The launch of Google+ brings once again the opportunity/chore to categorise our real world and digital relationships into some sort of meaningful schema. It’s the social media equivalent of copying out names and numbers into a new address book (remember those?) and analysing the probability of ever needing that contact again.
Is the person I spent a night with drinking at a conference and discussing our children a friend, an acquaintance or a co-delegate? Where do colleagues fit in on my relationship map? And what about the person who I’ve never met in ‘meat-space’ but correspond with regularly in conversation on twitter/flickr/facebook? Do I need to worry about circling someone as a ‘Social Media Maven’ rather than a ‘person who does cool stuff? (Answer: Yes)
“Create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.” – Anna Freud
It will always be hard to put people into broad categories because, well, we’re all special and unique flowers, man. But questioning the nature of online friendship is an exercise worth revisiting every now and again. As the lines between online and offline blur we’re going to need to find new ‘friendrank’ algorithms. So, while code can reveal to us who we communicate with most often, it can’t tell us who we care for. Right now I’m categorising ‘friends’ as people I am genuinely pleased for if something good happens to them and ‘acquaintances’ as those whose news I am merely interested in.
This is as far as I’ve got with my Circle Schema and is subject to change – I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below.