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.
Todd Carpenter says
Online I I use Facebook Groups and Twitter to establish new relationships. I use Facebook Friends to better connect with people I already know. The transition between the two more likely happens offline.
Jeff Turner says
You already know I think that is a solid practice. 🙂
Stephen Fells says
Todd and I were “friends” on Facebook a few years ago (I met him at a Barcamp) then he unfriended me. At the time I felt slighted but after reading his post on the reasons (http://tinyurl.com/cueezjs) I not only understood but agreed with his decision. The truth was we were “Facebook friends”, not real friends.
I have followed his lead and over the last year have unfriended close to a thousand people. As a result my experience on that particular social network is far richer – thank you Todd! 🙂
But the unfriending process creates problems – people get pissed off. During one cull I decided, with a pained expression on my face, to post this status:
“Facebook friend cleanup time again, another 100+ off the list (that’s 700+ removed this year). The question: am I being anti-“social” or improving my Facebook experience?”
The response was greater than any other status update I had ever posted including, unfortunately, the death of a close family member.
I used a relatively short list of reasons in deciding:
1. Have we * reciprocally* interacted (a like, comment or email) on FB in the last 12 months?
2. Am I one of 5,000 friends they have?
3. Do I want to be social (using the good old fashioned definition of that word) with you in the real world?
I was criticized by some, applauded by others but learned one thing – the subject of how best to unfriend is one that needs to be discussed in a lot more detail.
Jeff Turner says
I agree it’s touchy, but I have not seen any negative backlash from my migration from 4800+ to 2200+. Those where were unfriended never interacted with me online and, quite frankly, probably didn’t notice I was gone. But your point is valid. Unfortunately, the term “friend” may be the real culprit, even though people have similar reactions to being unfollowed on Twitter. I decided that making my intention a big deal was probably a mistake, so no status update like yours ever materialized.
Stephen Fells says
I too, should have just kept quite, oh well! 🙂
Bill Leider says
Why don’t you have Rocky reply to Kimmy Humu and see what happens? Sorry, I’m feeling goofy today.
Jeff Turner says
I’ll let you do that, Bill.
There are “sheeple” who just want to follow you (or Brian, or anyone with a big social presence) but I totally agree it’s the QUALITY not the QUANTITY of friends/connections. That’s my two cents worth
Jeff Turner says
Todd wrote a great article on Realtor.com about that very topic, Betty. Less Is Definitely More
Steven Sharpe says
I’m not as popular as you or Brian (or Todd) but I can see this issue from both sides. I have found that Facebook can get overwhelming with the number of comments and conversations going on at any one time. I’m happy that Facebook allows me to put people in lists and then just pull those lists (similar to your “I have no idea” list). I like that people can engage with me but I fear that I am missing people and conversations that simply get buried or don’t pull to my Newsfeed for whatever reason. Offline engagement seals the business but sometimes it’s the online introduction that gets you face to face…
Jeff Turner says
Steve, for me personally, I’ve learned to stop wondering what I’m missing and focus instead on what I notice and can engage with meaningfully. Most people don’t use the tools already provided to their greatest extend to maximize those opportunities.
I have nearly 2000 people waiting in Facebook friendship limbo. Every day I get requests from those I don’t know, including the mysterious 1 friend randoms. But I do have a protocol and set boundaries. I must have known you previously, have met you recently, or engaged with you in a way that leads me to believe our relationship is going somewhere, Ironically this is pretty similar to my boyfriend/husband criteria I set long ago…give or take a few other key benefits. My problem, is not moving forward with new relationships…its with the result of being an early adopter and not setting those boundaries early on. Once I reached the 5000 cap I started purging…and still do. But the FB tools to clean house are quite lacking. I need a vacuum cleaner that makes lines in my carpet. Any suggestions?
Jeff Turner says
Nicole, I hear you. Facebook used to make it easier to do, but they removed the large scale editing functions a long time ago. Like you, my greatest pains were caused by silly early adopter moves on my part. I’m thinking a tool to make this simpler would be great, but FB dramatically limits what you can see about individual interactions via their API. So building a third party app to help intelligently is hard. However, there might be a way to build something simply to make the snipping simpler.
Pia Soper says
Hi Jeff…….Just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your posts and viewpoints. It’s refreshing and always interesting. I hope you keep me on as one the people you keep around. I’m learning about what to say so that when I actually get around to writing myself on my real estate page, it will actually be interesting and not just a rehash of what has been said a hundred times…….You and Nik-Nik are hard to beat….. thanks for your words
Leigh Thomas Brown says
I’m just glad I ‘met’ you on AR lo these many years ago when it was a much smaller, more intimate community. I think all social networks have the same situation, as you mention above. There is no correct way to play. I see two risks involved with friending. If you ignore new people, you may miss out on new perspectives, new friendships, new connections. If you friend only people you know….perhaps you learn more about them than you wanted-thus damaging the friendship IRL. I just figure it will sort itself out in the end. =)
Nikki Beauchamp says
Less is more. FB is still warm fuzzy kinda place for me. I probably want to or have hugged or shared a cocktail with you. If not purgatory seems appropriate 🙂 I want to know what’s going on in your world far away from mine. You can tell quickly , I agree with Nobu, those you want to hide or disconnect…:
Interesting thoughts and frankly pretty true. Well said Jeff! We engage for many of us for interaction, sharing of new ideas or thoughts and also for personal relationships about people we really do like to know how they are doing. I have found facebook to be a very interesting place to watch, but some of it sure can be a reality show and I don’t even watch those on TV. I would rather have in my feeds the people I want to keep up with and also the value of learning. Even I have changed how I group, label and watch.
Brian Copeland says
I think I’ve said everything to say here via your quotes above. Part of the whole, “Subscribe to me. You’ll see my stuff, but I won’t see you,” just doesn’t sit well with me. Perhaps it’s a new paradigm I must get my mind around. Still thinking…
Tripp Jones says
This really touches home lately…..I am often annoyed at people who ‘collect’ me as a friend because I feel like they want me to be a new avenue for their business (lender, contractor, insurance, etc) and they have 200 ‘similar’ friends in my area. I do, often, friend request someone that I feel like we would be friends with later-they seem to agree with me socially or politically…and I appreciate their content. Jeff, meeting you personally was great, even a little more mind blowing when I found out we had another personal connection….
Sam DeBord (@SEATTLEHOMEoCOM) says
Friend me, Jeff!!! Seriously, though, great post, I struggle with this on a much smaller scale. Love to chat while you’re here if you get a chance.
Jeff Turner says
Sam, I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to schedule a meeting via blog post comments before, but I’m willing to give it a try. 🙂 I’m here until Saturday evening.