This morning, i voiced my belief that it is my responsibility to be respectful to the creators of social software by trying to follow their intentions. Marc Canter dropped me a note this morning that truly upset me: “with 135 friends – you’ve now made it to the elite top 9. Congrats.” Marc’s right: this is truly disturbing, apparently hypocritical and not something that i’m thrilled to realize at all.
When i joined Orkut, i made the decision to accept all friendship requests from people that i have spoken with, have actively read, or have an otherwise loose connection. I decided that i would never invite anyone who i don’t consider a friend or colleague, nor ask to friend anyone based on the same metric. Although i would accept friend connections from people that i recognized, i figured that this policy would limit the number of people that i linked to. This has not happened. And now, i’m faced with a profile that makes me look like i’m trying to win some popularity contest. Yuck. Very yuck.
This is precisely why i’m beyond irritated at these things. I am not in a totally social awkward position, wanting to be hidden amidst the crowd, but sticking out like a sore thumb. Yet, how does one proceed properly? Do i start deleting “friends” who i don’t know that well? Where does one insert a black line into a gray continuum? In many ways, Friendster was much more organic for me. I joined with my friend group, connected to people who i intimately knew and was rarely faced with the situation of having to turn away colleagues or people i know from the digital only. I didn’t ask them; they didn’t ask me.
So, this makes me think… what is it about Orkut that has made this an incredibly uncomfortable situation? Is it because we’re a year into YASNS? Is it because we’re tired of regulating boundaries? Is it because the site further promotes popularity? What is it?
Personally, i have a partial guess. I think that because the site advertises people’s popularity at every stage, people are far more likely to connect to the popular people that they recognize because they’re right out there, in front. (Ah, yes, power laws.) Thus, i’m guessing that by inviting a stack of my friends and showing up high early on, later adopters who normally wouldn’t have searched for me saw me and added me, even though i’m not one of their closer friends, but simply a partner in the social discussion space. Perhaps this feature is quite a cultural flaw?