Is social networking the new stamp collecting?

I’ve been curious lately about the apparent social stamp collections of some Twitter users, after being added by these people as their *friend*. When they first added me, I thought they might have somehow been following my work and wanted to keep tabs on what I’m doing. But one guy had about 20,000 friends. Others had lower amounts, but still several thousand.

I’ve been collected. My thumbnail is now a stamp.

I’ve worked on the web since 1995, but there’s an obvious gap here. Something I’ve missed. Which I found strange at first, because I do as much as I can to keep up with All Things Web. Frankly, I often join or use *totally stupid* sites and apps just to see what the fuss is about and keep up with the DigiJoneses. But it’s not the applications I’ve overlooked. It’s the way people use them.

A recent Social Computing Magazine article, The Psychology of Social Computing, explores this weirdo collection type of activity within Facebook. Actually I think MySpace is worse, but I can imagine that there aren’t many people willing to look at it long enough to write an article about it. In his article, John Kirriemuir offers his view on the reasons for Facebook’s success. Particularly interesting is the collection factor. The more friends you’ve got, the higher your status. Or something.

This seems juvenile to me. But then I’m 37 years old, so maybe that’s my problem. I use these apps mostly as an *extension* of my real-life network. I’ve actually met about 80% of my *friends* in person. Of course, these sites can be a way to make new contacts. But that can only happen if my collection of friends remains manageable. Otherwise, it’s just noise.

I’d like to see the term *friends* be replaced with a choice of various relationship categories (why not use XFN as a starting point), so that I can easily see that the guy with 20,000 *contacts* only has three *friends*. As a matter of fact, that’s what XFN is for, isn’t it?

Call me crazy, but in the real world, aren’t fame and status more related to how many people collect *you*, if you will, instead of how many people you collect? Why is this different in Twitter or Facebook? I’d rather have 50 friends and 20,000 admirers. Wouldn’t you?

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