A friend of mine recently introduced me to a friend of hers. She did it without urging and without motive. She just thought, hey, I like them both, what are the chances they will not like one another?
But of course it’s more than that. It’s an amazing act of networking. She has collapsed a distance that would never have collapsed on its own. She’s created a dyad that could not have happened otherwise.
There is lots of spontaneous networking these days. Piers Fawkes and Noah Brier created likemind.us. Facebook, LinkedIn, Dopplr, Ning, Interesting200x, help us make new connections more easily. But its not clear they help us make friends. Blogging has helped me make friends. The new social "supernets," as Judith Donath calls them, not a one.
The problem is that the new networks are, at the moment, pretty good at introduces us to people with whom we have some things in common. But they are not actually any good at finer, more precise determinations. For the moment, the machines still fail us. (Or maybe it’s not the machines fault. The problem might be that we are not always frank and forthcoming when representing ourselves in networks, and, to this extent, we put muddy and sometimes actually corrupt the signal. See Donath’s excellent article on this particular point.) In any case, a human touch is still required. It is, in sum, still up to us.
So if I take inspiration from my friend, it’s up to me to identify friends who make like one another. I have to say it’s a really daunting task. Part of the problem is that it forces me to bring together disparate parts of my world. I can think about b-school academics. I can think about journalists. I can think about tech world people. I can think about capital markets people. I can think about marketers. I can think about bloggers.
But bringing them together into the ambit of a single thought. That’s hard. Once I have found a probably pair, I am still have to make the introduction and it is pretty easy, I’m discovering, to sound a little dorky. There is even some small Los Alamos anxiety about these combination. I mean, what could happen. What forces might be unleashed when we supply connections that would never happen on their own?
But it comes down to this. These connections, the ones that are really interesting, won’t happen unless we make them happen. Which is to say, they may be one of the responsibilities of digital citizenship. We gotta. Good luck. And let me know.
Donath, Judith. 2007. Signals in Social Supernets. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 13 (1). here.