I got a ping when I looked at my Facebook Account the other day reminding me it was a friend's birthday. He is a good friend, someone I have know for over a decade, and so I sent him a message and gave a call congratulating him on another year. This is also the same friend who has been in and out of the hospital battling pneumonia, but you would never have know it from his profile.
To what extent do social networks provide the rudimentary bits of data to help people identify as a 'friend', and blur the meaning of a friendship? In addition have social networks spaces changed our definition of Friend to whomever finds us in the digital spaces and asks to befriend us? And most curious to me is do we have different standards for what constitutes a real world friend and an online friend?
I do not ask these questions rhetorically, I am honestly interested in the evolving definition of Friend. And once we understand the barrier to entry, I think we have to look at what the expectations and benefits are to both. Is it more permissible for a live friend to miss a birthday vs the digital on line friend who has the system as a crib sheet to important data?If you are in distress who get put on the telephone tree - either or both? Most importantly who holds the most sway in helping you with decision making?
I think the last one is the million dollar question. There are associations and conference all based on word of mouth marketing, but have we measured the value or power of word of text? Does the digital friend have the same impact on your decision making as the real world friend? I would be hesitant to throw blanket statements over this, and end the post with my hope that there may be some genuine longitudinal market research showcasing the value propositions that exist in digital friends.