They’re not “friends”–they’re consequential strangers

Just read a great article in Business Week, “What’s a Friend Worth” by Stephen Baker.  In a graphic use to illustrate the piece, quotation marks appear around the word friend, because most of our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter contacts are relations that don’t quite qualifyas friends. They’re consequential strangers.  Some of them are merely blips on the social radar.  Others are “anchored” to a particular place or activity.  And a few, such as a long-time business associate or a trusted advisor, skirt the periphery of  friend territory.  We’ve always had peripheral people in our lives, but  now that we’re “swimming in information,” as Baker puts it, consequential strangers are more important than ever–and technology allows us to keep track of them.  The fact is, each of us has a unique “social convoy”–an entourage of people we collect as we make our way through life.  While family and good friends often go the distance, consequential strangers tend to be shorter-term recruits, brought on board for a specific reason. When you hit an unexpected detour–and need information, clarification, or a connection–they’re the ones most likely to help you find an alternate route.