Is our segmenting of friends into weak vs. strong connections actually a result of the limited communication tools to date?
As Paul Adams outlined in his presentation on the real social network, our connections can be roughly segmented into strong and weak connections. The communication tools available to us thus far seem to have been designed under that structure. We share private conversations one-on-one with our close friends, and interact through status updates, pokes, and comments with all the rest of our friends.
Group messaging brings on a whole new dimension by providing us with a socially acceptable way to keep in touch with people that previously were quickly relegated to our weak friend connection group.
Lets take a simple example to illustrate this, John has dinner with Ben and Ben’s two friends Kate and Joe. Using our current communication tools. Kate and Joe are Ben’s friends so its a little awkard to reach out one-to-one without going through Ben, so John elects instead to add Kate and Joe to his Facebook and they are now subject to John’s odd status update and photo album upload of his vacation in the Bahamas.
However, if John were to walk away from that dinner with Ben, Kate, and Joe in a group in his group messaging app, he would be a lot less reluctant to renew contact because he has saved the context where he met Kate and Joe. Reigniting communication with Kate and Joe outside of the dinner they shared thus becomes a lot more comfortable and easier.
Say John sees an article online that reminds him of a topic they debated that night, or a photo that relates to a joke they shared. Under current conventions, the barriers to that being shared are too high to make it worth it. 1-to-1 is out of the question. Sharing on Facebook results in a lot of friends guessing at his inside joke.
With group messaging sharing and keeping in touch with new friends becomes a lot easier. By extending the context or conversation where new friends are made, it enables all parties to continue interacting in a sociall acceptable way, until they feel comfortable with reaching out 1-to-1.