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Can You Really “Unfriend” Someone?

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 5 August 2008, 6:19 AM

Can You Really "Unfriend" Someone?

Can You Really "Unfriend" Someone?

Cisco currently has a campaign with the tagline “Welcome to the human network.”

In today’s society, few communities are truly isolated. Early this summer, there was a news story about a newly photographed Amazon tribe that created quite a stir. For the rest of us, it’s likely that we’re deeply embedded within the human network. We’re connected to everyone else who’s connected.

Geographic distance doesn’t matter. I live in Saint Louis, but I’m connected with people (whom I’ve never met) in Singapore, India, and South Africa.

If you’re part of the human network, you will remain connected with everyone else who’s connected. So, in the digital age we can “unfriend” people and still remain connected to them.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Anne decides she can’t tolerate Erik (colleagues within the same F500 company) and refuse any direct interaction. Her peers still connect with Erik. They’re indirectly connected through multiple mutual connections within the company.
  • Shari and Roger end a relationship and cut-off all direct contact with each other, but a few of their mutual friends “refuse to choose”. Shari and Roger remain part of each others’ second-level social network.

Here’s my point. If you’re part of the global social network, then you can’t fully exclude anyone from your extended social network. You don’t have to speak with them; you don’t have to know where they are or what they’re up to; but could conceivably reamina permanent part of your extended network.

However, not everyone receives the same access to social capital. A person may be part of your extended network but be unable to mobilize your resources or those adjacent to you.

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