Recent research done in England suggests that the number of close friends you have is mostly a result of your face-to-face interactions in the real world.
Researchers at the Sheffield Hallam University say that your online friendships on social networking sites such as Orkut, Facebook, Myspace, Hi5 and others are ‘shallow’ in nature.
Researchers got more than 200 people to fill in questionnaires and found that most of respondents had around 5 close friends and many (90%) said their close friends were results of face-to-face meetings.
So, it seems that soliciting and clicking friend request on social sites is nothing but an ego trip.
There has a been a lot of debate online about communities and networks and many, including startups riding the web 2.0 wave have run into the habit of claiming that their startup is a community. VCs are also prone to this community fever.
So, it is important to note what Joshua Schachter of del.icio.us said about the pioneering social bookmarking site, a site that I think has more value than social news sites such as Digg, for great archival and research uses.
Joshua has said, Del.icio.us is a tool, not a community.’
This is very important. Most online services are first tools and the community of people who got together while using the service, comes later on.
Differencing between communities and networks, Chloe Stromberg from Forrester Research says that ‘while communities are bound by emotion and passion, networks are simply communication links between people who have something in common.’
Interesting to mull over. I think Front Porch Forum is used as a tool by some (receive and spread information), a network for others (e.g., need 20 people to sign a petition to get a stop sign installed), and a community of neighbors for most. Many report that their FPF neighborhood forum has helped created a neighborhood environment where they can more easily establish and maintain genuine friendships.