Social applications have added a wide array of nomenclature and associated protocol to our digital lives. There are lots of ways of indicating social association, but what about various levels of stalk...er... um.... interest in association?
Take the Facebook "poke". It's sort of unique. It's not public. You don't gain anything from getting poked in the community, nor does the poker really lose much in terms of effort or social capital if the poke is not returned. It's sort of brilliant actually. Poking is like the grease in the Facebook machine. I wonder how many pokes a day there are and how often men poke versus women, and what the average pokes per person are.
The other thing I like about it is that there really can't be any alterior motives with a poke, unlike a MySpace "add". Some people are just maximizing friends and don't care about actually connecting with you other than as a statistic. Sometimes, you'll get asked to be someone's friend as a first step on MySpace, before they write to you or expect to be written back, whereas in Facebook, well, that would be sort of sketchy.
They work very similarly to the "winks" in Match.com. Winks, pokes... what else could people do. Cough? Sigh longingly?
In Flickr, it's a different story. Most of the people who have added me on Flickr either know me and look at it like a newsfeed of either my life or NYC or just like my photos. I don't think I've ever gotten an "add" that was more meant to be a "poke" in Flickr. Yet, I've talked to people who want to reach out to people they see in Flickr and can't figure out what the right protocol is. Do you just start leaving comments? Do you add someone? Both? What about one way adds? Is it rude not to add people as contacts who have added you? Mary Hodder is subscribed to my photos, but I'm not subbed to hers... I didn't want to make it obvious by doing it now, because I feel like I passed my window of opportunity. I'm hoping she doesn't notice. :)
One thing I can't really figure out at all is the del.icio.us network. One time, I had someone recommend a lamp store to me on the web because they noticed that I was tagging furniture for my apartment... and it was the first time I realized that anyone was actively reading my tags (before they were posted daily to my blog). Why would someone want to read my tags? Thought it was sort of weird at first, but now we have expressed networks. As I look at my network... I have 80 "fans"....people who read my tags... Over half of them have never attempted to contact me in any way and I have no idea who they are, but they're not pure lurkers, b/c they know I can see them. (Hi, you guys... hope my links are satisfying and entertaining). Is this a form of del.icio.us poke? Am I supposed to join their network in return? Is it also rude if I don't?
I think the worst network you could ignore or turn someone down on is LinkedIn. Unless I'm spamming my contacts, if I met you in person, and then asked to be connected to you, it's really quite a smack in the face to turn me down. I had one guy do that to me and it was someone I had met at two angel investing meetings and a NY Tech Meetup, and his response was that he didn't know me well enough. I'll always think he's kind of a prick for that. Fine... I don't want your stupid network connecting to mine.
I don't know where I'm going with this post... I've been writing it intermittantly all day and I forgot whether or not it ever had a point.