January 22, 2009

The Art of Defriending - Is it Generational?

Earlier today, I read a post by Cecilia Sepp called "Defriending: Hot Social Media Trend or A Dose of Reality?" It got me thinking about this trend of quality or quantity in our social interactions on the web, and that I feel it's more generational than anything else.

Cecilia points out the following:

It seems to me that technology is making it easier to stay in touch, but also easier to hurt feelings or cause people to feel perplexed. Clicks seem to be leading to online cliques as people create their personal "in" and "out" lists -- or, just clean out all the names they shouldn't have added in the first place... We should know from our experiences with mailing lists, fax lists, and email lists that it's quality, not quantity, that counts.

Cecilia mentions that quality in interactions over quantity of friends is what she is looking for in her social media interactions. In working regularly with members who are Gen Y who add anyone and everyone who wants to be their friend, I have seen that isn't the case with a lot of Gen Yers... In many cases, they really are not so worried about quality of interaction like many Xers and Boomers. They crave interaction with as many people as possible, and are fostering and renewing relationships in cyberspace as opposed to face-to-face - the preferred way to interact of the earlier generations.

I am on the fence personally, both in the generational aspect being right on the edge of X and Y, and the way I feel about my social interactions. I have not defriended many people on Facebook or LinkedIn, mostly because I use those tools as my ways to get back in touch with folks who I am not in close proximity to. Since I am not actively talking to all 295 Facebook friends at once, it's less daunting for me and doesn't cause me to feel the need to defriend them regularly. I have and will defriend someone, but it would take a lot for me to do so since it's not hurting me to have them as friends.

Twitter on the other hand has been different. With it being such a moment by moment update and ongoing conversation, I find myself having a very short leash with who I follow. If I am not finding value or entertainment in what the people I am following are providing, I unfollow/defriend them. They don't even know it's happened, and I am finding more value and entertainment in my minute by minute interactions in that space.

So, is defriending going to be the hot trend of 2009 in social media? Personally, I think it depends on who you're talking to - a college student, an Xer or Boomer...


Jeffrey Cufaude said...

I'm with you Bruce. I don't have any real interaction expectations when I friend someone or accept a friend invitation, and if I do, shame on me if I don't articulate those.

I''m far less likely to follow a lot of Twitter feeds because the noise they generate is more annoying to me for whatever reason.

Maggie said...

I totally agree that it's a generational thing. I use social networks for business, but most of the people I know who are in my age group (let's just say 35+) are joining Facebook in droves and talk about it non-stop. They take it very personally--see it as one big reunion with long-lost friends, use it to communicate daily with local friends, etc. If someone defriended one of them it would be a big deal and a personal thing. Meanwhile my daughter's generation (young teens) collect "friends" in droves--if they've ever so much as heard of someone through another friend they friend that person on Facebook. I will have to ask my daughter to be sure, but my impression is that nobody cares if you defriend them. And/or teenage girls do it all the time in real life anyway, so it's just an extension of their "real" lives to drop people then maybe pick them back up--or not.

Maddie Grant said...

Interesting post. I actually think there's also an element of process to it all. People will tend to friend (or accept friend requests) from a lot of random people while they are building up their online presence - but become more circumspect once they know what they are doing a bit more. On Twitter, certainly, you go through several cycles of building followers then culling them (unless you're Robert Scoble or Jason Calacanis).