We’re Friends Everywhere Except Real Life

At a recent games conference, I met a local entrepreneur who I’m connected to on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This was the first time we’d met face-to-face and I couldn’t help noting aloud that, “It’s so nice to finally meet you; we’re friends everywhere except real life.”

He gave me a weird look, but then acknowledged, “Yeah, this is the new age we’re living in.”

I can’t believe this show got approved for a second season. Image source: ABC

I think about that a lot.

Not that particular conversation, per se, but that feeling.

As a product manager and as a person, I’m meeting new people all the time online. I’ve made that part of my job because a) it’s fun, and b) it’s incredibly useful.

Thanks to the various and sundry social media channels available today, there’s no shortage of information relating to customer problems, desires, and pain points.

But, are we really friends?

Or are we all just dating in the dark?

In the last six months, I’ve probably personally interacted with around 500 customers through email, blog posts, Twitter, and Facebook. There is real value in those interactions (hopefully for both parties!).

Although, as a person, I wonder — in this new age of omnipresent digital connection, are we just clutching to illusions of intimacy?

I mean, I have 100+ friends on Facebook, but how many do I actually, meaningfully interact with on a regular basis? Technology lets us stay in constant contact with many people; the trade off appears to be quantity for quality.

As a product manager, I wonder the same thing: I have a broader picture of the market, which is great, but sometimes it also feels shallower.

What to do?

Like with most things, balance is probably the key — keeping the broad understanding but coupling it with opportunities for deeper interactions with customers to better understand what they need and how we can help.

However, that seems easier typed into cyberspace for 2.5k anonymous monthly visitors to read on my personal blog than to actually do in the real world.

Bonus Content

For more thoughts on this topic, please see Jon Gatrell’s recent talk on PMs taking a more strategic approach to social media

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5 thoughts on “We’re Friends Everywhere Except Real Life

  1. Recently I read an article discussing online relationships. (Can’t remember where I read it. So sorry!) The fascinating thing was that people are actually *more* honest online than in person! The initial anonymity allows us to be ourselves and say what we really think. Then if a relationship continues into “real” life it often stays strong.

    I thought it was interesting. ^_^ I tend to guard my personal information very closely, but my opinions and beliefs? I’m more free to share them online than in the “real” world.

    As for quantity vs quality, eh… I think the internet is kind of like a giant high school. There are a ton of people you know only by name, but there are also many close friends that you never would have met otherwise.

  2. Thanks for the referencing the preso from pcamptl. I think we were “all just dating in the dark” before social. While a bunch of stuff to filter through, it makes it much easier to ask the right questions when we have real customers/buyers on the phone or in person.

  3. Hi Jon –

    Thanks for your comment. Mainly, I agree with you. Although part of me thinks the darkness is actually still in place, and it’s just the size of the room and the number of participants that’s dramatically increased in size… Finding the lightswitch is still the key.


  4. or carry a flashlight 😉 The more we can do to shine the light on change and the necessity to build products and implemented process which support the social requirements in the marketplace the better off we all become. We can reduce transactional friction/costs, improved service delivery and establish stronger bonds in our markets.

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