Yesterday I was reminded by the fact that I have great friends – friends who are far better to me than I deserve. You see, yesterday was my birthday and I was overwhelmed with the number of well wishers who sent me a little note. I’m so, so lucky – something I should never forget.
It was also an illustrative guide to technology adoption and technology is and isn’t impacting my life.
I was struck by the way people got in touch with me. I’m a heavy twitter user and so I don’t spend a lot of time on facebook but yesterday was a huge reminder of how much in the minority I am. While I received maybe 10 mentions or DMs wishing me a happy birthday via twitter (all deeply appreciated) I received somewhere around 100 wall postings and/or facebook messages. Good old email came in at around 15-20 messages. Facebook is simply just big. Huge even. I know that on an intellectual level, but it is great to have these visceral reminders every once in a while. They hit home much harder.
Of course, the results are not a perfect metric of adoption. One thing facebook has going for it that email and twitter don’t is it reminds you of your friends birthdays on its landing page. This is just plain smart of facebook’s part. But it is also interesting in that, knowing this face had no impact on how happy or grateful I was to get messages from people. The fact that technology reminded people – and so they weren’t simply remembering on their own – didn’t matter a lick in how happy I was to hear from them. Indeed, it was wonderful to hear from people – such as old high school friends – I haven’t seen or heard of in ages.
All of this is to say, I continue to read how social media sites and social networks specifically are creating more superficial connections and reducing the quality or intensity of who is a “friend.” My birthday was a great reminder of how ridiculous this talk is. My close friends still reached out, and I got to spend a great day on the weekend with a number of them. Facebook has not displaced them. What it has done however is kept me connected with people who can’t always be close to me, either because of the constraints of geography, or because the evolution of time. Ultimately, these technologies don’t create binary choices between having close intimate friends or lots of weak ties, they are complimentary. My close friends who move away can stay connected to me, and those with whom I form “loose” ties, migrate into my strong ties.
In both cases – for those I get to see frequently and those I don’t – I’m grateful to have them in my life, and that Facebook, twitter and email makes this easier has frankly, made my life richer.