The number of personal contacts is a measure of social status. Many pride themselves on having thousands of contacts (or ‘friends’) on online networks. Collecting business cards has become a discipline in its own right, often confusing the quantity of people connected to someone with the quality of their relationships. This supposedly “personal network” of numerous contacts conveys a feeling of security, it suggests the possibility of getting support from many people if it should become necessary. And since the search for security and safety is one of the main impulses of people, very many network organisations profit from the service of providing contacts.
But as entrepreneur Hans Rudolf Wöhrl told me a few years ago: “A contact is just an address you can turn to – and anyone can find it on the internet, so there is still no advantage to be gained from it. So when you make a contact, you are only a “knocker”. […] The many new possibilities for cultivating connections, such as Facebook, have very much diluted the concept of friendship, even that of a good acquaintance. In the past, the term: “I know this person” was also already a kind of relationship. That is no longer the case today and therefore often tempts people to make contact, often clumsily and thus also unhelpfully.”