Photo Credit: Vaibhav Sharan

I Don’t Want To Be Connected to Everyone Else

According to Facebook, my average degrees of separation from everyone is 3.62.

I’m upset. I don’t want to be connected to so many people.

I’m not upset because I dislike people. (I don’t. People are wonderful… well, um, most of the time, at least.)

I’m upset because it’s bad for me. It’s bad for you. It’s bad for everyone.

Let me explain.

Friends are supposed to be special. If everyone is your friend, than you probably have no friends. When my daughter was 5, she was friends with her whole kindergarten class. Now that she’s 7, she gets along with everyone in her class, but she only has a handful of “friends.” And that’s how it should be.

Part of this issue is semantics. What Facebook refers to as “friends” really means “school buddies, childhood friends, work chums, family members, casual acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues, business associates, and that dude I met at a party.”

You see how unwieldy this is?

But it has only gotten even worse.

Now a “Facebook friend” can be a friend of a friend of a friend who you never met in real life and know nothing about.

I’m picking on Facebook, but LinkedIn and Twitter are not much better. LinkedIn gives you the option to define your relationship when you first “connect” with someone else. But there is no way to update that relationship going forward (I can start off as a colleague and end up as a friend). Twitter only allows you to “follow” other people.

The danger is that we have a false sense of connection. We think we have friends that we can rely on. But we don’t. We also get a noisy, cluttered newsfeed full of posts from people who are not really our friends. Even though Facebook’s algorithms supposedly prioritize our true friends over our fake friends, Facebook had to add a “prioritize who to see first” feature — so what does that tell you?

As an entrepreneur, I want to know that I can rely on my friends. That I can ask them for feedback and they’ll take the time to give it. That I can ask them to introduce me to a potential mentor or advisor and they’ll do it for me.

Sadly, most “friends” wouldn’t make the grade. And that’s not their fault. I wouldn’t expect them to. Facebook cannot manufacture “friends” for us.

So in today’s virtual world, how should we define what a friend is?

First off: I don’t think that people have to physically meet to be friends. There are many people I have met online who I considered friends well before we met in person (if we ever did.)

My modest proposal: a friend should be someone you trust. Sure, good friends can bicker. But they still TRUST each other.

How should this be implemented? What should it be called? Those are good questions. But let’s not get caught up in the implementation just yet. Let’s pretend that Facebook could implement a “Trusted Friend” connection feature.

And I wonder, if Facebook would rerun the research on that dataset, what would everyone’s average degrees of separation increase to?

I suspect it would be significantly higher than it is now.

And that would be a good thing.

About Me

Thanks for reading! My name is Yaakov Sash. If you enjoyed this article, it would mean a lot to me if you could click the heart symbol and/or share this article with your friends (the ones you trust, of course.)

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I promise I won’t consider you a friend (at least not for the first week or so)