‘Friend’ is Passé… ‘Officer’ Is The New Friend

Friending” in social networks is passé. My esteemed colleague Pete Blackshaw wrote recently in ClickZ:

Lately I’ve been getting so many darn friend and connection invites that my head is spinning. From LinkedIn to Facebook to the all-too-common (and bogus) MySpace invite from the girl “who just broke up with [her] boyfriend and is just looking for fun,” it’s all getting a bit crazy. Is spam king Sanford Wallace running this gig? Or am I just reliving Groucho Marx’s famous quip, “I’d never join a club that would accept me as a member.”

In that piece I underscored to Pete that:

Web 2.0 is very open, but what become of the organizing principles which enable value or traction? How do you avoid becoming a whole lot of nothing? What becomes of the private, exclusive, invite-only networks? There’s something to them. Means by which to codify the friendships and obligations are key.

Indeed, friendship overload is apparent elsewhere. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, wrote this week in an email and blog post to members of his new micro-publishing community:

Folks have noted that there’s too much overlap and confusion between “friend” and “follow.” As Twitter has evolved, these two concepts have emerged in parallel and clouded things up. So, in the spirit of simplification, we are no longer going to define people as your “friends.” The functionality of adding people remains, but the interaction is focused on the term “follow” instead.

Scott Karp comments on the bastardization of friends — specifically, the spam potential as people (including me) experiment with cross-posting blog posts with updates to friends in Twitter and Facebook:

So I got my Publishing 2.0 feed set up to crosspost to Facebook and Twitter, but I’m wondering about the utility of doing so, given that most of the people I’m connected to on Facebook and Twitter also subscribe to my regular blog RSS feed. I’m starting to think that this has the potential to be hugely annoying — and misses the point of Facebook and Twitter. I’m basing that conclusion on having come across the same blog post (for several different blogs) in Facebook Notes, on Twitter, and then again in Google Reader — actually TWICE in Google Reader, since I subscribed to the RSS feed for my Facebook friends’ notes.

It’s a tragedy of the commons, and the commons are so-called networks of friends. And that is why I declare friends history; the practice has morphed way beyond the term’s original meaning and utility. I became totally convinced of this today when Surinder Siama of ResearchTalk podcasts not only invited me to his ResearchTalk group on Facebook, but he he requested that I serve as an “officer” titled “Mr. Engagement.” The feeling of inclusion and importance that accompanied this officer request was nearly as powerful as some of the the original friendship requests I received on Friendster four years ago, when friending was novel. And this officer request certainly was far more powerful than any friend request I’ve received lately.

So it’s settled: officer is the new friend. Officer means something, and friend doesn’t.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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