The difference between connections and relationships

The difference between connections and relationships

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The difference between connections and relationships

I used to use the words connection and relationship interchangeably. Let me explain why I don’t anymore because I think it sheds some light on how building relationships works over time.

This is a post from a few years back, but Bernard Vatant made me think of it just now as he was musing in a post about the difference between focusing on collections rather than people here on Google+.

I am a big fan of Collections because I think that they take closer to a true “shared interest graph.” With that said, I think that G+ may have swung a bit too far in that direction. If circles represent our relationships with people and collections our relationships with topics, the circle has largely been eclipsed by the collection and that’s a very narrow view on how people connect via shared interests. Yes, we might first connect around a topic, but over time, as we get to know someone, our interest in them stretches beyond that shared topic. That evolution of relationships around shared interests is something that Google seems to have lost a bit over this past couple years, and it’s a shame. Or, to quote from this piece:

The first few times I go in for my haircut, it’s all about my hair. Eventually, the barber and I may form a relationship though, and begin to actually care about the answers we give each other about our lives. Our connection matures; it becomes less transactional and more relational.


  1. Yep !!! Thanks Gideon Rosenblatt​

  2. Contextual clarity counters confusion Gideon Rosenblatt 

  3. Peter Hatherley Hi !!!

    Super Glad to See You Here !!!


  4. Gideon Rosenblatt I concur on your usage, with a small caveat about “how things really work,” quotes deliberate.

    I think it’s likely that many relationships begin through “mere” conversation and a mutual intro or virtual “handshake,” and not through a topical connection. That certainly happens on Twitter and it happened here on G+ at least in the days when an intro by a human meant something. On Twitter, somebody comments (replies, retweets) in a stream and you pick up on it, possibly through a common acquaintance, possibly through a hashtag. The conversation is about something, of course, but that may not be your connection. It’s a matter of trust that a third party conversing with a common acquaintance may be all right to interact with.

    I may not be clear above, and I always want to tag David Amerland when I start tossing trust around in an extended comment.

  5. Gideon Rosenblatt Nicely put. People can share interests without developing a relationship. And many people end up in relationships with no shared interests.

  6. Yes, George Station, of course there are cases where a connection is made by a human between two other humans — an introduction that is based on that first human having a sense that the people she is introducing would like each other. I have no idea what percent of relationships form that way. My guess that whatever it is, it’s much higher in physical rather than virtual reality.

  7. Yes, M Sinclair Stevens. In fact, a few of my most powerful relationships are based on relatively few topical connections. Family is a great example.

  8. C⁴ Peter Hatherley. 🙂

  9. My notifications are my hacking of circles

  10. By that, Mark Traphagen, do you mean that you set notifications for your closest relationship?

  11. Gideon Rosenblatt yes

  12. Gideon Rosenblatt an astute distinction. I find the relationships I’ve developed here on Google+ deepen with time.

    My experience, so far, with collections is that very few relationships develop from topics. As of today, the Semantic Writing collection has over 17K followers, which is almost double any of my other collections. Yet, the actual new relationships generated by the Collection have been 4. Ah, numbers. 🙂

  13. Gideon Rosenblatt Thanks for this excellent follow-up of the conversation at Very good points. BTW did you use “focusing” on purpose, in reference to Scott L. Feld’s “foci”?

    Zara Altair In the above quoted conversation, Nina Trankova makes an interesting point :

    I follow collections with heart and mind, in the same way I read a book: can’t remove the author from their creation, listen to a concert…etc.. Can you imagine how diverse and large is the community of people who get in touch through a collection?!

    This seems to fly in the face of the numbers you mention. But the ratio between number of people following a collection and number of induced relationships seems quite similar to the ratio between number of readers of a book and number of those readers who actually get in touch with the author.

    Which, again, needs to ping Teodora Petkova and her Brave New Text. To which extent collections do create what we call in French tissu social? (Not sure how to translate it)

  14. That’s been my experience too, Zara Altair​ though I haven’t really put any numbers to it. That’s interesting.

  15. Gideon Rosenblatt Loving the conversation and perspective…I would tend to agree with what Zara Altair said – it’s been my experience on other networks that the deeper relationships have started through shared interests, engaging and showing a real interest in those who liked and commented on my channel(s) and/or shared my articles, etc.

  16. Bernard Vatant Great quote. And, yes, I do the same thing–the author and the content are one. If that were true for those multitudinous Collection followers who do not interact, there would be more engagement.

  17. Maybe that’s “social fabric”, Bernard Vatant?

    And to answer your question, no, I’m actually not aware of Scott Feld or his use of the idea of foci.

    Your point about authors is an interesting one and I think you’re right that collections push us closer to that type of relationship between reader and writer, between creator and consumer. It’s as if it were filling in a hole in the market – the long tail of creatives who want to have one-to-many relationships, and are less able to keep up the social requirements of more relationship-centric social media.

    I wonder.

  18. Thanks jan gordon. I’m curious about your thoughts on my previous comment just now, particularly around the time and attention challenges of trying to transform those shared interests into relationships – especially when it is in a work context.

  19. Gideon Rosenblatt I think that if you spend too much time intellectualizing the formation of relationships, they are less likely to form. Do you feel a connection? If so, there is no work involved. Just a joy of discovering where synergy may lie. My best relationships have started with the heart not on a cerebral level. For those relationships where building them feels like work, I find that they are unlikely to ever yield much in the way of joy or business.

    What do you think, Peter Feltham?

  20. Bernard Vatant what I first thought when you talked about the division of collections from their authors was that this is an artificial divide. Then, this evening, it occurred to me: the figure of the author is a comparatively new construct 🙂

  21. Such an interesting conversation, Gideon Rosenblatt. Thanks for facilitating it.

    Like you suggested, Gideon, I too feel that perhaps G+ has swung too far from the focus on relationship with the advent of Collections.

