Sunday, July 10, 2011

Drive-by friendship

A name I just made up for a phenomenon I've observed a lot. Alice posts something on Facebook (or now Google Plus, I guess). Maybe some people comment on the post. Frequently, some Bob comes along and posts something like, "cute cat. Hey, so how have you been lately?"

To me, it's obvious that Bob doesn't actually care how Alice has been. It's obvious he hasn't thought about Alice at all. He's only asking how she is because her post showed up in his feed. If she hadn't happened to post about cats, or if Facebook's bizarre and inscrutable relevance algorithm had not shown it to him, thoughts of Alice would not have crossed his mind at all. He saw it, he had a brief thought about her, he expressed it, and he moved on. It's like dropping a pebble into a pond. There's a small ripple, and then it's gone.

If Bob did care, he would have taken an extra 30 seconds to send a personal, private communication (email, text message, instant message, etc. There are so many options). He would have made an effort to initiate a real interaction. He wouldn't have hijacked a thread on some completely different subject. Maybe some people really love cats and want to hug all of them but they can't, so they're discussing it on Facebook. Then Bob comes along to ruin the discussion with thoughtless, irrelevant, pointless comments.

tl;dr: when people post about cats, comment on the cat. If you want to check in with them, do it in a way that's private, personal, and direct.



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