RE: What is an acquaintance, and what is identity?

I Find Karma (
Thu, 4 Jun 1998 16:37:17 -0700

Lisa said/asked:
> Now, since I know I know more than 1000 people (estimate 2000), am I one of
> those well-connected people? Is Adam? Is Rohit? Others on this list? I
> wouldn't be surprised. So I bet FoRK is on the shortest path between many,
> many pairs of people!

It has to do with the types of people we are, too. I got into a
discussion with Elwood about this before his untimely death (which,
AFAIK, have still been greatly exaggerated).

Basically, Lisa and Rohit are "Type A" networkers, the kinds of people
who can parlay a single bit of knowledge about a person into a genuine
knowledge of that person's habits and hopes, fears and dreams,
informations and aspirations. Plus, as "Alpha" networkers, Lisa and
Rohit have no qualms calling on people they hardly know for
friendship-type or professional-type things. This is not an indictment
-- I'm a great fan of the power schmooze -- but it's not a talent
everyone possesses.

So fine, we do the best we can with what we've been given.

Like them, I am extremely liberal with what I mean by the word "know"
when I say I "know" a person. It may just be that I only know OF them,
and my confidence thrusts me into their personal space with all due
acceleration. Usually, I'm far more subtle about it, but I have no fear
in approaching a friend of a friend and immediately calling them friend
before I know anything about them. Sometimes I'll call complete
strangers "friends" to level-jump those relationships more quickly --
I'll either impose on someone or let them impose on me to accelerate the
process. And I have no qualms about doing background research on people
through web pages, mailing list and usenet trails, articles in the
traditional media, artifacts from schools or jobs they've been before,
and/or checking in with known friends of said person.

Most relationships are bootstrappable in this way, and acceleratable
through any of a number of means. Best friends can be garnered in a
matter of days under the right conditions of heat and pressure -- kind
of like diamonds, I guess -- instead of only after many patient years.

Recently, though, I've been questioning the whole game of power
schmoozing internetworking. The only drivers of such games is a
particular goal (that is, you want money or power or fame or glory or an
invitation somewhere or a job contact or a recommendation or an
introduction or whatever) -- and if you have no such goal, the game
simply is not worth playing.

Because let's face it, once you have a handful of friends, that is
plenty. You really don't need much more than a few, unless you have one
of those goals in mind. For me, time is so damned finite, that any time
I have more than 3 friends I'm constantly having to turn down
opportunities to get together that I would really like to do.

I used to be like Rohit, cramming as many people into a small space as
possible to maximize bit flow. But now I'm like Jerry Maguire: I'm all
about personal attention. I don't NEED to maximize bit flow, because
whatever goals I had before have vanished into the ether. I just don't
need anything from people anymore, and it's liberating, because I can
just do what I want instead of jumping from person to person and blowing
off so-called lower-priority people. Now I tell people no if I know I
cannot make it, not because I don't want to see them, but because I've
come to understand that time is more finite, more fickle, and more
precious than I used to. It's an interesting freedom, this freedom to
give rather to take, and I rather like it.

Lisa also asked:
> Is that an unusual number of sources of contacts?

Not at all. I've also often lied about common interests or places I've
been to bootstrap contacts. I'm starting to wonder if those means
justify those ends.

> Hey, I just idly wondered what percent of all those I try to keep in touch
> with and I bet it's 3%. Yep, 30-60 seems like a reasonable estimate of the
> number of people I'd take the trouble to call or email if I hadn't heard
> from them in a while. What a great rule.

I used to think a good metric was a month, but now I've realized that
for most relationships, all they need is a once-a-year boost of
enthusiasm to return to the happy place where we left off. I honestly
maintain more than 1000 relationships this way.

Then there are the people who are totally in my face. That's maybe a
dozen, and they are unavoidable, not that I mind. That is the very
nature of friendship.

Somewhere between those are maybe 150-200 people I talk to at least once
a month socially. Professionally, there are maybe another 100.

I used to think it was great to do these things, but now I find myself
far too controlling and manipulative. So recently I've detached myself
a whole lot more to give thought to what I've been doing and whether I
can keep myself from using small powers of manipulation for genuine
evil. I tell you, when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss really does
gaze right back into you.

> At least I haven't been called an ignorant slut yet, though I'm sure
> that's coming.

Am I allowed to mention Hitler as my "get out of slut posts free" card?


When I grow up, I'll be stable. When I grow up, I'll turn the tables.
-- Garbage, "When I Grow Up" (off their new album "Version 2.0",
a really excellent set of electronirock)