“Every person is a new door to a different world.”
– from the play/movie “Six Degrees of Separation”

I am blessed to know many people and have many people, both online and off, who I consider to be good friends. Some of these friends I have known seemingly forever – since public school. Others I’ve known for the past 20 years or so that I’ve been a “grownup”. Still others I’ve met only in the past couple of years. Some people I consider friends are people I’ve never even met face to face.

As I’ve gotten older, my definition of what makes for a real friendship has changed. When I was a little kid, my best friend was the one who I could play Barbies with for hours on end without getting bored. When I was a teenager, my friends were the girls I could talk with on the phone for hours about the cutest boy or the coolest music. As a young adult, my closest friends were the ones I would stay out with, whooping it up till all hours of the night and morning. Now, in my mid late thirties, my friends are the people who I rely on most, to share good times and bad. They are the people who enrich my life with their wisdom, kindness, generosity and love.

I’ve come to the realization that the reason I’ve been so blessed to have so many amazing friends is at least partially due to the fact that I try to be a good friend to them too. You see, REAL friendship – I’m talking the non-ego, unconditional, no strings attached, giving, loving type of friendship – is a two way street.

With events like the Shorty Awards, which aims to praise those people who are doing well at social media, I figured I’d share some of the reasons why I think being a good friend makes you good at social media.

It Feels Good to Help
In any friendship, there are times when your friends need help. As a good friend, you step up to the plate, and do whatever you can to assist. You do it without thinking about what’s in it for you. And when it’s over, you feel good that you were able to do your part. Sometimes, you are the one that needs the help. If you’ve been a good and helpful friend, you’ll find that, without question, your friends are now ready to step up and lend a hand to you. That’s what real friendship is about.

In your social networks, what kind of friend are you? Are you helping out when it’s needed, without expecting anything in return? Are you asking for help when you need it, without being too demanding? Find that balance of helping when you can, and asking for help when you need it. You’ll feel great, and your online experience will be richer for it.

For Good Times, and Bad Times
Ah, the 80’s. A time of bad hairstyles, worse clothes, and Dionne Warwick and Friends. OK, so the song was a bit over the top and cheesy (hey, it WAS the 80’s), but its message was clear. Real friends are friends no matter what – when times are good, it’s great. When times get tough, friends stick together.

As we head on into 2009, I am so optimistic about the possibilities that lie ahead. I’m excited to be involved in collaborations with amazing, talented people like Danny Brown and Kathryn Jennex. I’ve got some business opportunities that are going to change things in a big way. I’ll be teaching college students about new media and social media, and loving every minute of it. At the same time, the economic climate is far from perfect, and this is going to present some unique challenges for all of us. But I am a firm believer that there is strength in numbers. Together, we can celebrate all the good that has come to us through social media, and we can be there for each other as we go through our various struggles. It’s a comfort to know that I have so many people that are part of my online life, who are there for me, just as I am for them, no matter what the future holds.

Social media has changed the way we view friendship. It’s amazing how close I feel to some people; people I’ve never even met face to face! Those that don’t spend a lot of time in social networks may find this a hard concept to grasp. I guess what it comes down to is that this online space is inherently a place of open communication and sharing. The fact that we are able to nurture these aspects of human relationships here naturally lends itself to the creation of valuable and lasting friendships. And that’s a pretty powerful thing.

In what ways are you a good friend?