I recently compared virtual worlds to a global shed so I thought I’d try another house related analogy…
After a few discussions with Andy recently I’m toying with the idea that social software is like a global kitchen. A kitchen is a good place for a nice cup of tea and a sit down when friends or neighbours pop round, and it’s where a large proportion of the guests are likely to be found at a party (and coincidentally where all the alcohol is). Like the kitchen, Weblogs, Dopplr, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and (insert your favourite here) all provide a sociable place you can connect to people through. Unlike the kitchen, the people can be from anywhere, and they can stop by at any time to leave a note on your fridge, even if you aren’t in.
I find it fascinating how people are connected; for example, Andy and I connected a contact he has made online with someone I know in person (and only recently discovered has a blog, through Facebook!) in one degree of blogroll. It seems to me that the people you meet in person and those you meet online are no different, and there’s quite an overlap anyway: people you meet in person move away, and you can meet people in person that began as virtual friendships (Dopplr perhaps makes that more likely). I often struggle to remember when, or how, I first met someone but the process seems to be similar whether in person or through social software. You can be introduced to a friend of a friend in person or on LinkedIn, and you can bump into someone randomly on the way to the fridge or stumble upon their weblog by chance.
One thing that I do find odd is that, despite their primary purpose, sites that record your network of contacts don’t seem to help making those contacts in the first place. At least in my experience, I have only ever added someone to my Facebook or LinkedIn network after meeting them elsewhere.
For slightly more coherent thoughts on the subject, with no mention of kitchens, here are the blog posts Andy pointed me at in the first place:
What the heck is a non-meta friend anyway?
Christine Rosen on Virtual Friendships And The New Narcissism