Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Friends on the Net

I deal with computers all day long. I read and type emails. I research. I note. I message. I make connections. I teach and share. I promote and advertise. I question and respond. At times, I’ll even preach. All of it happens while sitting at my computer, connected to the Net.

Since I’m doing it staring at a computer screen, I often forget that some where out beyond the Great Internet Cloud (GIC), what I’m sending is going to be received by a live human being.

The other day I was having a conversation (a real, live, face-to-face one) with a good friend, and he was commenting on how technology changes the way we interact with people, the way we make friends. He said that now that we can connect with millions of people, we often have more friends, but the relationships with those friends are more shallow.

I made a mental note of his comment, and I found a lot of validity in it. For example, you can go to my myspace page and see that I have about 450 friends! Woo Hoo. I hardly know any of ‘em! I’ve got a ton of people in my IM friends and contacts list. Over half of them are listed by iconic names that I don’t remember.

You can go to my website and sign up on my mailing list! There’s several hundred more right there. Are they my friends? Some of them, true, but most I don’t know at all.

I participate in a lot of online forums, like yahoogroups, myspace, and many others. I do it mainly to promote my site and my music, but also because I like meeting people. I’ve got hundreds of online friends that way, too.

My website has even generated some fan mail, even from as far away as India and Russia.

Now, it’s been technology that’s allowed me to “meet” these many people (probably on the order of a couple of thousand, if I were to add it all up. If it weren’t for the ‘net, I would never be in contact with any of them.

But it’s true that in the vast majority of cases, our relationship is really shallow. In most cases, I’ve never met them face to face, If they faded off a forum, or stopped visiting my website, I wouldn’t “miss” them, per se. Just the same if I stopped sending them my newsletters.

I don’t think, however, that the technology has made my relationships more or less shallow, on the whole. I mean, if you think about it, in your daily life, you encounter lots of people, and some of them you encounter more than once, some on a regular basis. A few of those you connect with, you spend time with, and you become friends. Even fewer of those get deep enough to be very close friends.

I think it’s the same on the ‘net. I encounter lots, and very few are those that I invest enough time into to be come truly close friends.

I think, though, that technology has changed even that. A few anecdotal examples: When I was in High School, I had a very good friend. As usually happens with HS friends, we drifted apart. He went into the Military, I went to college, etc.. A few years ago, he hits me on the IM. Ever since then, we chat two or three times a week. I haven’t “seen” him since the early ‘80’s. But now we are closer friends than we ever were, even back then. And just through the chats.

I can think of some other friends I’ve made through musician’s groups where our contact has been wholly electronic. I’ll probably never meet these people face-to-face (one, in fact, lives in Finland). Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the communication that makes it so open, or just the fact that we’ve invested time in communicating with each other. In either case, those friendships are just as deep as my face-to-face friends, in some cases more so.

So, where am I going with this?

As you are out on the ‘net, flying though the GIC, remember that it is a human on the other side that’ll be reading your message, seeing your ad, or your website. What will they think? How will they react?

The success of your business depends on building a relationship with the people on the other side of that cloud. And, in reality, your own sense of well-being can be enhanced as you develop true friendships with the people out there.

The technology hasn’t really changed how we make friends, at the core, it’s just facilitated it.


  1. Don't you think though that it's also made us a little lazier about keeping up with people in the real world? I find myself keeping up with "strangers" than my real friends who are a phone call away. It's odd because, although I never used to be a phone person, I was never that lazy keeping up with people and I find something like MSN gives me more free time to spend on my own... but that's just it, on my own. I find I tend to withdraw myself from the world a little more and feel less like really interacting with people. I don't know... maybe that's just me. But the whole debate you wrote about has always been something that has worried me for a while, and hopefully that will stop me from becoming a hermit altogether!

  2. Mark,
    I googled "Someday Never Comes" and I came across your essay/blog about CCR's song and here's my story: I'm a real estate broker from L.A., moved up the "banking" ranks as a loan officer starting in 1996 with Great Western Bank, and merger after merger, ended up getting my broker's license and started my real estate and loan company in 1999. Having gone through at least five banks in the 90's, I was trained and heard many many "inspirational" banking managers. In 1997 or so, I heard a pep talk by one of these sales managers, and his talk inspired me! He started by saying... "you know when someone tells'll have this, you'll get that, you'll finally accomplish this, and that...does someday ever really come? Please write this in you folders...SOMEDAY NEVER COMES! I also quoted him when he said "you don't find yourself, you MAKE yourself!". Needless to say, that talk inspired me forever. I am not going to get too specific on my real estate successes, but let me just tell you...I've owned many houses, made lots of money, and have helped countless people since 1997. Last year, feeling like I can conquer another industry, the music industry, I started a rock band, called xxrub, and I produced, mixed, and wrote most of the music to our album called "Someday Never Comes". It is on itunes and As far as CCR's song, I have never heard of it and had no clue that someone else had a song called "SNC". Anyway I also do inspirational talks, and I'm working on a novel and a "sales" self-help book as well. All because I believe that "someday never comes"! ---Robert Calixto