Community. Peers. Group. Network. Friends and followers and contacts. There's almost as many terms for 'them people wot you know' in social media as there are social networks. But you know and I know that lots of the people you 'know' are, in fact, complete and utter strangers. Maybe you met them at a conference for three-and-a-half seconds. Maybe you liked their avatar. Maybe they're a friend of a friend of someone you met at a conference who had a nice avatar.
Which got me thinking: do I actually have as much in common with the next person along in Facebook's random ID numbering as I do with some of the people I'm supposedly 'friends' with? Well, let's take a look...
First, I need to find my Facebook ID number. That's easily done by visiting http://findmyfacebookid.com and popping in the URL of my Facebook profile.
Next I need to add and subtract 'one' from that number and visit the neighbouring profiles by appending them to "www.facebook.com/". And here they are (pixellated somewhat to protect the innocent... and me):
I was hoping for Barack Obama and Lady Gaga, but no - to the left, there's the lovely Mark. Mark's from Columbus, Ohio and he's friends with people who have names like Randy and Tré. I don't think I have much in common with Mark, but he looks like a smashing chap.
To the right, there's Gabrielle. She's locked down a lot of her profile, but I think she lives in Doha. I don't live there. She also had a cup of tea 20 hours ago, while I was drinking red wine. We don't seem very alike.
It's a fun game to play - why don't you try it yourself?!
Then, when you're done, have a think about this: if all we are is strangers, forced up against each other like travellers squeezed into some kind of social media train carriage, then isn't it the job of social media managers, agencies, brands, instigators to find ways to bring us together? Would Mark like to join me in a co-buy for the National Gallery Monopoly set? Would Gabrielle like to join me in buying something from Mumsnet's Co-buying Channel? Don't the things we buy - AND THE WAY WE BUY THEM - help define us as social beings? And isn't social commerce an amazing way of making that happen?
Food for thought, isn't it...?