Intimacy 2.0

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At what point do you have too many friends, followers and subscribers? The big question we keep hearing about all of these online social channels is, "does it scale?" Maybe the better question is, "why does it have to scale?"

Welcome to Intimacy 2.0.

Right now, most of the online social networks and communications channels seem more like games than anything else. For the most part, the game is about collecting as many followers, friends and subscribers as possible. In the end, that is a mass media model and even though these are conversational channels – much more back and forth than one centralized place that edits and distributes information to the masses – the only way to shift from "conversational" to real conversations is to get more intimate.

The better conversations are the smaller ones. The ones that happen in the hallways and not on the tradeshow floors. The ones that are sparked by a Blog posting but happen on instant messenger or through email.

Perhaps one of the bigger trends we will see in the coming years is the overall pruning of one’s online social network down to a manageable level where real interactions between real human beings start taking hold again. Maybe true success in these online social circles will not involve metrics like amount of connections or how many times something happened, but rather how powerful and poignant something is to the specific target market. We all know people who use these channels in that, exact, way. They keep their circles tight and the conversation is very personal… even when it’s publicly visible for all to see.

Word of mouth is only successful when the person receiving the message either trusts the source implicitly or loves what they’re hearing about so much that the source is simply the vessel that delivers the message. It’s a fairly simple form of marketing and communications when you break it down (it’s also arguable whether it’s marketing at all). Technology is getting to the point where this type of messaging can transcend your physical group of connections. It is quite powerful.

Who would have thought that you could have an intimate connection with someone in another country whom you have never met in person?

The whole quality over quantity debate still rages on because most people (and I can be just as guilty of this as the next person) are not looking at creating valuable and intimate relationships. They’re hooked more on the sheer volume of their loose ties. For some, it seems to be more than enough in the snackable content society that we’re all creating with every Twitter tweet and FriendFeed comment.

The real question is, just how badly do you want intimacy in these channels or is it simply a number’s game and newer version of mass media?


  1. Isn’t the old standard Windows Live Messenger (and other IM tools) a simple web 2.0(ish) tool that allows for both intimacy AND a large network? I use my tools like this…
    Linkedin – known, unknown, mass
    Facebook – known only
    WLM – known and interested in 1:1 conversations

  2. oh god to hell with the numbers. mor fluffy friends and followers? please! ugh. i crave finding people i can talk to and who are able to deeply listen to me and who challenge me and make me think. and who i can do the same for. well now, that would be a gift. that would be enriching. to me to future is organizations letting their passion shine through — no bullshit connecting with people. but didn’t chris locke make that point like, what, SIX years ago, gonzo!

  3. Corby, it sure is intimate, but it’s not intimacy 2.0. My way-too-esoteric point is that in the 2.0 space, all of that intimacy may be between two people but the result of it is published and there for all to see.
    Christine, I’m with you. What we’re both talking about is real connections, but what’s with our need to have this out and available in the public forum? Does it just make it easier for us to find more people to have that intimacy with?

  4. “Perhaps one of the bigger trends we will see in the coming years is the overall pruning of one’s online social network down to a manageable level where real interactions between real human beings start taking hold again.”
    Well said. The catch is the “SOCIAL� in social network. You need to socialise regularly with people to build relationships. You need to share, to interact, to communicate on a personal as well as a professional level. You need to add value. And the people you engage need to add value too.
    The only way to do this effectively is to limit the number of connections. I’ve limited the number of people I follow on Twitter to 80. I’ve started culling Facebook friends too. And I’ve taken to screening followers and blog-links before I add them to my network. Is it a touch mercenary? Maybe, but it’s all in the name of finding those REAL connections.

  5. No matter what technology we are using or social environment we are involve, everyone has time and physical limits to manage genuine relationships.
    Someone can influence billion of others, but can’t have deep intellectual, spiritual and emotional interactions with more than few ones. There is a huge difference between being entertained, informed, educated and loved. Love: isn’t it what we all aim for after all?

  6. I think everything can / should be able to scale, but one of the limiting factors are the tools themselves.
    For example, my twitter follower list now includes people from my day job and people from my weekend hobby (skiing).
    My ski friends don’t care about mobile marketing… and my marketing friends don’t really care about how much snow fell in Quebec this weekend.
    Just as facebook finally created friend groupings, it would be great if all our social media tools allowed us to better segment our friends and associates so that we can have not just more intimate conversations, but more of them.

  7. I agree with you that every real-life networking event has been measured by the quantity and quality of ‘hallway conversations’ – not the content delivered from the lectern.
    While I’m happy to make new friends on Twitter, most of my Facebook, Plaxo and LinkedIn friends are true friends and colleagues. I choose not to be a “promiscuous linker” because I want to be able to really connect with people in those spaces. I feel like Linkedn and Facebook are like conferences I attend regularly, and Twitter is a coffee shop where I am continually meeting new people and being exposed to new ideas. They both have their place! Make new friends and keep the old!!

  8. This is definitely one of the things I’ve been talking about with others on the medium. It’s getting out of control and I think it’s just an ego-driven media instead of social. I used to have a network of more than 500 followers right around the time twitter was a newborn tool, but it came to the point of being just plain unmanageable and point less. Now I opened a new account where I’m very careful on who to follow and who to ignore. The word “social” loses its focus very easily if you’re not careful. Thanks Mitch for a good point of view worthy of being ‘delicious’ly bookmarked.

  9. It’s a pendulum swing, of course. When I first started with twitter, it was all about talking to people I really did know well- it was intimacy; now it is a bit more like microbroadcasting. It’s a place for taking the temp of a focus group, getting help if need be.
    The problem is always how to maintain and cultivate connectedness with people over long distances; deciding who is worth your time and attention, and hoping they feel likewise.
    I think everyone is finding big overwhelming- amazing, exciting, but quickly becoming unwieldy.
    What I am not sure about is how to solve the problem. Some of it may be reverting to smaller, gated communities online, out of necessity. But I’m certainly interested in anything you can come up with, because I’m tired of everyone assuming I’ve read their latest blog post, or know everything about them- my brain is overflowing and I feel a need to focus and prune.

  10. I am not sure that the better conversations are the “smaller ones” per se. Conversation can be with many people or just with one’s self. There are times for deep conversation and meaningful content and moments when you are only looking for light entertainment — sort of like the films you might choose to watch or books you might choose to read.
    The 2.0 functionality is allowing people to engage more easily such that more people become contributors and participate in the online conversation and I think that is a good thing. However, truly intimate conversation (or photographs for that matter) is not for public domain and therefore not for the net. The question is not whether all conversation should be deep and purposeful, but whether or not you can or want to participate in it at the time that you happen to come across it. Like going to a party (we are generally social beings), you tend to flit around until you can find that one ‘good’ conversation — and it may be with someone you didn’t even know beforehand. If you didn’t want the risk of meeting new people, you would not go to the party at all.
    Personally, I enjoy the opportunity to express myself with total strangers and, according to the blog features, will follow the thread. It is just about taking the time and mindset when you come across a conversation you wish to join.

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