Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Social Networking: How do we become Friends?

I recently read an article in Psychology Today (DEC 2006) about friendship by Karen Karbo. In light of our discussion on social networking, I would be interested in your reaction to a couple of statements from this article:

  • The conventional wisdom is that we choose friends because of who "they" are. But it turns out that we actually love them because of the way they support who "we" are.

  • "Can I talk to you for a minute?" may well be the very words you say to someone who is about to become a friend.

  • We feel closer to people we do favors for. The fondness toward your yoga class buddy will continue to grow if she asks for a ride home.

  • A friend with too many opinions about our wardrobe, our partner, or our taste in movies and art may not be a friend for long.


  • Reactions? How does this play out when you introduce technologies of phone, blogs, podcasts, etc.?

    7 comments:

    Anonymous said...

    Interesting points to ponder...RE: "The fondness toward your yoga class buddy will continue to grow if she asks for a ride home." I thnk the SN space rules this type of relatedness out. The buddy asking for the ride home is one aspect; the other aspect is the richness of the the conversation DURING the ride home that brings people closer. However, the flip side is that SN can be instantly gratifying in the speed of relating say with IM. Need an answer? IM your buddy. Wanna say "hi" with a flirty wink? IM your buddy.

    I am reading Aristotle for school. He has a lot to say on friendship (Nicomachean Ethics, ed. Irwin). Most simply, he says, "Complete friendship is the friendship of good people similar in virtue. . .Good people will be friends because of themsleves." I beleive this to be true, either in 300BC or in today's SN space.

    Elizabeth C. said...

    Interesting points. I've always thought that my friends are the ones I can be myself with. Maybe that's what point #1 is saying here.

    As far as point #3, doing a favor may spark a friendship, but if the person seems to be constantly in need I don't know if the friendship will last. Where is the line between a favor and "mooching"? A person who only calls when they need something isn't really a friend, are they?

    I think points #2 and #4 are right on!

    Stephen said...

    You guys are right on target.

    The article goes on to describe four critical characteristics, including:

    1. Reciprocity. Without it there is no relationship.
    2. Intimacy. Not in a romantic sense as much as in a interactive sense--we must like to be together.
    3. Interdependency. Someone you can count on and who counts on you for encouragement and support.
    4. Positive Interactions. When we are together we are gowing interdependently.

    I believe each of these can be applicable in a technology-centric environment as well.

    Anonymous said...

    As an 'independent type' that I have been accused of being, I once took exception to the term 'interdependent'. The more I think about it, the more I truly like the term. I have never seen it defined as such but it works for me! "Someone you can count on and who counts on you for encouragement and support.

    Anonymous said...

    One more thought from Aristotle regarding the yoga buddy and the idea of mooching: "Friendship is said to be reciprocated goodwill. . . and, friends are aware of the reciprocation."

    At the end of the day, awareness is really what matters in our relations with others, don't you think?

    GK said...

    My reactions to the friendship comments published in Psychology Today:

    1. The conventional wisdom is that we choose friends because of who "they" are. But it turns out that we actually love them because of the way they support who "we" are.

    Translation: we tend to gravitate to people who are like us.

    Let's also consider the key influencers behind such a tendency, which include: similar cultural/ethnic backgrounds, race, lifestyle, socioeconomics, religion, geographic region, etc.

    These same influencers are threaded into the technologies we see and use / like & dislike.

    In consideration of this, when introducing technologies one must answer this question: Do I want this technology to appeal to a specific group or do I want it to appeal to the masses?

    The answer will drive the concept.

    What are some examples of this and have you seen something that actually does both?

    2."Can I talk to you for a minute?" may well be the very words you say to someone who is about to become a friend.

    Yes, this makes sense because it implies a degree of sincerity. My question is -- how does one build this sense of sincerity into a technology? What are some examples?

    3. We feel closer to people we do favors for. The fondness toward your yoga class buddy will continue to grow if she asks for a ride home.

    Yes, but how does one capture this within a technology? What are some examples?

    4. A friend with too many opinions about our wardrobe, our partner, or our taste in movies and art may not be a friend for long.

    Depends on if we're asking for the opinions or if they're unsolicited.

    The SN technology phenomenon provides everyone a stage to give their opinions and to get the opinions of others.

    The cool thing about SN is that we're not limited to the opinions we give or get.

    The trick is, however, to have balance the opinions of others (especially strangers) objectivity. Otherwise, we're just relying on some Dick, Jane, or Harry to shape our thoughts.

    Isn't it ironic that we'll give equal or more weight to some Web-stranger's opinion than our own friends and family? Why?

    And what happened to the 'ol, "Don't talk to strangers" rule? Do we feel "safer" through technology (not meaning physical safety)? Why?

    How do we create a safe environment for people to give and take opinions within a SN technology? What are some examples?

    Anonymous said...

    GK wrote "Isn't it ironic that we'll give equal or more weight to some Web-stranger's opinion than our own friends and family? Why?"

    In some cases, I think it's becaues what brought us together with those strangers is a common interest. Many people lurk on web-boards or blogs before chosing to post to gain a sense of the conversation and comments, and to get a feeling of trust or safety. The same is true of the yoga buddy... except for a common interest in yoga and some good post-class conversations, how much do you really know about a person until you start spending time with them?

    What's key, as GK mentioned, is balancing the opinions of others. At the end of the day, each of us is ressponsible for our own actions.