Integral to being a successful, modern, enterprising adult – it appears, is the ability to shift one’s cognitive association of the tried & true. Favorite words. Old “FRIENDS”…
According to LinkedIn, I have 198 trusted friends and colleagues to whom I am linked directly. This, of course, represents only the tip of the iceberg of people in my life. Some of my links are close friends, others people who have crossed my path only briefly. In most cases, they are people I have truly met and known.
Friends of those friends make up 16,500 new possible connections. These are people I might potentially meet at a cocktail party if serendipity allowed us both to be invitees of the same mutual friend. It would not be a major breech of etiquette to reach out to one of these “friends I haven’t met yet” under the auspices of a recommendation from one of our shared real-life friends.
The more astounding number is that there are almost 1.5 million people who are friends of those potential friends. This equates to the population of San Antonio, Texas. Or Barcelona, Spain. Or the entire country of Gambia. I am staggered to realize that my friends have enough friends to fill an entire third world nation, although I suspect filling Barcelona might be more fun.
The point being that with a few well-placed calls I could make the acquaintance of an entire city’s worth of new, well-connected friends. Now more than ever, it is truly a small world.
This has always been true, but the world of social media makes it explicitly clear as you see those connections laid out before you in black and white. A former friend who comments on the Facebook posts of a current friend is back on your radar. The ex-colleague from years ago who finds you and asks for a recommendation on LinkedIn is no longer a distant memory, no matter how much you might wish he was. Relationships are stickier and spread wider than ever before. Paths that once might have crossed briefly stay crossed in a way they never would have before.
The challenge surely is to make the most of this interrelatedness while avoiding the pitfalls that loom when worlds collide. However the solution is simple, being a good virtual friend comes down to the same tactics that make a good friend in real life. Listening to what people are saying, offering sage advice at the appropriate times, sharing information that is helpful, celebrating successes and softening the blows of setbacks will make you a valued friend regardless of whether delivered in person, on the phone, or in cyberspace.