Are you a friend, or just “friended?”

Today I was thinking about an interview I heard on NPR recently on social media networking. They were talking about an unfortunate incident that happened on Facebook, I think. Apparently, a woman wrote to indicate that she was considering suicide. She did. Afterwards, there was an investigation that included asking her Facebook friends why they did nothing. They said things like “I didn’t know if she thought of me as a real friend.”  and “I don’t really know her.” and “I didn’t know what I could do.”  It leads to some very pressing questions about what all this social networking really means, doesn’t it?

But, for today, it struck me that there is also a difference in our face-to-face world between being a friend and being “friended.”  Questions, then:

  • Are we friended because we joined a staff?
  • Are we friended when we join an association?
  • Are we, sort of, friended when we arrive in a family?
  • Are we just friended when we want people to like us more than we first take the time to discern if we like them?
  • Do people stay in relationships past their stale date because they don’t want to be “unfriended?”

And, the bigger questions:

  • What is our responsibility to the friended?
  • How is that different from our responsibilities to our friends?
  • Is it ever appropriate to be less than civil to either?
  • How do we transition from friended to friend status in real life?

I’m really interested in your thoughts about this because it is a truly important question in this social media world.  One thing I’m sure of, Facebook is no different than actual face-to-face networking. In the real world, it is not whoever leaves with the most cards from a networking event is the most successful. On Facebook, it is not whoever has the most friends wins.

I think there has to be a real distinction between the social aspects of Facebook interaction and the business side of things. If you aggregate large numbers of friends because you think you want to tell them what you’re eating--three meals a day, I suggest you may have too much time on your hands. If you simply share the most divine meal ever with them, you’re letting them into your world.  If you are just attracted by large numbers you can tell the world you have on Facebook, then, you’re on your own.

You can invite your friends to know about you, what truly drives your bus, floats your boat, and flips your skirt. That’s creating relationship. However, if you are using your “friendeds” as only potential folks to market to, the place to do that is  through a Fan/Like/or “whatever they are calling it in the strangely morphing world of Facebook” page.  That’s where people have raised their hands to say that they are interested in what you do in your business life. Just because you friend them doesn’t mean they want to be solicited, marketed or sold to. Of course, occasionally telling all your folks about what’s happening in your life, including your business,  that really excites, thrills or inspires you is simply letting them into your world. My words here are simply to invite us all to be conscious of what we’re actually doing…and why.

So, maybe that’s where things went terribly wrong for that woman who tried to tell the world she was in pain and wanting to leave. She had a whole lot of “friendeds” and no friends.  It’s certainly food for thought!

I’m going to think more about the questions and get back to you.  I hope you’ll come along to my page on Facebook and continue the dialogue there:

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  1. Elaine Bullin - Reply

    I am beyond words as to way no one stepped up to help this woman. Appalling to hear. People really must be in their own selfish worlds. But we see this all the time on TV and in the news. Someone witnesses something and will not speak up.
    Sad, so sad…

  2. @CoachLaura - Reply

    What an unfortunate situation. Though this woman was crying for help on social media, I don’t think any of her facebook connections are responsible for her ultimate demise. Though you bring up an interesting point, the term “friend” on facebook where someone has reached out to others he/she does not know, does not mean good friend and probably not even acquaintance. I’ve come to like LinkedIn’s term “connection” better. Also, people must remember that just because you’re “friended” doesn’t mean your posts get read. With facebook’s algorithms and with larger quantities of friends often times I know I miss my nearest and dearest latest updates. That means that I do not rely upon facebook or any social media site for personal updates. If I want to know how someone I care about is doing I will reach out to them personally in one way or another.

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