“I look out onto the crowd and see so many of you who are my Facebook Friends… my real friends…” I uttered this somewhat memorable quote while receiving my very coveted Sam Gilmer Supplier of the Year Award from the Society of Government Meeting Professionals last May. It was met with a chorus of sneers and chuckles but through the intrinsic humor of the statement there exists a real truth.
For most, Facebook Friends do not equal real friends. That is not to say that the two categories won’t overlap in a big way. But in my world, the prerequisite for becoming Facebook Friends is, as Donald Trump might point out, a lower standard than for becoming real friends. To put this in perspective, five of my 1287 friends (as of this entry) are people whom I’ve met on airplanes. At least one other was a server I had a friendly conversation with on my 23 day road trip last year. My in-person relationship with these people has been obliterated by the connection we’ve been able to maintain since. And it’s derived from two inherent qualities which I think I share with a lot of people.
For one, I have a curiosity about people and Facebook allows people like me to peak into other people’s worlds, learn from them, laugh with them, laugh at them, share insights. And the second reason, which may pertain specifically to people in my position, is that when one is in business for one’s self, it behooves that person to be connected with as many people as possible.
I’ve used Facebook to help me determine how I once received a referral. I had a voicemail from a brand new client in Arizona, three time zones and 2,500 miles from my home. This person with whom I’d never interacted, mentioned that another person, with whom I’d also never interacted had referred her to me. Please trust that the irony was not lost on me that this prospective client was calling me from an Alzheimer’s Institute and so the notion that I could not remember either of these people was weighing on me severely. Nevertheless, I went on this institute’s website, found a photo of the person who apparently referred me and decidedly definitively that we’d never met. My next step was to search for this person on Facebook and see if we had a mutual friend. Lo and behold we did, however even that mutual friend was a rather random acquaintance of mine. Both the best friend of the husband of one of my clients, and also someone with whom I went to rival high schools and debated on rival debate teams. So to drill home the lineage of my connection with this new prospective client – my current client’s husband’s best friend’s cousin’s wife’s assistant called me! How about that!
Being Facebook friends with me is a good way to keep in contact during our busy lives. Maybe one of these days we can become real friends too, but in the interim, please know I value our relationship all the same!