September 17, 2020

Friends, Followers, Family...

Friends, Followers, Family...

I think one of the biggest disservice done to us by Facebook was calling the relationship between two accounts "Friends".

Services allow us to join a network with other people.

Sometimes it is one-directional by default: You follow people on Twitter or Instagram, with no requirement that they follow you back.

In other cases, like Facebook, there is a default of requiring that this account follow you back, and then labels you Friends. Facebook does allow one to follow an account, but this is mostly used to follow brands or famous people: accounts that regularly publish publicly available content.

And with that connection, the functional shift of the noun "friend" into the verbs "friending" and "unfriending" began. And what horrible connotations unfriending has. When you are no longer interested in what a person is sharing, disconnecting from their social media feed takes on the weight of a major relationship breakup. "I have unfriended you!" How many people avoid cleaning up their feed because of this simple phrase.

In real life, I have many types of relationships. There are friends, acquaintances, coworkers that I like, coworkers that I dislike but listen to because they can be useful, family, family who have gone off the deep end of racism but still like to see my dog pictures.

All of these relationships are different and are not mutually exclusive. And for the most part social media doesn't make it easy to distinguish these. They all have just as much access to my attention as any of the others and I am inclined to share the same thing to all of them.

I see a future state where the network of people is far more static, but much richer with metadata, and tools that allow us to easily produce and consume content that we want. More on that after I talk about the content itself.