays?

Photo: The guys at BlogWorld 2007. acnatta/Flickr

2 comments
Andre Natta
Andre Natta

There never does seem to be much time at all, does it? As long as I remember that it's supposed to be fun and engaging I hope I never forget to cherish every moment possible...

Thank you!

Albert_Maruggi
Albert_Maruggi

Andre you know what this whole exchange has highlighted for me? Life is way too short. When you realize the joy of meeting and exchanging ideas with people, there simply is not enough time. I'm not talking about business, or the egosphere, or the Retweetability of anything. Just the raw ingredients of what it means to be social online. That's special.

Thanks.