Facebook has done an amazing thing – they now own the word “friend”. The problem is that they have devalued the word while adding value to their brand. Let’s take back the word “friend” and fill it with value again!
How many of you use “air quotes” when you say so-and-so is your Facebook “friend”? That’s exactly my point. The word now, more often than not, just means that you exchanged a keystroke with someone.
To be clear — I am not saying that connecting through Facebook is a bad thing; I’m saying that few of us actually take the time to connect in the ways that a real friend would. We are missing the chance to use social media as a tool that facilitates real relationships and instead using “friends” as points in a popularity contest.
So how do we change this? Let’s start with breaking completely out of our online world for a moment and do something really cutting edge: pick up the TELEPHONE and CALL someone. Make someone feel special by connecting voice to voice with them and having a real-time conversation.
Then take everything you know about face-to-face relationships and bring them back with you online:
1. A friend is not just an audience.
Friendship is not a one-way information push; it is a two-way interaction loop. Ask questions, listen to and HEAR the answers, ask more questions. It takes ongoing interaction to get a clear path through the digital noise out there!
2. A friend is not just a number.
Think about how many times you hear television ads that end with “to us, you are not just a number, you’re a person” (except for SleepNumber Mattresses, who play with that and say “to us, you’re not just a person, you’re a number!”). The point is to remember that each interaction involves a real person. Yes, I do have over 2800 Facebook friends, but I do pay attention and respond to all comments and postings on my walls and photos. Does it take time? It sure does, but all real relationships take time, so I would expect nothing less!
3. A friend has shared interests.
Friends connect around shared interests, which attract additional friendships that turn into communities of interest. YOU are the hub of your personal social media “community of interest,” so consider it your responsibility to provide content relevant to your friends interests. Hint: if you are authentic in your online and offline “profiles,” what you are naturally inclined to share will automatically be of interest to your friends. Save yourself some effort and just be genuine from the beginning!
4. Friendships require maintenance.
We are all calling these tools “social media,” yet we are becoming LESS social! Facebook status updates do not count as a relationship. Back and forth conversation ABOUT your status update, however, is a much more social interaction. But don’t let it end there. Take the initiative to reach out and GIVE value rather than expecting everyone to come to you…remember, friendship requires an ongoing flow of giving and receiving.
5. Do unto others…
The way you engage with people makes an impression no matter what tool you are using. Look at your own behaviors and ask yourself, “Would I want to be my friend??” Are you noticing and affirming the value of individuals and groups in your network? Are you genuinely interested and paying attention to the people behind the texts and words on a screen? Are you going out of your way to be of service to others in your network? That’s the kind of friend I would want to have and to be.
A real friend is not just a number and a photo on the screen. Remember that next time you’re on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or blogging or ANYtime!) and do what it takes to be a friend. One by one, we can take back the word “friend”!
”Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~Anais Nin
Note: I will be speaking on this topic (Let’s take back the word “Friend”) with Peter Shankman at Social Media World Forum Nov 1st (10:10am) . Hope to see you there!
You’ve Got a Friend in Me, Ted!
Back at ya my friend!
Hi Friend (; Agree – great post. (Hope your Nov 1 talk is simulcast or recorded!)
Thanks Debba… I hope so too!
I love this. So, does this mean I don’t really have a million “friends”? 🙁
Sadly, lots of people think of their Facebook relationships as real friendships. And, the further along we go, the more acceptable this will become. Soon we won’t have a need for real human contact. We will satisfy ourselves with thousands of emotionless internet posts and think about how rich our lives are.
Love this post Ted!
My weekly Pondering question is about this very topic – do you mind if I quote your post?
Is Social Media World Forum going to be livestreamed? Love to see it.
Thanks so much Peggy… such an important topic in my opinion. Feel free to quote or re-post.
I really really enjoyed reading this post about the concept of what friend is in terms of Social Media as well as in the real life world. First of all, I must write here that English is not my native language. Hope you understand what I’m trying to say. 🙂
I can’t agree more with you on this subject. I felt at home with the way you wrote about it.. perhaps because of my natural like/dislike or familiarities with this kind of subject..due to the cultured background I came from – Japan – or anyone from the country with a long historical heritage along with the culture that goes with it might feel the same. I tend to feel comfortable with the genuineness in everything, not superficiality.
o. A friend is not just an audience. <- I agree!
o. A friend is not just a number. <- Absolutely!
o. Friendships require maintenance. <- I agree.. and absolutely.
o. Do unto others… <- This is where online superficial or perhaps you would call 'fake' friends are weeded out, so to speak, to have real genuine online Social Media friends.
