Why has Facebook been such a success? Quite simply because it is constantly attracting a new crop of users — young people who are just beginning to practise the socialization skills necessary for adulthood. When they’ve rehearsed long enough among those whom they originally considered to be friends they leave. They weren’t really friends. A better term would be communicants.
In some ways Facebook was the successor to Friends Reunited, a happy concept dreamed up by Julie and Steve Pankhurst whereby those who were friends at school or university could make contact again. FR was successful enough for the Pankhursts to sell it to ITV for £175 million. But membership — for a fee — was already topping out — 23 million — and it was sold four years later for £25 million. It was finally sold again — back to Steve Pankhurst — and then folded.
What can we learn about friendship from the history of these two businesses? Facebook has been a success but only because, early enough, it accidentally happened upon a different reason for its use than originally conceived. Friends Reunited was a bang on-target success from the beginning but yet failed as a business when the reunited friends, once refreshed about life’s subsequent experiences, found that they weren’t really friends any longer — they had quite different and separate lives. They didn’t maintain their subscriptions.
Friendships can only be maintained if communications were never let go in the first place. New friendships can only persist unless communications become regular and pivot around common interests, such as in work or leisure groups. I am not sure that business will ever get into friendships successfully