Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just Friendship, Friendship…

As a greeter and helper of newcomers, I get a lot of Friends offers. If the person has at least spoken a few words to me first, I usually accept them. I don’t want our visitors to get the impression that Second Life is an unwelcoming place. Besides, a newcomer often needs someone to call if they get confused or get themselves in trouble.

But most of these new “friends” never call me again. Quite a few have looked around and decided Second Life is not for them. Others have just moved on with their Second Lives (as they should) and no longer need to call their poor old teacher.

As a result, I regularly purge my Friends list. If you are on it, and suddenly find yourself dropped, please don’t get mad! If you really want to stay on my list, just IM me and ask, and I will put you back.

Adding a Friend is very easy, technically speaking. Just open a person’s Profile, or right click their avatar, and select Add Friend. If they accept your request, you’re Friends. But…are you friends, as well as Friends?

Last night, my fellow greeter Indeterminate Schism and I were handling a rush of newcomers at Caledon Oxbridge. Along with questions, Friends offers were flying thick and fast. Inde had some things to say about SL Friendship that I thought were worth repeating here (I’ll paraphrase, Inde…and if I misstate your views, the fault’s mine.)

The Friends List isn’t good for much more than giving you a notification when someone logs in or out of Second Life. So here is something to ask yourself – If you see a friend has come on line, do you usually call them? Does your face light up when you see that “Lindal Kidd is On Line” message? If not, ask yourself: Do you really want/need this person on your Friends list? If you really want to talk to anyone in SL, having them on your list is just a minor convenience. It’s nearly as easy to open Search, and look them up in the phonebook.

If you have people whose names you can’t remember in your Friends list, ask yourself why. Why is this person, whom you can’t remember and don’t speak to, cluttering up your Second Life?*

Or, on a slightly darker note, how many of your Friends only call you up to use you? To cry on your shoulder, burden you with Drama, send you a TP request to come vote for them in a club contest, or otherwise suck away your time for their benefit? Do you have any Time Vampires on your list? Are you yourself a Time Vampire?

I am skeptical of this whole FaceBook-inspired concept of the Instant Friend. One of the reasons I dislike most social networking sites is all those unsolicited Friends requests I get from them. Gosh, HooberHeaver, who the hell are you, why are you in my Inbox, and why on earth should I be your Friend?

Are we keeping score? Are social network Friends lists an item of competition? Do people at cocktail parties one-up each other? “Oh, that’s nothing, darling! I was at a thousand Friends on FB two years ago!” I think some people must be doing that. I’ve had newbies run past me at full speed, leaving only a Friendship request in their wake. Hey, if you won’t even stop long enough to say hello, what kind of a friend ARE you?

How many of our online friends are REAL friends? People we share our lives with? People we call to gleefully inform them of our triumphs, and on whom we rely to give us sympathy and comfort when we suffer a setback? How many of your multitude of FaceBookFriends would invite you to spend the night if you told them you were in town? How many of them would you invite to YOUR house? Would you trust any of them with money? (I’m happy to say that in some cases I have trusted an online friend with money, or they have done me the honor of trusting me with theirs. So it’s not merely a case of “this friend is a real world friend, that one is an online one and doesn’t matter.”)

As I told one newbie who kept insisting that I “add him”, it’s no insult NOT to accept a friends request. It’s possible to be friendly without being on somebody’s List. And, frankly, I get the feeling that this obsession with being the Friend of everyone alive and having the database to prove it is doing serious damage to the concept of real friendship.

So – I’m happy to meet you, stranger! No, hold that Friends request, please, until we’ve known each other a week, or a month. Call me if you need me, I’m in the book.

*Besides the social aspects, there’s system performance to consider. A very large Friends list will slow down your teleports and may make them unreliable. I try to keep mine under 200. I know people who trim their lists if they get over forty.


  1. I added this to my profile a long time ago to explain the friend button to newbies "Friendship - It grows over time: first we see each other, then we talk, then we realize we like seeing and talking and we start doing things together. Then we go through ups and downs and we cheer and console each other. It's a truly wonderful and special thing. And it has not much to do with the offer friendship button in SL.

    So if you ask me to be your official friend, I may say yes or no depending on the circumstances. If it's the first words I've ever heard from you, then probably no. If you're new and I am welcoming you to SL then I may say yes. That doesn't really make us friends, but it may or may not become true over time. And if over time I never hear from you, don't feel bad if I drop you from my friends list, it doesn't mean we're not friends any more than being there made us friends.

    And if you really just want to rub pixels, better try elsewhere."

  2. That's very nicely put! I have a similar sentiment in my own Profile. The only trouble is, the Instant Frienders don't read Profiles...

  3. But you can teach them about reading profiles while you turn them down!