    Zara Altair, for myself, my collections tend to hover in the 12K follower and I’m convinced most of those are simply because of the automatic default- the numbers are pretty close to my “follower” count. If engagement is an indication, I do not get the sense that these are intentional follows with the exception of a small percentage. I feel the lack of engagement.

    Question- is anyone thinking about shared experience not just shared interest? Again, for myself, most of my relationships online have developed through a shared experience. Perhaps initially brought about by some kernel of shared interest but mainly because of what happens next. We go through something together and a familiarity develops. I don’t think that is based on interest as much as tone, behavior, feel of another human being. And then we get that feeling of being known and seen by that other. And so on.

    Another question- my mind is quickly filled with images of cross interest experiences here. Isn’t that common? Once there’s been even a small connection, it’s easier and the chances of unexpected exposure occurs to enter into uncharted territory. Easier to dip into some interest that I didn’t know I had, an openness to introductions into unfamiliar thoughts, ideas, topics – once I have had some connection through another person.

    Teodora Petkova, your comment came in as I was writing. And once again, you bring up something inspiring. The idea of the new author. Just the thought of being the “author” of my collections becomes a fascinating one.

  22. Teodora Petkova I did not speak about separating the collection from its owner/author. If you understood it this way I was certainly unclear about it. As Nina Trankova puts it nicely, you can’t separate the collection from its author more than you can separate a book from its author (or whatever work from its creator).

    My choice was to connect through a collection. That’s all the point of Feld’s foci, or hyperedges. Put in words that maybe speak more to you, if I connect directly to you, it might be as jan gordon puts it, instinctively, from the heart, out of a feeling, whatever. If I connect to you through The Brave New Text collection, it gives a particular meaning to the relationship, based on something we share.

  23. Bernard Vatant thanks. Looks like I understood you wrong. Now it’s clearer.

  24. Gideon Rosenblatt “social fabric” is indeed the expression I was looking for, with “fabric” understood in the sense of “textile”, akin to french “tissu”. And we’re back to the something borrowed, something blue of Teodora Petkova. Collections are links, painted in various shades of blue.

  25. Gina Fiedel Hi !!!

    Love Your Comments !!!

    The Pendulum Effect Maybe

    Now back to the middle …

    Thanks again

  26. Hi all, I’m learning a lot from your comments and I’ll be back with follow-on questions/comments (mainly questions though). This topic needs a little quiet time to compose replies so I don’t derail. (Or if I DO derail, it won’t be due to sloppy writing, ha ha.)

  27. What I learned from this conversation here and the bits I followed across G+ today is that Ifinder Ifindi has the talent to develop relationships out of connections.Bernard Vatant is in the flow of clarity to detect the joy particles and on this thread, we are expanding right now “Organisation and Networks” collection, mastered by Gideon Rosenblatt into the direction of a community. When each of us is in best relationship and clarity with themselves first, then altogether is a better place to “walk the words”, what I do, using my skills and having this particular phrase as a gift from Teodora Petkova.

    Thank you for quote and mention Ifinder Ifindi. Thank you for mention Bernard Vatant . Thank you for being the best host Gideon Rosenblatt.

    That was an extraordinary conference in texting. ( if anyone is interested, check G+Collections community today: #CreateBuddy is a new initiative)

  28. Gina Fiedel, just picking up on your comment, I have that experience too (in fact, it just so happens, with many of the people commenting on this post). The relationship with people develops over time, and with it, trust develops and a feeling of good will.

    On this front, I’m really interested in the thinking of David Bohm, who saw the greatest potential for dialogue in the coming together of many minds. He used the term “dialogue” to get at the process of shared learning.

    This is where I started to see the connection between the more useful learning I have on Google+, and Bohm’s process for exposing biases and assumptions as a way to get closer to the truth.

    Dialogue is not discussion, a word that shares its root meaning with “percussion” and “concussion,” both of which involve breaking things up. Nor is it debate. These forms of conversation contain an implicit tendency to point toward a goal, to hammer out an agreement, to try to solve a problem or have one’s opinion prevail.

    For me, Google+ is a learning platform, and what I’ve found over time is that I tend to build closer relationships with the people with whom I want to learn – together.

  29. Thanks, Gideon Rosenblatt. I totally agree about how relationships develop and by now, after coming on 4 years on G+, I have experienced this in many forms. Essentially, all of which have contributed to my own learning, and I, hopefully, have contributed to some of the learning of others. Result: shared learning. I think that’s potentially true every time we speak to each other.

    I am unfamiliar with David Bohm. Love that quote and the highlighting of the words percussion and concussion.

    My first deep experience of true dialogue (we called it discourse) was in the art world. During the time I was entrenched in that world, in the eighties and early nineties, artists tended toward heavy engagement, shared learning and many of us looked at our work as part of the discourse/dialogue. We pretty much never looked at our activities as being separate or isolated. Instead, we viewed it as conversation; you say something and then I’ll say something back, all in the form of pieces of art of some kind.

  30. Yes, Gina Fiedel, I’ve definitely learned in conversation with you. For sure. Tks for sharing the example of shared learning in the art world, especially since it’s expressed through the works themselves. That’s cool.

  31. Ah, Gideon Rosenblatt, you just pointed out something I didn’t even remember to remember when I was describing that – shared learning (sometimes initiated in verbal communication, sometimes not at all but between people who have never conversed) translated, transformed and morphed into secondary medium -beyond and beside thought and words. Dialogue existing on at least a couple of layers simultaneously.

    But then, that’s also what we do with the content we make nowadays. It’s all bouncing off something.

    (Glad you’ve learned in conversation with me. Me too, with you.)

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