quickie: what’s a friend?

just a few quick thoughts here, inspired by my twitter friend todd. in his tweetings today and his most recent blog post, he talks about a social media tool called friendfeed.

“friend” is a word that’s used a lot in social media. often it’s just the name that you give a contact on whatever social media watercooler(s) you use. some people have 5,000+ friends, like geek guru robert scoble (and yes, i’m one of his twitter, um, friends.)

so we’re redefining the word friend. seriously. at least in the social media sphere and its circle of influence, which is pretty much everyone in north america, and a large portion of the population in other english-speaking countries, as well as western europe.

so what’s a friend? who’s a friend?

i count among my best and closest friends a woman about 2,000 kilometres from here whom i have never met in person.

a friend of mine calls someone a close friend who she grew up with and lived with for a while but now they both don’t take the time to contact each other at all; once every three years or so they run into each other and talk as if nothing had happened.

through blogging, i have made friends with people who otherwise i would have never met, even though they’re in vancouver. my life is richer for having met them.

someone else i know spends lots of time on internet forums; it’s 80% of her social life.

i have a friend who i’ve known and been close to since grade 1. the fact that most of our lives we’ve lived in different countries is unfortunate but doesn’t diminish our friendship.

on twitter, i follow about 300 people. are they all my friends? well, yes, in a way. but there are some whose tweets i follow more avidly than others. it’s hard to follow what 300 people do, and sometimes i wish there was some tier system. tier 1 could be, “a day without hearing from them is a bad day” and tier 10 “sure, i don’t mind hearing about you once in a while.” urgh, that sounds heavy.

but in a way we’re doing that for our non-online friends already anyway, right?

what do you think?

(this post was included in a LinkedIn carnival

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