Do You Know Who Your Friends Are? Google Does.

by Jason Falls |

Robert Scoble is known for befriending nearly anyone in the social media space. It’s part of his appeal. Nice guy, well-loved blog, interesting TV show, popular columnist and everyone’s cyber-friend. But what happens when friend or follower status is taken out of context?

According to Google, Robert Scoble and I are friends.

I’ve met Robert. I’m digital friends with him on several social networks like a lot of people. We have exchanged messages on Twitter a few times, but I don’t know that he would consider me a friend in the off-line context. We might be fast friends if we lived in the same area and hung out together, but the ‘Ville and the Valley are a fair bit apart.

This Google Blog Search result of a Friend Feed post of mine, which incidentally had nothing to do with Robert, but was a question I posed on the Social Media Club’s Friend Feed room, seems to indicate, however, that I am Robert’s friend.

How comfortable is he of that? How comfortable am I? Why does the search result spit back a friend association in the first place?

Realistically, Robert and I are both very active in the social media world. We get the differences in on-line and off-line friends, understand the context of the search result (even if we don’t understand how the content was chosen) and are familiar with each other’s digital selves well enough to not think much about it. But what happens when someone I don’t know or wouldn’t knowingly want to be associated with pops up on a search result like, “Jeffrey Dahmer (friend of Jason Falls)?”

What happens if Google (or FriendFeed) insists on telling the world somebody is your friend when they really aren’t? Do we know and trust our on-line friends enough to be comfortable with off-line association?

As we live our lives more openly and with unrequited transparency, we will face awkward and even disturbing realities. No, Robert Scoble is not going to lose sleep over me being listed somewhere as his friend (or at least I hope not).

But where do we draw the line?

Or do we have the power to draw it at all?

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).