I am not a very popular person. I only have:
- 90 Facebook friends (although if I friended my mum and all my uncles, aunts, cousins and their spouses I’d probably double that). [Update: As at 7 April 2011, I have 100 FB friends.]
- 29 Twitter followers (because I struggle to tweet anything very interesting)
- 83 LinkedIn connections (no recruiters please).
Assuming some of these people are the same, then I am well within Dunbar’s number of 150 ie 150 is the most amount of people that you can maintain stable social relationships with.
I’m still applying the old world rules to the online world – friends are people who I’ve met in person. I know that’s not what the cool people do, but I’m just a bit old-fashioned.
A year in 9 minutes
This week an old friend of mine called me up to apologise for not getting in touch for ages – almost a year in fact. Seems like I’d run out of ‘let’s catch up’ appointments in my diary.
Our 9 minute phone call was brief but brilliant. Instant download on each other’s lives and the sound of laughter as we shared stories of our children’s dysfunctional bowels and bottoms. I’m so glad she didn’t just send me a text message with LOL.
The kindness of strangers
I’m a bit wary of strangers online. And in real life, I’m trying to explain the subtle difference between nice strangers and bad strangers to the kids. For example:
- Very Old shrunken aunt with scratchy green cardigan and unusual facial hair at a family reunion – nice
- Smelly man with trousers done up with string, outside the train station, holding a half empty vodka bottle, offering you oranges – bad.
When I was backpacking around Europe with my best friend during uni, we trusted our gut instinct when deciding if strangers were nice or bad. We had mostly wonderful experiences. I find it harder to make that instinctive risk assessment online.
I have vivid memories of kind strangers on our trip. One night in Paris, my friend and I, plus a perky Canadian with jangly earrings, were waiting for a very very early train. To save money, we didn’t book a hotel. It was January, and freezing, and as more and more places closed for the night, we realised that we had made a mistake. Paris was getting a bit creepy, rather than romantic. And we really needed to wee.
Eventually, we found a little hotel that had some lights on. To our amazement, the night porter unlocked the door and let us in. (We were amazed that he understood our frozen mangled French…) He was definitely breaking the rules, letting us and our gigantic backpacks in, so we were very quiet and very grateful.
When we were preparing to go back outside, the night porter ushered us over to some couches and told us that we could rest there. In minutes, we had all dozed off. As promised, he woke us up an hour before our train was due out, then gave us fresh croissants and pots of yoghurt to take with us. We whispered our heartfelt thanks, and he locked the door behind us.
I don’t believe I’ve many a comparable online experience. Since I’m so unpopular (and quite wary) online, I don’t meet many strangers there. Maybe I need an iPhone app for a virtual ‘gut instinct’?
Brought to you by the InterWeb – Chatroulette for animals