Best of 2006: Unsocial Networking
By Sara Holoubek
We Are Soooo BFF
Friendship. It can mean different things to different people. A recent WNYC interview with Joseph Epstein, author of "Friendship: An Expose," explored the various flavors of this human bond. As it turns out, we forge "real" friends in our youth, reducing the number as we grow older.
Over the years we develop pseudo-friends, such as the "work friend" or the "party friend." Thanks to technology, email and instant messaging in particular, we now have relationships with individuals we have never met. Social networking sites have added yet another level of formality to such ties; members now create concrete networks of virtual friends.
The LinkedIn game is easy. First you link to everyone you know, and then you humbly ask those you know to introduce you to others. If you're aggressive, you buy the right to directly request a connection with a potentially valuable liaison. MySpace takes it a step further.
But what about the people you hate? Or the people who hate you? Hate is so powerful that it cannot be bought; it must be earned. And as far as I know, there is no large-scale effort to create a social network of hated people.
The LinkedIn Annulment
Such is our love for connecting to fake friends that it is even hard to sever a tie. Until recently, breaking a LinkedIn connection required a trip to the customer service area to make a personal request, as if going before some divorce court. This was quite awkward. I have no idea if the other party was aware of the break or not.
Perhaps it was all those years of Catechism, but I consider breaking a link more like an annulment. I'd rather pretend that the relationship was never consummated in the first place. The good news is that the Church of LinkedIn now treats link annulment as an accepted fact of the society it has created.
La Bete Noire
So what to do with all of these newly broken links? Let me introduce you to unfriendster.com (Linkedout.com, hatester.com and all the other good URLs are taken.)
The best part about unfriendster is that no invitations are necessary. You simply make a list of everyone you hate. Oh, and a list of everyone who hates you. Once you populate your list, you are automatically connected to others who mutually hate the same person. The strength of any connection is predicated on the number of mutually hated people. Consider it a fraternity of haters.
Since consumers are many times more likely to speak about a product they hate than a product they love, one can only assume that the same behavior will apply to relationships. I am sure that your ex-boyfriend, former co-worker and the neighbor you can't stand get far more airtime in instant message conversations than those you love.
We are sooo not BFF.
Sara Holoubek is a free agent consultant serving the interactive sector and its investors. She can be reached at email@example.com.