Could social media implode from too many friends?

First came Web 2.0, which begot social networking, which morphed into a much easier term to hype called Social Media. While Web 2.0 is considered to be more of an umbrella term for a new philosophy for how things like development and selling – or not selling depending on your feelings about freenomics – on the web. This movement was born out of the collapse of the dotcom boom of the late 90’s and was suppose to embody all that is good and transparent about ourselves on the web. Everyone feel the love just flowing out of the whole idea of Web 2.0?

Well actually now it is all the hot air that was holding it up that is flowing outward but that is another post for another day.

Even with that though, there is still this thought that Social Media is the bigger result of this latest boom and bust period of the web. After all everyone and their brother wants to jump on the bandwagon now and in the typical self-fulfilling prophesy those that haven’t yet are hiring social media consultants to tell them how they can save their asses. This of course is guaranteed to have these newly minted consultants proclaim that everyone must grab their piece of the social media wagon as it goes by.

But grab a piece of what? After all, social media is just a term that means having conversations with as many people as possible, as transparently as possible and if you can make them your friend. Social Media boils down to nothing more than having as many friends as possible on as many of the different social media services as you can possibly belong to; and if you can’t belong to them all join one of the services that lets you broadcast like a megaphone to everyone from one place.

At what point though does this become just a pointless exercise in sending out following notifications ad nauseam. At what point does having all these friends become just ridiculous bullshit because we really don’t know who these people are and for the most part we don’t care just as long as they follow us back. Do we know if their belief systems meshes with ours, or will something we say at some point spark a royal flamefest that everyone jumps in on if for no other reason that they can. Just because our contact lists on various services are suffering from a bad Viagra overdose does that really make our time spent online any more valuable or does it just give us bragging rights on how popular we are.

A good friend of mine; and not just because we connected on some silly ass service, recently posted about his quitting FriendFeed. I can totally understand why Mark did this given his penchant for talking about and sharing political oriented stuff. The problem is that he harboured the false belief that just because they were friends on FriendFeed people would be reasonable and thoughtful and would enjoy intelligent discourse over the things he was sharing. That unfortunately was his first mistake because no matter how many people you have in the same room – or in the case of social media services – the same friend list none of them will share exactly the same ideals. Under normal social; not online social nonsense but real life social there are two definite things people don’t talk about unless they are itching for a fight and that is politics and religion.

Now Rob Diana; guest posting on Louis Gray’s blog, quite rightly pointed out that this is a perfect example of how our real life social filters have not made the transition to our online social circles. As true as this might be I also believe it is because we have too many friends online and that is blinding us to the fact that there are times we need to just shut up. This incident that Mark experienced and caused to him to sign out of FriendFeed for good is something I believe we will start seeing more of. People by their very nature have close circles of friends that they are comfortable with. They know what can or cannot be discussed because those are boundaries we have learned over the time it has taken to get to know them as friends.

Ka-BoomIn our rush though to be a part of this new thing called social media; which we are all being told we must be a part of, we have forgotten that friendship doesn’t happen overnight or by the click of a submit button on some service join up form. Because it is our nature to have small groups of friends this pressure to expand those groups to enormous numbers builds up a sense of pressure to moderate out own feelings so we can belong to this larger transparent group. As with all things under any kind of pressure there comes a point of explosion or implosion and I wonder if with this suggested need to be friends with as many people as we can on all these social media services there won’t come a point when soical media collapses in on itself from the pressure of too many friendships that in most cases don’t mean a damn thing.