Thanks to Jorge and Steve Hayes in the past few months I have joined two social networking sites, N-ing and mybloglog. I have made use of these sites in very limited ways so far. I admit being a little puzzled while also being intrigued by these social networking sites, and these are not the first, Friendster, and MySpace, and even to some degree Livejournal have been at similar sorts of things for awhile. The difference is that N-in and mybloglog are not bound to a particular bloging tool. I also admit a deep dislike for the environment of MySpace (and to a lesser degree of Livejournal)so that virtual social networking thing has until now been entirely lost on me, even though I have friends who love MySpace.
I guess I am in part at a loss in this whole virtual social networking because I have enough difficultly of keeping up on with my social networks I have away from the internets.
What has lead to this little reflection though is what seems to be a tendency of people accumulate "friends" and join communities indiscriminately in very large numbers. The controversy over at mybloglong the Steve addressed here almost two weeks ago now, only highlighted for me what in appearances seems to be an indiscriminate acquiring of 'friends' and communities on these sites. I have taken an opposite approach (in part as an experiment)on N-ing and mybloglog:I will be selective because I want to know why you have requested to be my friend, and I wont attempt to friend someone unless we have had some contact that gives me reason to believe I'd want to be connected with this person even if just virtually. Also, I want to be part of communities that frankly I wont be embarrassed about having joined.
By appearances this is a counter move to what appears to be the general practice especially on N-ing and mybloglog. And I have sent messages to people who have requested me as a friend, asking for a little explanation of their request and have not heard back from any of them. So I am curious as to what "friend" and "community" means in these virtual social networking scenarios. For others of you who are on any of these sites why do you make friend requests? What does that mean to you? What does it mean to be a member of these virtual communities? What would you think if the response to a friend request was a request for an explanation of the request?