The Beautifully Disturbing Aspect of FriendFeed and Social Media

Posted By on Aug 30, 2008 | 10 comments

I have been reading recently about the psychological aspects of social media and the online medium of communication (I will be posting in the next couple of days my thoughts and research). As many of us can attest to, we have created some relationships online with people across the country and on the other side of the world. You can categorize some of these relationships as relatively strong compared to your offline friendships.

I have always been under the assumption that online friendships can be just as strong as their offline counterparts. They become even stronger when you combine the two (meet offline after meeting online or vice versa).

I have been spending a lot of time recently on FriendFeed. I have communicated with some amazing people, sharing in some laughs and conversations that have been extremely satisfying. There has been something that has been bothering me though and that is the beautiful disturbing aspect of Social Media: not being balanced.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) I have a self-diagnosed case of an addictive personality. I become literally obsessed with certain things for unspecified amounts of time. It has been a good thing for my business and a ‘not-so-good’ thing for my personal life. I have been addicted to social sites like Friendfeed, Facebook, and Seesmic.

It is beautiful (I have met some great people) and yet disturbing (I have neglected offline relationships). I have finally figured out that the name of the game is balance. Isn’t that true in everything we do in life? Balance seems to be the name of the game when trying to magnify experience and learning.

Balance your offline and online relationships. When the opportunity arises to combine the two, don’t hesitate. You will not regret it.


  1. balance is a good idea… but is it? what are you trying to achieve? if you want to maintain your offline relationships(with people who don’t play online) then paying some attention to them is probably a good thing.. but doesn’t some of the great work come from periods of intense focus to the exclusion of all else, would our world be as rich as it is without these sometimes manic bursts of creativity?

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  2. Heaven knows that in the 20 years I’ve been online I’m still trying to find the right balance between my online/offline friends. I go through periods where one group is a lot more interesting than the other. And there are times when one group fulfills me more than the other. Your meatspace friends will never understand what exactly you’re doing online. The teasing and taunting just on that aspect of your life, will help make the decision a little easier. :P

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  3. Interesting piece, but do you really think it’s a phenomenon that relates to social media? Social media in this case is just the latest thing that those of an obsessive type will form an attachment to. The onus lies on each person to balance and moderate their own behaviour in all things – be it partaking in social media sites, consuming alcohol, attending rock concerts. Of course, it also lies with the close family and trusted friends of such people to point out where obsession may be interfering with other aspects of their life. My partner and I both rely on each other in this way :-)

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  4. Trite as it may sound, balance is probably the key to success and happiness in most all areas of our lives… and Social Media is no exception. Social Media certainly jumpstarts the “real” friendship process and meeting in person is almost always a great, natural next step (and lots of fun). I have been fortunate to attend many great “tweetups” and highly recommend them. As for your “addictive” personality, you might need to spend a few days at the INVITATIONS Social Networking Rehab facility: shameless plug – learn more at my humorous blog ;-)

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  5. Dude, my gf – soon to be fiance, although she doesn’t know it yet – is not a geek, not into social media or the web. She doesn’t run her own business & although she puts her heart & soul into me & what I do…she’s obviously not of the same mindset.

    The fact is, I don’t want her to be – I want that escapism…I want the opportunity to go to “get away from it all”. The fact is, as you said, it’s difficult and like you – I have a VERY addictive personality and often like to immerse myself in whatever it is. Anyway, I HAVE to learn to get away from it – it’s a skill i’m sure I will continue to have to work at & develop..but really without the skill & effort put into developing it, life really isn’t as it should/could be.

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  6. I have an addictive personality as well. Self-diagnosed, but it’s pretty obvious. I become hyper-focused on internet activities, coding, music, etc..

    As far as balance, I am in a position where my meatspace friends have moved away and become online friends. I don’t have a need to balance anything.

    Online friends are pretty much it as I don’t get much chance to associate IRL. Not sure if this is to my benefit…or not. :)

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  7. Kyle, Over the past few days I’ve been contemplating that, too. And the way I distinguish it, is, another ‘social circle’. I value my various circles for their strengths, weaknesses, and similarities of interests :)

    I prefer to keep everything separate, but if they do participate — because of similar interests, not because _of me_, then so be it.

    I’m glad to have ‘met’ you via FriendFeed. Thanks for this post.

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  8. Kyle, wow, can I ever relate to your post? In addition to an addictive personality, I also have a very short attention span. Social Media fills my free hours with more content than I can possibly absorb even if I click 50 times per minute.

