Web 2.0 gets by with a little help from our friends - A Self Assessment

How many friends can you have and still be a good friend to anyone?

How does that number change when your career takes off?  When you move?  When you get into a relationship?  When you get married?

Do you actively manage these changes?  Has anyone dinged you lately with "where've you been?", for not returning a phonecall, or for the dreded "viewed" with no response on a party Evite?

For as long as I know, I've always held on and tried to keep in touch with just about anyone that I meet that I find interesting.  Social networking on Friendster and MySpace help keep a lot of otherwise drifting friendships alive... and so does IM.  My evites are huge and I often forget how I even met half the people that I know.  However, I've never really had that small, closeknit group of friends that's always around.  My network is truly an expression of "small pieces loosely joined."  However, its catching up with me.  I'm realizing that you can't treat everyone like small pieces and expect them to treat you as anything more.   I think this happens a lot to people who spend a lot of time online.  Your relationship bandwidth gets spread over the long tail.

Please note some of the realizations I've come to:

  • Evites with 100 people and group e-mails do not constitute friendship.
  • Reading someone's blog or expecting them to read yours is not the only way you should be building relationships with the people closest to you.
  • IMing isn't friendship if it never gets past "Hey... what's up?"  "Nothin' much."
  • Any testamonials you leave on a social networking site should be said in person.

When I was in college, I went on some retreats and we used to have an exercise that would help you take stock in the people around you and come to the realization of who you were closest to and where, perhaps, your relationships needed work.  You would list people in your life and make little notiations next to the people you could count on for various things, and who could count on you.  It was a real eyeopening exercise.  I think it made a lot of people realize they were coming up short, and also that they were probably a lot closer to their parents or family than they realized.

We used to start it off by listing the phone numbers of our friends, but that was all the way back in 1998/99 before college kids ever had cellphones, so now that doesn't work.

So, instead, I've put together a new version:

Introspective Friendship/Relationship Inventory 2.0

  1. Get a blank sheet of paper, open up a new blog post, or a document in Writely.
  2. Divide it in three columns.
  3. Down the first column, list the following people.  Don't double list anyone and if you have overlap, just add the one or two incremental people that apply.  Feel free to actually consult web applications to complete the list, especially for #4.
    1. Who are the first five people you would invite to be your contacts in a new social networking application?
    2. Who are the last three people that you've actually met in person that you have IMed?
    3. Who are three offline friends who don't have a blog that you wish would start blogging?
    4. List your immediate family members... parents, syblings, spouse, kids.
    5. Which two offline contacts have commented on your blog the most?
    6. Which three personal, offline contacts have gained the special priviliege of being communicated with through your work account, which also means you respond to them through your Blackberry/Treo, etc.
    7. Name three people that you know offhand appear automatically in GMail or any other mail application with autocomplete with just one letter typed.
    8. Who are the first three people you can count on to respond to an Evite?
    9. Who are the three people least likely to get pissed if you just walk away from IM without a goodbye?
    10. Who is the one person amoung the people you spend time with who is glaringly absent from this list?  (Did you forget a kid?)
  4. Ok, now that you've got your list of people, add the following icons to each column as they apply.  So, for anytime its something someone would do/has done for you, put an icon in the left column.  For anything you would do or have done for someone else, put it in the right column.  In fact, take a moment to label the columns "for:<insert del.icio.us screename here>" (or just "me" if you don't use del.icio.us) and for:them".
    1. Make a little :) face next to all of the people who you would go to individually (not blogging) to talk about an idea you're really excited about... that goes in the right.  A :) goes in the left for anyone that has come to you with news about something they're really excited about.
    2. Place a :* (or a heart) next to someone you'd go to with a relationship problem on the right, and vice versa on the left.
    3. Put a $ in the respective columns when it comes to anyone that you could borrow money from and who could come to you.  (via Paypal, of course)
    4. Put a + for anyone you could discuss a spiritual issue with, and vice versa.  (You have to actually know Evelyn Rodriguez to actually list her, btw...)
    5. A <:) for anyone you would invite to a birthday dinner and the same for people who would invite you.
    6. A :.. ( for anyone you could cry in front of or who could cry in front of you.  (Do I have to keep explaining the columns?)
    7. Put a ! for anyone who would put themselves out there to defend you (if they blogged) in a Web 2.0 blogging flame war and the other way around.
    8. But an & for anyone you appear in a group photo with on Flickr or somewhere else on the web.  (both columns)
    9. Put a # next to anyone who you always pick up the phone, IM, skype, etc. for and hardly ever screen.  (Guess on who screens you and seems inordinately difficult to reach)
    10. Put a @ next to anybody whose house and/or local coffee shop you've been to in the last month and the same for people you've invited into your home. and/or local coffee shop.
    11. Who would you go to for advice or to destress if the RIAA got to you because of your illegal music downloading?  Put an "i" for that.  (for iTunes)

Who got the most icons in each column?  Where is there an inbalance?  Any surprises?  Who got overrepresented or underreppresented because their relationship with you is stronger offline vs. online, or the other way around?  Should your online life be reflective of your offline world or should it be the result of who is most easily accessable online?

I'm interested in the comments of anyone who takes the time to complete this...