I don't really understand why I need to do Facebook. I don't really understand the lure of Facebook. But somehow I have 23 friends. I am waiting for a Facebook for Dummies book from the library. In the mean time I am asking everyone why I should do this. My stepson Matt sent me this today... and it does make sense. In the Wall Street Journal January 7thâ€¦
The Art of Making Online 'Friends'
Is it time to finally succumb to all those requests from annoying people who want to be your "friend" on Facebook or LinkedIn?
If you have so far resisted befriending people that you wouldn't normally call a friend in real life, here's a good reason to acquiesce: these acquaintances could come in very handy when looking for a job or a new career.
You may already have a perfectly satisfactory career. But in our brutal economic environment, we all live with a tiny corner of dread in our souls about being voted off the island.
The best defense against letting that corner of dread blossom into a full flower of paranoia is to have a support group. Despite their reputations as time-wasting dens of iniquity, social networks used wisely can be productive support groups.
On a social network, you build up what is known in sociology circles as your "weak ties." It turns out that people can often get jobs and spouses through people to whom they have weak ties -- meaning acquaintances rather than their best friends.
In a seminal 1973 paper, Stanford professor Mark Granovetter laid out the importance of weak ties between acquaintances, which he said created a "crucial bridge between the [acquaintances'] two densely knit clumps of close friends."
Weak ties are particularly good for job searching, Mr. Granovetter argued, because acquaintances can expose a job candidate to a much wider range of possibilities than his or her close friends can.
"Your weak ties are your windows on the world," says Mr. Granovetter. He says he accepts friend requests "if I know the person, whether I like them or not."
Social networks are practically the definition of weak ties. On a social network, you can be "friends" again with all sorts of people from your past -- from your college girlfriend to your former math tutor.
Of course, online safety experts recommend only friending people you know in real life, and not putting your personal information such as home address and cellphone number on your profile.
Strangely, I find that the people who befriend me are often people who didn't seem to like me at the time we knew each other in real life.
No matter, you are not really becoming their friend. Accept their friend request. Because next week, they may be posting this headline online: "Looking for a new CEO of my startup."
Recently, Jim Bankoff, a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners, was looking for a developer for one of his startups, a sports blogging network called SB Nation.
Mr. Bankoff changed his Facebook status update to "Looking for a rails developer who likes to chat about sports." The message was distributed to his 818 friends. Within days, Bankoff's acquaintances had forwarded him two candidates for the job.
In the past, Mr. Bankoff conducted such informal job hunts by sending out emails to his friends. But Facebook brought him a different set of candidates: "The two people I got the leads from were not people I would have thought to include (in an email)," Mr. Bankoff says.
You can do the same kind of networking with traditional methods, such as attending alumni association mixers and sending out Christmas cards. It just takes more work.
Barry Wellman, a University of Toronto professor who studies social networks and is writing a book about how the Internet affects relationships, prefers traditional networking. He declines to join Facebook or LinkedIn.
"I have more connectivity than I can handle," Mr. Wellman says. "I don't need mindshare. I would love to keep up more with my friends, but I use the old-fashioned mechanism of email for that."
He divides his 3,000-person address book into email lists, including a 120-person "best friends" list.
Still, for many people social-network sites are easier to manage than multiple email lists. Social networks can also help you mask the fact that you're looking for a job. Harvard Business School Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski describes this phenomenon as the "pooling effect."
And haven't you ever noticed that the most persistent befrienders on social networks are people who have just been laid off? They're quickly trying to build up their weak ties, but without the benefit of the pooling effect.
I recommend you build your weak ties before you're voted off the island.