I’ve been spending a great deal of time thinking about relationships lately due to a great week I had with my whole family over spring break. It was one of those classic vacations where all of us – Kevren, Dijouri, Prescott, Hadrian and Emily were able to revitalize ourselves and develop even closer bonds. I also missed the opportunity this week to catch up with couple of folks who I only see a couple of times a year and missed an introduction to another – so this week was just chock full of relationship stuff.
With near misses and great successes this week, I thought I would jot down some concepts which I have been bouncing around the evolution of a given social relationship.
Not all social relationships are created equal and neither are all interactions.
Yup, Captain Obvious is back! While a fairly simple observation, it was punctuated with some great social content which found me this week thanks to the great folks that I follow, share and interact with. This week had escalating Shel v. Loren action, Sarah’s FAQ, Christina’s milkshake and @rabeidoh’s five levels of social media relationships – each of these folks demonstrated varying levels of investment for evolving active social relationships. The key takeaway this week from my network for me is that each person has different expectations and these change over time based on your interactions, for good or ill.
While I really don’t want a Social Media Antagonist or think that anything such as a social media Ninja exists, I do think we are ALL attempting to generate meaningful relationships which evolve towards their natural end state, what ever that is. Ultimately whether you are just a feed voyeur, a follower or a personal friend you will ultimately find the shared value equilibrium in each social relationship you engage in.
The Interaction Evolution
We all bring our own quirks and expectations with us when we start building social relationships, this includes or preferential biases for communication. I use different tools, mediums and response requirements based on where I am with a specific relationship or topic I am covering. Think about it – What access do you provide to a twitter random? Who get’s your REAL email? Who get’s your phone number? Who gets added on twitter?
No simple feat to qualify a mutual connection for mutual investment and evolutionary access. Mutual contribution and participation will ultimately determine what level of interaction happens and access is provided. Dopp’s recent post demonstrates how access expectations vary and what qualifies as a valuable interaction via email for her as an individual:
If you have my phone number, the best way to get my attention is a text message. If I’m following you on Twitter, you can have the same effect with a direct message. Email is the next best thing, and “info at sarahdopp dot com” will get you past my spam filters if you’re not already in my address book. I read every email I receive but I’m not always the best at responding, so please follow up if you’re not getting what you need from me. (Tip: I tend to respond to short emails faster than I respond to long emails.)
Appears to be an expectation gap in some of Sarah’s relationships, but now everyone has the ground rules which is a good thing. It is something to build on. What are you going to GIVE your connections to build on?
The Evolution of Social Relationships
We all have to start somewhere and any given social relationship hopefully will evolve towards greater access, trust and value over time or it won’t and you are 1 click away from something else. No specific state of a social relationship is any less rewarding or beneficial for the participants, just different exceptations, access and interactions. It sorta has a “deal-with-it” undertone, but facts are facts. To go even further cliche on this – you get what you give from a social relationship.
The Connection: Sharing and Learning
Some of the most rewarding social connections I have are centered on the sharing of information and experiences of people I have no other connection to than a random twitter add. Most social relationships start with an innocuous add and may ultimately stay a voyuer for both parties, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable relationship. When you are sharing ideas and time with your network you are investing in the relationship which provides for new opportunities and interactions with your connections.
Your Social Colleagues
Over time and with work, you will be able to identify folks you interact with who you would consider a colleague. You meet at conferences, grab coffee and catch up at other geek social events, but you probably just show up at their house in 20 minutes. This is however where your investment continues to evolve and provides initial returns for both folks through shared experiences and increased trust.
There are plenty of business colleagues I interact with which represent some of the most rewarding relationships I have which are steeped in shared successes and interests, but don’t evolve into “friendship”. Just like in business, social relationship can develop to become personal relationships that transcend your typical business relationship – mutual respect, mutual learning and continued investment in share goals and values, but it requires more than just shared experiences. Shared goals, ideals and investment are central to developing and maintaining social friendship.
Social friends are definitely good stuff when you can find it and the social relationship is now just a just a primordial hop out of the sea to borrowing tools or going into their refrigerator uninvited.
A Personal Friend
This should be self-explanatory, you have real friends right? Yup, you can borrow stuff now. This is also the part in which any relationship becomes wonderfully unpredictable, interactive and enjoyable. This is the “best of luck” part of the evolution, as from this point on it’s not 140 characters or dodged voicemails – they are showing up at your house uninvited and eating your food. Time to food theft varies by person, but it’s worth the wait and the effort.
The Homo Sapien Complexity
Social relationships evolve very much the same as any other relationship. The main anomaly is the candidate pool is so much bigger for finding cool folks that you can’t possibly develop each and every connection to the same level at the same time. Even though you have exponentially more access, it doesn’t mean you have exponential time or value to add, so do what you gotta do to evolve the right relationships.
No matter the path a given social relationships takes, each interaction provides the opportunity to drive shared value and extend/change what the evolutionary equilibrium is.