Slicing Friends 1

(January 07, 2008) The commoditization of friendship is just the next step in the development of prime real estate on the word wide web. Do you remember when ‘community’ meant a place with buildings and people or at least a sense of belonging? Can you recall talent pipelines full of people not data?

Language has not kept pace with the changes that come from and through technology.  The relentless marketing machine dumbs down experience in order to standardize terminology. It’s how strip mining works in cyberspace.

You might trace it back to the Clintons. Remember “Friends of Bill”? That was the term of endearment for the world’s largest (at the time) political Rolodex. Friends of Bill paid small fortunes to attend  Renaissance Weekends. Being a friend, in theis context, was more important than actually knowing Mr. Clinton.

Recently, I asked a fellow who I’ve met a couple of times, swapped email with a couple of times and am generally aware of in the industry to be my friend on Facebook.

He said:

Hey John,are we “friends” ?i know we “know” of each other virtually … but i was actually going to try and limit my facebook to people I actually converse with 1:1
wanna start that ?

I replied

I went to bed wondering about the same thing last night. I really value words/concepts like friend, network and community. They are getting sliced really thin. Community means mailing list. Network means database. Friend means record.I don’t particularly like it.Have you noticed, though, that there’s an interesting new category? I think of it as people who are aware of each other and should be friends?

If we needed to talk to each other, we just would. No intermediaries or networking required.

That’s what I meant when I sent you the invite on Facebook. We’ve known of each other a long time and would most likely pick up the phone if the other called. The difference is as simple as I’m responding to your concern rather than going “okay” and hitting the enter button.

That may be too thinly sliced for your tastes.

If I’m beyond your cutline, that makes perfect sense to me.

However you decide, it might be interesting for us to have a deeper conversation about the implications and limits of friendship online in various settings.

Is one setting different from another in Profound ways? (Can you have 89 Million connections on Linked in and 3 friends on Facebook with a straight face? Why?

Do the differences in setting make a difference in Recruiting technique, reach or research results?

Like that.

Thanks for provoking my thinking another notch and good luck.

What do you think?

John Sumser. – © 2008 Two Color Hat, Inc. Santa Rosa, CA


  1. Hi John,

    Great discussion topic. I’m receiving your daily feed and really enjoy your public journals. These latest submissions about Social Networking have really caught my interest. And I’d love to share some feedback about my own personal experience. BTW, this is simply a brain dump. I’m really not sure that I have decided what these new dimensions of relationships really mean to me. The verdict is still out.

    Have I been eating the same cheese for too long? I feel like I am relearning what friendship means and its new meaning seems to be directly proportionate to the leverage I have within my professional life. Today, in a world of fast-tech information sharing, friend has transformed into a digital stream of composed imagery that is portrayed via electronic imprints. Meaning, I can “create” an impression of my existence by simply deciding who I “connect” with and how I deliver my presence within online relationships. Also, these friendships seemed to be loosely bound and can be reversed by “dropping a connection” with a friend. Friends can be turned off just as quickly as they are turned on. For me, this truly redefines the word friend.

    I recently reentered Recruiting after taking several years to explore other interests in technology. I came back carrying all the baggage I left with 4 years ago. I say baggage, but I should really call it garbage. Why? Because the landscape had completely reshaped itself and I was hanging on to the behaviors of the early turn of the 21st century. My strengths in recruiting had become my greatest weaknesses. The world had definitely moved on and I needed to open up my eyes to the new economy.

    News Flash (for me) – Cold calling (sourcing) over the phone is out. Casual and professional networking with “friends” is in. Social software will define my “rolodex” as time goes on.

    So now, I’ve stopped saying, “Building relationships one candidate at a time”. And now I’m saying, “Building relationships one network at a time”. My recruiting pipeline is no longer about “who is interviewing right now”. I now define my recruiting pipeline by my exposure level within all the social media outlets. So my recruiting report to my CEO would be something like: FaceBook 18 Connections, LinkedIn 257 Connections, Ryze 45 Connections, etc…. I’m kidding, but only for the moment. I predict that in the near future this type of exposure within social networks will be a gage of whether or not I am a credible resource for candidates. And whether or not I eat Macaroni & Cheese or Prime Rib in five years from now 🙂

    Yes John, “friend” is a word with a new definition. And from the research I’ve done, this redefining of relationships is an epidemic. It has made its way into virtually all walks of life.

    You’re not alone. My “friends” and I are all experiencing the same changes 🙂

    ~ Jesse

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