I’ve got a lot of friends, or so says my Facebook page. But there are really only a third of them I am often wondering about. They take up a lot of my thoughts. I wonder, “Would he be up for a beer some time?” Then I start to dissuade myself. “He’s an important person, so he must not need more friends for that sort of thing.” I also sometimes meet people a few years younger than me and I think, “It’d be fun to go golfing with them.” But then I check myself, “But maybe they’ll think I’m too old…” It’s likely I sell myself short all the time and have missed out on some great friendships. The fact of the matter is that there was many a missed opportunity and all my decisions rested on pure speculation.
I also recall a time way-way back when I was single. I’d wonder, “Would she ever want to go out with me for coffee or a date? I’d ask her, but she may say no and things will always be weird between us.” And even now, I get students whom I wish got the hint that I won’t write a glowing recommendation for them, but they ask me nonetheless and I feel obliged to say yes and write a polite one (or they don’t ask when they should and I can never help them onward and upward). So the speculation cuts both ways – our true intentions overshoot and undershoot those of our partners.
Social relationships – at least the ones that matter to us – are the sort we work on and wonder about in a myriad of ways. Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ tend to treat relationships like they are static whereas in reality they are always changing. They are evolving relationships that are lived and constantly negotiated. We obsess about them. When we reflect on our relationships, we look at their past and off into their possible futures. They have stories and routines built into them that we feel comfortable with and value. We’d hate to lose many of them. But many also tell possible futures we would love to explore if only we could do so without losing all we’ve worked so hard to already develop. If we go too far, we get rejected and feel ashamed. If we press ahead and find reciprocation, we are vindicated and feel pride.
There is a pretty basic and universal point here. People look at those whom they know and imagine possible relationships. At this point, people try and read the signals they can gauge in others and determine whether these possible relationships have any chance of being reciprocated. Unfortunately, people are far from perfect at reading others’ social intentions, and they constantly make missteps or miss out on forging and improving a variety of relationships that matter most to them. That is, we “over-shoot” and “under-shoot” others intentions, rarely having a “perfect shot” that accomplishes desired connections.
TrintMe is a platform whereby people can explore a variety of relational futures without undermining the relational stage they’ve already accomplished. To date, TrintMe has only been applied to Facebook friends, but I think it has far broader appeal that can extend to professional networks and a variety of other social media. Through TrintMe people can begin to explore more of their relational intentions and better reach their social potential. It’s a more intelligent form of networking.
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