Sunday, May 04, 2008

Facebook "Friending" and Making Facebook Friends Real


How many of us remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? I never read the story when I was a kid, but someone gave me a copy some time ago, when I was going through a very hard time....

And a long time ago (or it seems that way) when I first started blogging, I wondered what it was with all these people who said they had made friends with other folks through their blogs....

It was then that I realized that some folks made casual acquaintances through their blogs, while other people made real and close friends through and with their blogs. Usually, the close friendships came from meeting other bloggers face-to-face.

That was the same thing that happened with groups of folks I knew from the NYT Film Forum. Our friendships were better once we met f2f as well....

Lately, I have received a number of "friend" requests on Facebook from people I don't know, but with whom I appear to have some common connections. Many of them I accept--in part because we have common friends, but also because these are interesting people who do not seem to pose any threat.

Although I do wonder about some of them, given how marketers are using Facebook as a "social marketing" tool. Individuals have businesses that they think I might be interested in hearing about, or they have books coming out and they think I might want to be part of their circle for promoting their books, or for any other reason that has nothing to do with knowing who I am as a person...

Basically, I am wondering if some of these people who are asking me to "friend" them are really interested in me in that capacity at some point--or am I only just someone for whom they believe should hear their "message" or get their book, or for some other reason that is connected mostly to marketing and less to knowing something about me...

Are some of us, then, just targets for "social" marketing on Facebook?

Now, I don't find social marketing all that annoying when someone invites me into a group, or even when an organization tries to "friend" me. In the case of organizations or products "friending" me, I know that this happens because, in Facebook, friend pages have better features than group pages, allow for more apps, and constitute another channel for people to find them.

But if someone's just asking to be my "friend" because they want to pitch me--well, I think of all those home-sales programs (you know the ones I'm talking about) where the reps always seem to want to be your friend, but only if you'll buy something from them. It's as if the friendship is conditional on the sale--which, outside of a retail establishment, this seems kind of strange. Retail gives that friend-sale thing something of a context: I see these people at "x" retailer because I like the product. We shoot the breeze because not only do I like the product, but they are people with whom I feel comfortable shooting the breeze. But if I am not in the retail atmosphere, and you're shooting the breeze with me because you want me to buy your product, and if I don't, then you turn away from me, I'm going to think you're a right phony....

So, here's an interesting little experiment: can I make someone who's a Facebook friend into a real friend? or at least someone who it might be nice to have a casual conversation with....and not because either of us wants something, or because it's some kind of professional thing...but just as two people...

Is this possible? or is it just another Internet illusion?

We'll see....

Update Jeff Jarvis has an interesting post on the ambient intimacy of Facebook and Twitter. I have to agree with Jeff that these two apps can help us keep in touch with people we don't see often, and even help us renew friendships with those that we might have lost for good if it weren't for them. But when someone out of the blue sends a "friend" request, can that new person become an actual friend? or is there another reason for the friending?

5 comments:

mike of concrete said...

This is coming from Facebook's recent new feature to compare people's friend lists and offering up "people you might know" based on common connections.

Some people like to have a lot of "friends," so they're probably choosing everyone that's offered.

Daniel said...

The question is a useful one. These social tools are too young to have fully evolved rules of etiquette, and finding the line between spam and significance is likely to be moving target.

Tish Grier said...

Mike...I noticed that new feature, and thought that might be part of it. So, I'm poking (in a non-facebook fashion) these peeps to see what's what. Because of that new feature, I will not be friending Mike Arrington, Steve Rubel, or Joseph Jaffe. Nothing personal, mind you. They're just not my friends, they're not even in my purview of acquaintances....

Daniel I totally agree. Hence, I like to push boundaries and test the waters out here when odd and overhyped things happen. It's always in my head to try to find the realities out here. Just my nature, I guess :-)

everythingcu said...

Tish - I think you'll LOVE this video - some Brits have made a video to show how ridiculous FB would be if it were acted out in real life. :)

But back to your point, I have made some great friends via social networking in general. And because now many of my friends are on all of: twitter/blogs/facebook/linkedin it's hard to say exactly through which medium they became my friends.... it's all a continuum now.

Tish Grier said...

Hi Morriss! Yes, I've seen that video :-)

But, I wonder if you and I are talking about something different. IMO, the word "acquaitance" is better for many of the "friends" I have on Facebook. Most are people who live far away, and I like keeping in touch with them, in the eventuality that we're in the same place at the same time. They are often business associates I happen to like. But they're not really going to know me in the sense that an in-town friend might. Even if I were using twitter--and I'm not sure I would use it all that much--I don't think we'd evolve into the type and kind of friend as are the folks I know f2f and see regularly--because we don't have consistent human component to our interaction.

The ones who have are ones I've not only met f2f but who I also keep in touch with via telephone. IMO, social media can form a continuum of noise and tidbits, but it's the eventual f2f that makes a person real.