Social networking has changed the face of communication forever.
Before the internet landed with a thump on to our desks, we interacted with people a lot differently to the way we do now.
Instead of losing contact with vague colleagues who you wouldn’t usually pass the time of day with once you have moved on from a role, it’s now considered perfectly normal to ‘poke’ them on Facebook, share embarrassing photos of your kids or dog through Instagram, and read all about their latest holiday when they Tweet from Barbados.
You Have Far Too Many So-Called Friends
There’s an odd kind of kudos about racking up a huge number of ‘friends’ in social networking sites.
As soon as we join a site like Facebook, we’re encouraged to hook up and befriend people whom we haven’t seen for years who just happen to be linked to our real circle of friends. This means that before we know it, our status updates, photos and stories are getting shared not just with the people we care about, but also random semi-strangers whom we may have once seen across a crowded pub, or complete strangers who are getting linked up because they happen to share the same surname.
Lose Connection With Your Real Friends
There’s nothing wrong with this, in the fact that it lets us have a way of broadening our network online.
However, have you noticed how, the more friends you accept on sites like Facebook, the more the messages from people you really do want to hear from and keep in touch with get distilled?
For example, I may have to wade through eight or nine updates from people I haven’t ever met or don’t remember meeting these days, in order to get to a message from someone I’m really interested in.
It seems as if all of the things which sites such as Facebook and Twitter were originally meant for; a clear and quick way of communicating with people whom we know, is gradually lessening. Instead we’re part of a huge online community of near-strangers with whom we are sharing sometimes personal aspects of our life, and business.
I think it’s important to sit back from time to time and assess what we want from our social networking.
For me, sites such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter all serve a similar purpose. They have two important functions – to keep in touch with people I like, am interested in, and may be interested in me.
Secondly, they are all really valid ways of promoting my business, making connections with people I can learn from, and maintaining great communications channels with my customers.
Last week, I revisited my list of friends and removed most of the people I’ve fallen in to following by accident. People that I haven’t ever met, and aren’t likely to meet, are better off being unfollowed in favour of my customers, friends and peers in my industry.
That way, instead of going through my status updates and deleting messages about joining Farmville or seeing the latest update from Embarrassing Nightclub Photo of the Week, I’ll be much more likely to see and respond quickly to messages from my real social circle, and the customers I want to support.
This decision to cut down on my network is nothing personal at all – it’s just that I have a sneaking worry that if I don’t take action soon to make sure my social network is actually formed by people who form my social network, I’ll get so swamped in random updates that I won’t gain any value from my online community anymore!
It comes down to the nature of a ‘friend’.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a friend as ‘A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection’. For me, I like to think that as well as family and peers, it also includes my customers. The next time I’m invited to befriend someone that I have never heard of because we share a name, or link with someone who knew someone who knew someone that I may have known long ago but don’t remember, I’m going to revisit this definition and politely, but resolutely, decline!
What’s your view?
Do you only follow real friends or just about anyone?
Please share your views in the comments below.