"..do what it takes to be a friend. One by one, we can take back the word “friend”!.."
"..friendship requires an ongoing flow of giving and receiving…[under 'Friendships require maintenance']
Thanks again for the great post that I enjoyed reading! May God bless.
(I thought my photo as well as the link to my twitter account would show up, too, as with others.. Unsure where I got it wrong.. – Saach (@ImagineBeauty_)
Brilliant advice to revisit the idea of friends. I agree, the word is getting hijacked.
Thanks for writing this Ted!
This sounds a lot like a more coherent version of the rant I have about Facebook regularly. I don’t like Facebook (understatement of the year). Yes I’m on it, but only because it’s expected for a writer’s ‘platform’. The people I have connected with on it are not, for the most part, my friends. ‘Friend’ is just the label Facebook chooses to apply to my list of ‘contacts’. My friends are in my phone, complete with home, mobile and work numbers and addresses. They are the people I see regularly, socialise with and call with my problems (and of course, take their calls when they have problems).
The other problem with the use of ‘friend’ in the Facebook context is that people now ask ‘Can I be your friend?’ What are you, 5? All they mean is can they connect with you on Facebook, but that’s not the question I am hearing. My answer inevitably is you cannot ask to be someone’s friend and a click of a mouse button does not make them your friend.
Glad I am not alone in my views.
We SO have to have coffee when you come back to NWA. Seriously, I have been preaching Relationships for 15 years… nice to find a similar spirit.
You bet Jacqueline 🙂
How about the terms ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’. There is a generational divide online where young people (early 20s)have come to accept a few text messages and Facebook updates as a relationship.
Then when they find out one is cheating on the other or really isn’t interested in anything substantial they take it as a shock.
All because they’ve lost contact with real world interactions and the authentic concept of a friend.
I have used Facebook to develop some real friendships, several of which were lost. I guess seized the opportunity is more like it. It was not my intention. I really enjoy my FBFriends, and yes, there is some cross over, but I don’t confuse the two.
Ah, now I understand what you were tweeting about the other day! Great post, and I totally agree with you, except for one question: Isn’t it really the way we choose use Facebook that determines its role and value in our life? I’m not sure we can blame Facebook for devaluing the word friend. It’s more the way people choose to use Facebook, maybe? I think it’s always our choice. My idea of friendship (on or off-line) is very similar to yours, and so I don’t have 1,000 “friends” on Facebook who aren’t actually my friends in real life.
Yes… we do get to choose, but Facebook has encouraged and made it easy to call someone a friend. Like I expressed… kudos to them for such great marketing/branding. But if we want the word to have meaning again it is up to us to make it so. This is not a referendum against Facebook, but a call to arms for those of us that value relationships.
Amen, Amen, and AMEN.
It’s so easy to get lost in the digital world and not develop true friendships. To live our lives in a closed off tower.
Social media requires you to be SOCIAL and if you’re not doing that in real life, you won’t be good at it on here either.
I have never worried about my numbers. What I do in Social Media is focused solely on relationship through supporting parents and families. Even then you can still find yourself cut off if you’re not living life in the real world. A balance of the two is paramount to thriving.
Thank you for this post, Ted. It means more to me than you could ever know.
So true Lauren. It’s not Social, if you don’t act Socially… interact, engage and build relationships.
Great post, Ted. You and I are connected on Twitter, and you always respond when I RT your fabulous content. You reached out to me on LinkedIn where we had a nice exchange (with more than 140 characters.) You also reached out on Facebook to expand the relationship further, but I denied the request as I keep that platform to very close friends and family. The point is that your post rang true, especially because I know you live by the words you wrote.
In your honor, I will meet friends tonight, (gasp) – face-to-face, and have a real conversation (and a few laughs!)
Thanks again, Ted.
My pleasure Susan. Thanks so much for the comment and I look forward to future interactions. Who knows… one day maybe you will welcome me into your inner circle of “friends.” Have fun tonight 🙂
So true. A professional contact calls me “friend” instead of my name, and it irks the heck out of me for this exact reason. It completely devalues the term.
So true … and really sad at the same time, great post,Thanks Ted 🙂
It is sad Rajita… and why we have to make a change 🙂