What is a 'friend' anymore? That's the question that many facebook users are starting to ask at any rate, according to an excellent article on social networking
in yesterday's Washington Post. The article discusses in great detail how the term 'friend' has changed in the social networking world, or what they described as 'Friends Next'. In particular, the article highlights how those who were very liberal once in accepting 'friend' invitations are now either being much more conservative, or even 'cleaning house' of 'friends' who they don't actually know.
I for one have been a vocal proponent of building social networks with high levels of integrity. It is rare when I accept an invitation in LinkedIn, Facebook, or even here where I don't know the individual, or do not see a clear mutual benefit to the connection. I can say that I 'know' at least 70% of the 680+ 1st degree connections of mine on LinkedIn, and over 90% of those I'm connected with on other networks. The reaction that many are having as described in this article is, in my mind, a natural evolution of these social networks. The big networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., have all tightened up how people connect with each other. In addition the massive growth of niche groups on these sites is further evidence that quality is taking precedence over quantity in the social networking universe.
This trend has significant implications for the open networkers out there. I've always appreciated why some recruiters would see value in the open networking philosophy. More connections = More leads, right? We should all be asking ourselves though what is the true definition and value of a 'friend' anyway. It appears that this question is being asked more and more by many in the online social networking world.