I have profiles defined on Facebook, Linkedin, Plaxo, and several others. In each case, I have a list of connections/relationships/friends, and it is up to me to remember the social context of that relationship, a context that is “in my head” and not saved in the system. What we need is a way to classify the “relationship”, so if you want to be my friend, I know something about the context.
One possible way is to think of connections as career, task, and social relationships. A career relationship is with someone that you will continue to keep in touch as you move from job to job — a mentor, a technical guru, etc. A task relationship is with someone you work together on a project — you may bump into each other ten years later and chat, but the relationship is essentially short-lived. A social relationship is with your social network as you would consider it before the birth of “social network sites” — people you know and keep in touch outside work.
If we are to try to exploit the benefits of sites like Linkedin and Facebook in the business world, we need to move beyond the simple “friend” concept.