My kids use to have make believe friends too

Risking the possibility of getting slapped by the boss since he already wrote about this weekend’s little ego tiff over Twitter and <gag me> authority search </gag me> I was reading some of the smarter commentary out there. One of the best had to be MG Siegler on his ParisLemon blog – after all you got to give him bonus points for working in the Joker reference; but that wasn’t the one that sparked this little thought piece.

No that lucky pleasure belongs entirely to Jeff Jarvis’ post on his blog; Buzz Machine, where he excels at putting forth a nice long (*yawn*) post about the whole mess. However it wasn’t his post either that sparked this little thought. That honour belongs to an excellent comment by Max Kalehoff who cites a study done by Daniel Romero, a scientist at the Center for Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. The idea of the study was to find out the online social networks that truly matter. the following is an excerpt from that comment

“Even when using a very weak definition of ‘friend,’ we find that Twitter users have a very small number of friends compared to the number of followers and followees they declare. (A friend here is defined as anyone who a user has directed a post, or ‘@username,’ to at least twice.) This implies the existence of two different networks: a very dense one made up of followers and followees, and a sparser and simpler network of actual friends. The latter proves to be a more influential network in driving Twitter usage since users with many actual friends tend to post more updates than users with few actual friends. On the other hand, users with many followers or followees post updates more infrequently than those with few followers or followees.”


This view should be tempered by our findings that a link between any two people does not necessarily imply an interaction between them. As we showed in the case of Twitter, most of the links declared within Twitter were meaningless from an interaction point of view. Thus the need to find the hidden social network; the one that matters when trying to rely on word-of-mouth to spread an idea, a belief, or a trend.”

I have long maintained that much of what we call friends; and as such place so much value on, in these social media services like Twitter is nothing more than ego stroking. The more followers (aka friends) we have the more popular we are and in the eyes of some – the more authority we have. When in fact all we really are showing is that we are no different than Elwood P. Dowd and his friend Harvey.

Like our kids we profess a belief that all these people who – chances are we haven’t even @replied to even once let alone the two as suggested in the study – are somehow our friends. The idea though that we somehow derive some sort of authority out of all this is ridiculous.

At least our kids grow out of their imaginary friends.