Friendships with Fictional Characters

Facebook told me two things today. The first is that I am a friend of a friend (FOAF) of Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister. The second and more important tiding is a link to the New York Daily News:

James Gandolfini, the New Jersey-bred actor who delighted audiences as mob boss Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos” has died following a massive heart attack in Italy, a source told the Daily News.

Tony Soprano has bought the farm.

Of course, Gandolfini only played Tony Soprano. He was never Soprano himself. And while I never had the opportunity to meet him even in passing, neither have I met Gillard, and possibly neither has my Internet friend who is her "friend." The question that inevitably posed itself was, who was I closer to between these two people: Gillard or Gandolfini?

In 2007, Tim Berners-Lee proposed the notion of a Giant Global Graph to represent the relationship between human beings, especially over the Internet. The nodes are people and they are tied by properties such as "likes," "comments," and shares. "The Giant Global Graph concept seems to have been a significant input in Facebook's concept and name for their 'Open Graph' project and protocol."

And it may turn out that in terms of that metric, I am probably closer to Tony Soprano than to either James Gandolfini or Julia Gillard. As someone once observed, "celebrities are who we have in common." And we know more about the characters they play than the celebrities themselves.