    I’m regularly fascinated by people and the things they post about. I’d even go so far as to refer to a few of them as “friends”.

    Neat stuff.



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  9. Kyle (Great name by the way; a name I’m quite fond of as I chose it for my youngest son)…..

    I just have to say that it is so ironic that I came across your article and it is the VERY FIRST one that I have read here on FriendFeed since I discovered this site about 5 minutes ago.

    I’m not even sure if I can explain the extensive chain of “clicks” that lead me to it because I have been on the computer ALL DAY researching a myriad of subjects. It’s been another one of those kinda days that I’ve been having since being laid off several months ago.

    I seem to be obsessed with “input” these days (reminds me of that robot#5 in the movie Short Circuit). I believe that I have uncovered the fact today, that I am an addict of Social Media.

    I decided early this morning, to send an email to someone on MySpace whom I’ve never met on or off-line but who is in my friends network (long story). I decided to launch a campaign of attempting to meet with certain people who I feel have learned important life lessons in entrepreneurialism (based on what they’ve written about themselves & posted online) and who I can learn from, to help me determine whether I should try to launch some of my own ideas to create the kind of life I’ve yearned for so long, or just try to find another 8-5 job in a corporate cubicle.

    I wrote & sent two inquiries to individuals whom I’m interested in meeting with. The only one who has responded, did so quite rapidly and their response was a single sentence informing me to click on the included link for information to help me. The link was to one of their several businesses’ websites, this one being for entrepreneurial coaching. Well, I guess I made a good choice of identifying a candidate to learn from but it doesn’t look like it will come cheap! I was hoping to buy him lunch or dinner to get about an hour of his time to run some of my ideas past him & get his opinion but I guess I’ll have to pay $1K or more for his time as a “coach”.

    Well, needless to say, one click today led to another and another and another until I ended up viewing the slideshow “Forrester’s View on the Subject of Social Networks”. In this slideshow, I saw a screen-shot of one of Steve Rubel’s daily FriendFeed pages (I’ve never heard of him by the way). I wanted to get a closer look & click on one of the links in it. Through a couple of more clicks and detours, characteristic of my normal online experience, I consequently discovered the existence and ease of the”Bookmarklet”!! I thought, “what a great concept!” Of course in order to use it, I would have to sign up with FriendFeed and need I continue?

    I consequently ended up seeing your article and shizaam, here I am.

    I just have to say that I am excited, intrigued and also worried about my constant hunger for knowledge and my compulsion to “click” on everything that looks and sounds interesting to me online.

    I haven’t seen daylight since yesterday (well, I guess since it’s now 2:00 am Monday, it’s been 2 days because it was Saturday). But I will admit I didn’t get home from a party until 3am Sunday morning and needed the bed rest with my MacBook laptop (lol).

    I’m just relieved I recently got this laptop so I can at least be comfortable in bed while spending hours upon hours online, instead of breaking my back in the lousy chair at my PC desktop.

    I even bought a MacBook (tired of PC virus scares & constant kernel panics) so now I’m faced with the challenge of learning to be totally bilingual in computer applications (another thing on my “to-do” list that keeps me from venturing outdoors to live & interact with people).

    I was just so tickled when I read your article and how relevant it is to me right now.

    Thank you for putting a spotlight in my brain on a troubling consequence that I need to remember from time to time. I will never be able to truly enjoy my life if I can’t push the power button off on my computer and walk out that front door!! I am a true extrovert. I thrive when I’m around people and there are so many things I desire to do out there in the world on my feet and face-to-face with people!

    Of course though, now that I’ve discovered FriendFeed, I can’t wait to begin implementing its valuable tools to reach out through the cyberworld & use it to help me reach some of my goals which include sharing all the cool stuff I run across with my friends! Why must there be only 24 hours in a day?? So much to do, so little time (I’ve been saying that for the last 30 years!)

    P.S.- any idea why we can’t download MySpace or AOL contact lists here on FriendFeed? Is there some sort of “competitive conflict” going on here that I’m too naive to know about yet? I believe that was one of the points that Forrester’s presentation was making, but I never got around to finishing viewing it! It’s still up in one of the 20 windows I currently have open at the top of my screen. Now that I’m getting all these grandiose ideas, I just want to have ease in cross-referencing between several different forums; is that too much to ask? :-)

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