For years i tried to correct my friends when they said things like 'my friend at work said' or 'my friend on the team said' with questions like 'are they really friends or co-workers, teammates, acquaintances or someone you know?'. They probably thought i was annoying when i asked, well actually i know they do sometimes find me annoying but that is a story for another blog.
Fast forward a couple of years after most of them were well 'trained' to use the term as i deemed appropriate and now a days everyone seems to be every one's friend. Today's New York Times has an article 'Myspacebook. past. Friending, Ancient or Otherwise' (found via Techmeme) which is about how some Academic researchers are starting to explore the parallels between online social networks and tribal societies and how they are seeing a resurgence of ancient patterns of oral communication. Aside from picking up another new word to use safely in describing social media, 'orality' - the article does make some interesting points on the emergence of oral culture online. “Orality is participatory, interactive, communal and focused on the present. The Web is all of these things.”
So i just grabbed our beautiful 1982 edition of America Heritage Dictionary (you know the one with the small pictures on the margin), that was given to my husband for his 8th grade graduation - spent a good simple 15 minutes of pleasure looking at words like exacerbate- and got to the definition of friend:
friend n. 1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. 2. An acquaintance. 3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; comrade 4.One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement.
So maybe my friends where right- if i kinda like my coworker i may be able to use the phrase 'my friend at work' when describing them in a casual conversation. So folks, yes the word 'friend' can be used to describe different levels of friendship but going forward i insist that we only reserve BFF for the truest of friends of course...
So this morning, i logged into Facebook to see what my 'friends' are up to today and noticed that my friend Mario Sundar who is the Community Evangelist at LinkedIn just posted a link to a 2006 article from the Columbia Business School How Well Do Your Friends Know You? . With all the controversy around the recent Facebook Ad Beacon advertising program it is an interesting read because it questions how much we really know about the people we call our 'friends' and that most people want specific, personalized suggestions from friends whom they believe, correctly or not, know them well.
The key however is that i want to be able to call on the different levels of 'friendships' i have both online and off across multiple networks when i look for recommendations. You might be my friend because we like the same type of music so i might be interested in what new albums you are buying, but i might really have no desire whatsoever to trust your purchasing decision around cars or tech gadgets. But most importantly i want to control and own that data about who and why people are my friends and be able to use it where and when i want to. At this point, although there are some initiatives on their way to solve this starting with the ability to port my data, that knowledge of who i trust when is only in my brain.
Want to be my friend? Well then just 'friend me' already! (but please don't make it a random request- if you tell me where you found me and how we are connected (even owing up to being a random find) it might increase the chances of me wanting to be your friend.
yes i use the root word 'friend' over 25 times in this post- so get over it my friends.