I still remember my grade school days of the '60s at Our Holy Redeemer Catholic school in Freeport, Long Island, when a girl would pay a little attention to one of us boys, how the rest of the boys would taunt us with the sing-song, "She liiiiiikes you" or break into song: "James and Patty, sitting on a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g... ." As a matter of fact, now that I'm a dad of young kids, I still hear this type of teasing around the kids' school. Apparently not much has changed in the real world and now there's the virtual world of the Internet to deal with too.
On the Internet it seems that I spend a lot of time asking people, "Do you Like me?" and/or "Will you be my friend?" and in some cases it brings up the same sort of school-aged angst. "I asked Mike to be my friend on Facebook a long time ago and so far, nothing. I wonder if he's mad at me or avoiding me for some reason... ."
Meanwhile, Mike is a salesman I hired and fired five years ago and he probably doesn't care about me one way or the other. I was a 'speed bump' on his career highway and he certainly doesn't care that I might be 'checking in' at the local Target store, or standing online in the grocery store behind some faded celebrity.
So what constitutes a 'friend' these days anyway? Are we expected to be friends with people we went to high school with, for instance, even if it was over 35 years ago and we've had no contact with them since 1975? Especially if their profile picture shows them in full costume at the latest Star Trek convention or if the only posts they seem to be making involve some virtual farming game or the answers they provided about which one of the Wizard of Oz characters they most resemble.
I have to admit here that I have over 700 'friends' on Facebook and I still don't know who most of them are. I doubt that many of them actually like me, and I'm not sure I'd call them 'friends' in the traditional sense of the word; even though they might 'Like' my page and wish me a 'Happy Birthday' once a year. They're 'potential buyers,' really, and I hope I don't hurt anyone's virtual feelings by being honest.
That's because my page isn't really me; it's me in the guise of a project I'm working on, or it's my business and, especially now, it's the place I plan to market my next book (which coincidentally is about the characters in the Wizard of Oz!)
Now on LinkedIn, it's not about 'friends' or 'liking' so much as 'contacts.' I similarly have about 500 'contacts' on LinkedIn -- many of them who also are 'friends' on Facebook. I mean, they must see something in my resume that they 'like' or they wouldn't accept my request to be a contact or join their group, right?
But while on Facebook my updates are mainly random life events, on LinkedIn I have many actual 'conversations' going on at the same time. A conversation, by the way, isn't really a couple of friends chatting; it's a thinly veiled soft marketing campaign in which topics get introduced that somehow lead to visiting a site or reading about someone's new program, book or webinar. Many times the webinars are how to have more 'contacts' or 'friends.'
And I haven't even mentioned Twitter yet where I have, drumroll please, not 500, not 700 -- wait for it -- but 2,437 followers. Yeah me! I'm sure all 2,437 of them will read this article, by the way, so #thanks everyone from @JamesLynchCoach!
I can't even take the time here to mention any of the many other virtual ways to 'meet' new friends, contacts and followers and I still don't know that I have that many people in my life to call 'friend' who actually give a Hoot Suite (little joke there) about how cute my daughter's YouTube videos are (The UmaliciousShow) or what music videos my son likes (Ceol3) or who will really buy my next book, not to mention who bought the first one.
I don't even think the people I went to grade school with are checking my updates to see who 'likes me' now and I can only hope that somewhere, sometime, someone I know is looking at my invite and saying, "Yea, James, I remember him. I really liked him."
And if that's true, I wonder if some of the kids I went to grade school with, many who now have kids and even grandkids in grade school, are saying, "Did you see who likes James on Facebook? They liiiiiiiike him. James and Rebecca, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g."
So, to all of you friends who are my real friends, thanks for 'liking me.' For all of you who 'like me' but don't know me, please get to know me better by reading my stuff, making comments and chatting with me in the groups I belong to, the chat rooms I frequent, or just plain old shooting me your thoughts on Twitter or commenting at the end of this article.
To all the rest, I'll do my best to be a good virtual friend and, if you're still not sure whether to accept my friend request, please realize that in some aspects we all still retain a little of that child in us who likes to be liked, who wants to be popular and who also might want to sell you something you really will like.
Follow James M. Lynch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JamesLynchCoach