The Rise and Fall of Friends

We have been transformed. We have been transformed from a culture of Leave it to Beaver, where friends were next door neighbors or maybe work or church associates, into a culture where “friend” is a status symbol peddled by the gazillion social networks. It’s not uncommon to hear someone at a tech conferenct like Blog World Expo, where I am for the next few days, or Web 2.0 Expo, where Ray is bringing us coverage, proclaim, I’ve got 3500 friends on Twitter or I capped out at 5000 friends on Facebook. They won’t let me add more.

Silliness, of course, and I’ve talked about it before.

Putting aside the cliché friends bit, social media has definitely altered the way humanity interacts with each other and it’s not at all a bad thing. Cultural divides are falling, business relationships are being built. Heck, people are even getting married because of Twitter.

I can’t help but think that there is somewhat of an ebb and flow that takes place and we are on a retreating slope. At the very core of our human existence, we want relationships. While the inundation of networking opportunities, associates or “friends” is satisfying in its own right, it challenges the ability for humans to have their most basic relational instinct satisfied.

The other night on The Aaron Brazell Show, I cornered guest Jim Long (a minor demigod on Twitter) about who his favorite people on Twitter were. I knew I sent him a curve ball and expected him to dance out by making a diplomatic statement like, “Everyone is my favorite” or “I don’t have one”. Instead, he noted that as the quantity of friends go up, it becomes increasingly difficult to “see” the people he loved to see.

In essence, he was stating that, though Twitter satisifed a communications need and a desire to be connected, the ability to “relate” was getting more lost.

On another episode of the Aaron Brazell Show, my friend Jessie Newburn talked about the ebb and flow of generations and how the 4-part cycle of generations demonstrated and ebb and flow of how things were done. In Generation X,  loosely disconnected from previous generations and went their own way, but that the Millennial (often incorrectly called Generation Y) generation has a tendency to regroup.

Sort of like social media. The influx of friends, the followers, the contacts, the blogs, the feeds, the networking opportunities, the parties, the conversations…. all relatively empty from a human instinct perspective. For my part, I’ve spent less time engaged in all these things and more time in one on one relationships. I haven’t read my Google Reader in over a month. I get on twitter and Friendfeed in small spurts. I don’t go to DC for as many social events as I used to.

However, my Twitter direct message box is full. My IM is going all day. My phone book is full.

It’s all about being personal?

Understanding our Future by Understanding our Past

Generational history is cyclical. That’s where we get the phrase, “œHistory repeats itself”. In understanding our history, we can understand our future.

In generational theory, four main generational archetypes exist, and history indicates that the impact on society and culture by each generation lasts for approximately twenty years.

The four generational types are known in academia as Prophet, Nomad, Hero and Artist. Each of these types impact society in a different way and write our history for us.

For example, Prophets experience childhood in a victory era after a long and dark time, and generally bring a sense of territory and ownership as adults. These are the Baby Boomers of today.

Nomads experience childhood during an era of failing adult institutions. As young adults, they are concerned with doing more than talking. Nomads of today are Generation X.

Nomads typically give way to a Hero generation where resources are consolidated, belts are tightened and the excesses of the Nomads are reigned in. This generation is today’s Millennial generation (often errantly called Generation Y).

Heroes experience young adulthood when the culture is in a crisis mode and they exist to bring hope to a culture. They inspire and unite. They see the world in an optimistic and upbeat way because hope is their mantra. Heroes brought hope and perseverance during the Great Depression and World War II era and caused the nation to unite in solidarity to battle the tough times.

On Saturday night, on the Aaron Brazell Show, I’m really excited to have Jessie Newburn join me (you can follow her on Twitter too). Jessie is all over this stuff and is looking at the world through these lenses. As Generation X is pushing into midlife, Millenials are entering adulthood. How is this going to change our culture, society and world in business, technology, etc?

Join me at 9pm ET at Talkshoe or catch the archive after the fact on The Aaron Brazell Show. I’m really excited about this show, and hope you can join.