As I continue to research the dynamics of Personal Networks – I see a real issue looming of “friendship overload”.

My last blog post included a quote from Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh:

Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.

That’s a big number for a 20 year old to carry along for life!

I then read the Leader Column in a very traditional British magazine, “Country Life” – entitled “With friends like these…”. One of the key quotes in the article was:

This should be a boom time for friendship. Once, geographical separation and the divergence of life’s path would make friendships difficult to continue. Now, Facebook means that an act of conscious will is required to lose touch…

Country Life’s particular angle was about how you get to know who your REAL friends are when the going gets tough. The focus of the article was on the troubles of Prince Andrew, Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi. Here’s another line from the article:

… few things are more revealing of the moral character of an individual that his or her attitude towards friends who are going through a bad patch.

Wow – young people are going to have to have bucket loads of “moral character” to support the number of FB friends they have!

This brought me back to a topic discussed a few months ago in a blog post about INSEAD professor Martin Gargiulo. Here’s a brief exert.

…. he compares the reciprocal relationship between people in the network to electrical copper wires. Firstly, the thicker the copper wire – the more energy in the relationship. He goes on to use the same analogy to say that these cables do not rot – and can be easily reactivated. It’s a good way to consider those weak ties (and often close relationships) where our communication is infrequent.

I was greatly amused by how he describes that relationships have to be pro-actively broken. He says that “you must murder” a relationship to really break it! The relationship – not the person…

I am sure we can all think of many friends who we have lost touch with through “natural wastage”. Personally, I think that works well – and it’s often a “toss of a coin” on meeting again whether my reaction is either “Why, oh why did I lose touch with that person – they are great” or “Ah, it’s flooding back to me why I lost touch!”.

I think that all these hundreds and thousand of “copper wires”/friendships staying connected – and with energy flowing through Facebook – this can only lead to “Friendship Overload”. What do you think? Please comment below or take part in the poll on LinkedIn.