Posted March 9, 2009 12:05 pm by with 4 comments

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We are sifting through mountains and mountains of information and data these days. There is more to look at and digest and analyze and consider and handshake-friend1ponder and complain about and on and on. Not only that but we now have so many friends that who has time for anything?

What you say? You still have the same amount of friends? What are you some kind of social media slacker? What’s that? Your definition of friend isn’t defined in terms of social media? What’s wrong with you?

The New York Times wonders aloud, and I think with good reason, what we are doing to the term friend. While this ‘debate’ has been whacked around by many it is one that is not likely to go away. The rapid rate of change in capabilities of Twitter, Facebook and every other social media outlet is changing our culture. But how and to what?

Facebook says it is the world’s largest social network, with 175 million members. But in the United States, most members are still relatively young; Facebook offers advertisers a target of 54.4 million members of all ages. But if an advertiser wants to narrow its target audience to those 25 or older, the number drops to 28.8 million. Narrow it to those 30 or older, and Facebook has 20.3 million to offer.

The US represents about 31% of the total users of Facebook but the numbers are heavily skewed toward younger people. Many people now simply do not share the same definition of a friend. What will that mean to society and marketers alike? Facebook does allow you to create subsets of friends so you can pay attention to your real friends and filter out your other friends. What does that even mean?

The reality is that not everyone is on Facebook even though it feels like it sometimes. That feeling is fairly dependent on either your age or your involvement in the Internet marketing industry. The definition of a friend now appears to be evolving or devolving depending on your point of view. Because the average person has 120 ‘friends’ on Facebook it is now impossible to truly interact with every friend. Is this good for us? I would like to know how many of these users are truly involved in the system or just signed up because they have been told to. It’s likely the number of actual users would be even more heavily skewed toward younger demographics.

The gist of the Times piece was that all of these people are ‘friends’ because they ‘know’ so much about us because all of the ‘privacy’ setting are defaulted to wide open. Facebook acknowledges that only about 20% of the people actually adjust those settings. Main reason is probably because they don’t realize they exist AND they don’t even have a fully developed sense of what privacy is.

This is such a big subject maybe the last line of the article says it best

When the distinction blurs between one’s few close friends and the many who are not, it seems pointless to distinguish between private and public.

Where’s your line? What is your distinction and why? C’mon and be a friend and tell us everything.

  • Dan

    Living in two worlds, one virtual the other in a land of flesh and bones. Sometimes I forget that when I meet a person in the “Real World” that it is the first time we have ever met. But we already know everything about each other from months or even years of virtual communication online.

  • Yep, this one gets the entire discussion: “When the distinction blurs between one’s few close friends and the many who are not, it seems pointless to distinguish between private and public.”

    I do have to say in Austin, I ran into a VP from a company wanted to work for in an elevator! I had not met him F2F but made an association with his Twitter mugshot.

    I’m kinda wacky with faces that way, but it sort of stunned us both. We had coffee scheduled for this week already, but had never exchanged more than a tweet or two.

    So some of the 1,000’s can be useful, and many of them not. It’s all in how REAL you are and how you GIVE BACK to the network.

    And then today I also had a good friend tell me I twittered too much and would be risking getting unFollowed. Oh boy. That’s rich. It was kind of outta the blue, like he was trying to help me.

    I let him have my primary advice to advice givers. Do what works for you.



    John McElhenney’s last blog’s 1-2-3 Guide To Twitter: GETTING REAL with TWITTER

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