Scenario 1: It is your birthday. Everytime you check your mail, it updates you about new terse Facebook wishes sent by people in your friend list. On the same day, a few friends instead send you a personal mail with wishes. Do you:
a) Prefer the gratuitous scraps
b) They both mean the same to you
c) You like the personal mails more
Scenario 2: From your updates, you discover your friend Saurabh has messaged Neha. Do you:
a) Jump in right away and drop a small scrap with three word sentences
b) Ignore the update and check if people have sent you scraps
c) Make a note of it and send Neha/Saurabh a personal mail later
I am not collating scores for this miniature questionnaire. I am sure the ideal answers were obvious to you. If you got answer (c) for both, then 100 points to you! My intention is not to undermine your current social networking behaviour. We make conscious choices on how to spend time online in interacting with our friends. Our activities span across the range in the graph above. The aim would be to find ways to better one's presence with some increase in effort. For ease of stating my points, I'll be calling this generic friend Pinky.
Here is a broad representation of activities, again plotted on the same scale of Generalization. The skill of rendering messages can of course improve them to an extent. But there are some inherent handicaps as you move down the curve.
Can you express interest in things specific to her life? (Wassup? does not count). We love it when people surprise us with relevant questions. It shows they have paid attention in previous conversations. The same would apply to Pinky.
Movie Music Sports
It needs no explanation why these three evoke the strongest emotional attachment in people. Of course, by suggesting Movie-Sports, I do not promote a degenerated discussion like the one I recently suffered.
"Arvind, so when is the cricket match starting today?"
"Oh..I don't follow cricket."
"That's really sad....So which sport do you follow?"
"I don't follow Sports."
"Oh! That's really sad. So..amm...you just watch Rajni movies?"
The amusing thing is that you could send a scatching mail to your friend about her company/work and it would evoke only a mild protest (if any). But if you entered into a arguement about Movies or Sports, there could be potential injuries or even murder! But work does take up a significant portion of our time. And it would be interesting to talk about it when someone expresses interest.
I Me Myself Talk
A friend recently sent me a public request suggesting I go through her list of '25 Random Things About Me' with an option of creating this gibberish myself. I find these highly self-indulgent and boring. Instead of a '25 Random Things About Me', how about sending a '4 Things I Like About You' mail to people that matter to you! It won't spread far beyond your circle. But it will win their hearts better than a narcissistic laundry list.
Of course this was an extreme case. Your friends will in fact be curious about your life. For example, the fact that I got butchered in a Salsa club is embarrassing, but makes excellent fodder for conversations. If your friend Pinky loves to travel, maybe you could talk about your recent visit to UK.
Youtube / Article Recommendations
Unless the link is relevant specifically to some interest of Pinky, these are best left for Public Forums. Posting these on facebook or your blog is ideal and that also honours choice.
Social Network Widgets
If you choose to throw a Sheep, send a Hug, slap their face, remember they too can effortlessly do the same back to you. Did it add any value to your conversations? No. Hence I have thoughtfully placed it right at Zero level on the Relevance axis. Avoid if possible. It's a thorough waste of time.
Test: Recall the last 3 personal phone calls/mails you received from friends. Now try the same for these Social games.
Holidays and anniversaries lower our hesitation for reaching out and making contact. We can take good advantage of them. But such a message devoid of any other content (from the buckets explained above) is futile. If you don't like a truckload of impersonal wishes, don't send the same heartless wishes to others!
That's it! If I've missed any activity, I am sure it can be given an appropriate place on the curve. Armed with this structured knowledge, maybe we can consider these tiny changes in behaviour:
1. Drop a personal message along with new friend requests. Ask Pinky about her whereabouts, whether she likes her job, her course, her married life. If Pinky adds you merely to join her clutter, then you have the right to refuse. She does not deserve to be on your list. Of course, it works both ways.
2. Occasionally choose sending a personal message/mail over a public scrap. Of course, if you want to expose something embarrassing like "Hey, I heard you got drunk and danced with him for a whole song!", then yes! Post it in public!!
3. Valentine's Day is coming up. Maybe it's time to send that long postponed 'Feelings' e-mails!
You've befriended people because you shared the same interests, past, aspirations as them. Use the internet and networking tools to reinforce the same and connect better. After all, you are an interesting person to your friends, aren't you?
Graphs inspired by Indexed
Social Networking rants by Jabberwock and Garam Bheja Fry