[ This post also had working titles of ‘Friends, bloggers and countrymen’ and ‘anti-social networking’. ]

A few weeks ago, a gentleman called WaveyDavey001 was kind enough to invite me to participate in a Fantasy Football League.

Rather rudely, I attempted to invite several of my friends into the same League so I only needed to manage one team. WaveyDavey001 politely agreed with the caveat; ‘I’d like to vaguely know most (of them)’.

This innocuous, throwaway comment started me thinking about the nature of relationships on all these social networks.

WaveyDavey001 only ‘knows’ me from Jaiku. He knows I support Manchester United and knows I like football. Therefore, just like any clever marketeer, he knew it was possible I might be interested in a Fantasy League.

The only biographical details I have published on Jaiku are that I am from ‘London, near England’. I also publish an avatar on all social networks but this is merely a picture of Alan Partridge dressed up as a drug crazed zombie, caked in flour. This often leads to disappointment when people meet me in the flesh.

If you followed my various online presences for a period of time and/or trawled through the archives, you could probably gather lots more information about me (where I live, who I work for, my age, my marital status, my full name) but that would just make you a stalker and I could get a restraining order.

Now Michael C Harris maintains that every single utterance on Jaiku, Twitter, identi.ca, FriendFeed (et al) is divulging information about me - my interests (football, music, tennis, software, blogging etc), my attitude, my sense of, err, humour, and, of course, he’s absolutely right. Michael sums it up succinctly in this related post: ‘The body of tweets is indicative.’

I have encountered various, interesting, humourous, friendly, helpful people since I started blogging three years ago and yet I still really struggle with what to call these people - friends, mates or blogging acquaintances.

A long time ago, one of my earliest and longest standing blogging acquaintances, engtech, made a comment on a blog where he referred to me as a ‘friend’ and I was genuinely quite taken aback.

I have never met most of my ‘blogging acquaintances’ in person. I haven’t spoken with most of my ‘blogging acquaintances’. I don’t know what most of my ‘blogging acquaintances’ actually look like.

To me, a friend is someone you have met in person and shared a pint with. A friend is someone you could rely on.

I suspect the social networking equivalent of ‘sharing a pint’ would probably be Instant Messaging. Most of my relationships start with comments on blogs and may subsequently develop into email contact and occasionally conversations on IM.

And the point of all this ? Well - I’m not too sure but this post has been gathering dust in the dark recesses of my mind and hogging an entry in ‘Drafts’ for far too long. Plus the Partridge-esque title was simply too good to resist.

What do you call your blogging acquaintances ? Is my attitude to ‘friends’ simply typical British self-reserve ? Or am I a tortured soul prone to over analysis and introspection ?