I awoke to three new friend requests on Facebook this morning.
One request was from a REALTOR® I have never heard of or met, a second from a guy who is friends with 11 real estate related people I know in Phoenix, but I have no clue who he is, none, and his Facebook page and photos don’t help me at all. The third is from one Kimmy Humu from Ghana Town whose photo (shown on the right) seems inviting enough. And while the sultry look on her face is enchanting, we have no friends in common, mainly because she only has only one Facebook friend. Forgive me for being skeptical, but I’m not a naive linebacker from Notre Dame, so I question the validity of her profile. Those are the three that came in during the six hours between when I went to sleep and when I woke up.
Why am I telling you this? These came in on the heels of a fairly lengthy late night discussion about whether Brian Copeland should just accept all 931 friend requests he had not responded to recently. That’s a lot, but it doesn’t surprise me. He’s is, quite frankly, someone anyone, REALTOR® or not, would love to be friends with. He is a loving, caring man, a dynamic speaker in the real estate field, and one of the most engaging people I know on or off Facebook. He can probably manage more engagement than most. I understand the reasons why Brian might want to, however, especially since most of those are probably real estate agents, like him. And there are obvious benefits to him doing so. Personally, I tried that route and it didn’t work for me, and that’s how I responded in the thread. What didn’t work for me, however, might work very well for Brian. We’re different people.
Which brings me to a specific comment in the stream from Nobu Hata.
“I do think that all this online stuff is self-fulfilling in a bad way sometimes,” Nobu said. “Only seeing and hearing what you want to hear and know is kinda boring. I accept most folks, but if they don’t make me laugh or think with their first couple shares I hide and unsubscribe ’em. You’d be surprised at what you can learn from new peeps.”
It’s hard to argue with that thinking, but I’m going to do it anyway. Of course, I’m not arguing against diversity. I value diversity, especially diversity of thought. I can only learn something from someone different than me. Diversity is essential to growth and learning. That said, not all diversity is created equal. I seek quality diversity. And quality relationships.
How do you achieve that in this current Facebook world? Of course, I could do in-depth research like I did on those three new friend requests this morning. I could do it for every person who sends me a friend request. I’m not going to. That’s really more work than I want to do. So, if I don’t recognize a name or face, I simply hit “not now.” 99.9% of everything I post on FB is public anyway. Nothing is stopping someone from subscribing and interacting if they have a desire. And in the last few weeks I’ve become friends with people who have done just that. Just as others have done with me when I’ve commented in their public streams.
That we can potentially create an environment where there is a distinct lack of diversity of thought is a fact, but even with my self imposed limitation of “knowing” someone, I’m still connected to over 2200 people on Facebook. The key to diversity of thought is actually knowing more people who think differently than you, not just being loosely connected to them in some social network. If I accept a friend request from someone and I never interact with them, given Facebook’s edge rank methods and my limited ability to manage large numbers of people, the chance of my seeing their diverse thinking is very, very small. That may improve, or not, with the changes Facebook is making to their feeds. I won’t be able to judge that for a while.
I used to accept friend requests from unknown people and put them in a list called, “I have no idea who these people are,” so I could go to the list and listen and engage if I saw something I enjoyed. That list grew so large that it became it’s own burden. So I became dependent on others reaching out and engaging in order to assess the potential quality of the relationship. That’s too one-sided for my liking.
Never discount the potential in random, out of the blue, social connections.
“I don’t want a feed full of crap I’m not interested in, but I am ALWAYS interested in meeting new TRUE friends,” Brian added. “Had you asked me 7 years ago if I needed new friends, I would’ve said no. Two random, I have no clue who they are, people befriended me on facebook several years ago. They were the Jane Does of the internet world. They’d never met me in real life or even seen me anywhere. Years later, Leigh Thomas Brown and Maura Carey Neill, those two random people, are now family…serious family.”
I’ve had similar experiences. But what I’m finding is this, as the numbers grow for everyone, this becomes harder and harder and increasingly more rare. There was a “golden age” of social media for me that spurred relationships I cherish. Mine happened to coincide with what I believe was the early golden age of of social media in general. And there is a golden age period for everyone who enters the social media space. Smaller numbers of random people mixed with known friends can be managed during that time and the potential for creating deep relationships is more easily realized. However, at some point, numbers become so big, new deeper relationships becomes harder and harder to achieve.
An anecdotal example: If my memory serves me correctly, Scott Monty and I became friends on Twitter then and then on Facebook, because of his participation in the launch of ooVoo.com, or some other video platform. I didn’t know Scott at all, but the number of people we were both connected to at the time was so small that we were able to get to know each other much more easily than we could today. I don’t want to speak for Scott, but my guess is that someone trying to get Scott’s attention among the 26K plus that he follows on Twitter today would have a much harder time. I know it was true for me, which is why I pared down my follows on Twitter as well.
My objective in keeping my numbers lower on both Twitter and Facebook is to allow me to see, more easily, the random communications that have the potential to turn into new cherished relationships. I know how to use lists and listen effectively in the social spaces, and I’m still not sure I can effectively accomplish that in these spaces when too many voices crowd my streams.
My advice on how to keep the options open for new, cherished relationships:
- Have an authentic desire to interact with people, not just collect friends. (This will require some commitment of time and effort and necessarily place limits on how many people will be able to participate with you.)
- Set an appropriate benchmark for judging who you’ll connect with on any social platform. My “know” may be higher than others, but it’s not a particularly hard benchmark to meet.
- Actively seek out engagement from any new connections. And do it soon after connecting to see what their real level of desired engagement might be.
- Weed out connections where no engagement is taking place to free up “space” to engage more. There is a time cost to engagement when the goal is cherished relationships. I use different criteria for different networks. Like others, I use birthdays as a trigger to assess my desire to continue developing a relationship in the Facebook space. I either need to be able to sing you happy birthday, or have a strong desire to want to be able to. We’ve got a year to build a deeper relationship, I think that’s an appropriate window.
Those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.