Facebook friends?

March 24, 2011

I always ask people what the term “Facebook friend” means. A few weeks ago, when I posed this question, someone lamented that the Facebook phenomenon was discounting the term friend. He said that friend is an important word, one that ought be protected. He worried that we are diminishing it’s meaning by using it so loosely.

Reading the Huffington Post today, I came across this article on the difference between being friendly and having friendships. Like my interview, the story raises some important distinctions about what it means to be in genuine relationship with a friend.

I took the picture to the right in Italy several years ago. The four women had just left an evening church service. They walked arm in arm through the crowded plaza, erupting every few feet in boisterous laughter. They walked, laughed, and talked the entire way home. Stalking them with my camera, I was captivated by their friendship. I still am.

What do you think? Are we cheapening the term friend and with it losing an understanding of what real friendship is? What do you think it means to be “Facebook friends”?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie March 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

LOVE the photo!
I think that while Facebook might cheapen the depth of friendship, it also enables us to connect on a surface, or immediate level. It’s up to us to take that and make something deeper. That’s what Facebook and social networks can’t do. If we can’t take that seed and make something grow, then that’s our own fault.

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SP April 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm

People have always thrown the term “friend” around quite liberally even if the person they’re referring to would, in my opinion, fall into the category of an acquaintance.

As for the phrase “Facebook friend,” it seems to be the new phrase for “acquaintance.” I hear people use the term “Facebook friend” when they refer to someone they know but not that well.

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James April 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Facebook, I think, allows people to connect easier. It doesn’t mean better or deeper, just easier. It makes it easier to find out what people are doing (or what they chose to post that they’re doing) faster, especially if you have many FB friends, than if they could all call you at once (which is impractical).

I have noticed myself from being on FB that it does cheapen the meaning behind friendship, only IF you don’t know the person in real life already. Knowing them in person before friending them makes it easier to keep a deeper connection, even with the superficiality of FB.

I think you could make a deep connection with someone online but even that only extends so far without meeting them in person or sharing real person-to-person experiences. Physically sitting near someone, speaking directly to them and having to deal with their presence is a mental workout that we don’t get just typing a text message on FB, the internet or our phones.

So I think it is very important to have real relationships outside of the internet. The problem with making online-only friendships real is the danger that someone could not be who they say they are. So there’s always that to keep in mind.

I dislike FB generally but I am on it, just for convenience sake. Given my current work schedule it’s not possible to meet up or even have time to phone most of my friends, so using FB works for me, under the circumstances, but I would trade out FB in a heartbeat if I had more time to devote to talking in the real world with my friends.

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Barry Kaye April 28, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Great photo – we should have such friends. Funny, my future site is aimed at building an online community and then – guiding it to a face-to-face community – where “real” friends can be made. Not that FB can’t be used for live events forstering friendships, but if all you do is post frozen moments of your life, share menutia, and clicks links to youtube vids…then one can’t diminish the work friend, b/c you can’t even take FB’s interpretation of friend seriously – which is effectively “a member another member feels comfortable sharing specific and/or general details with”

I think/hope, most people when hearing of someone with a lot of FB friends, realize it’s only a only a fraction that may have ever been seen live. Very few stay strict to actually friending, “real friends”. Eventually, we get so comfortable with the technology, the environment (almost like leaving a door unlocked in a safe nieghborhood), members just friend almost any other friend-of-a-friend as found or suggested. So ironically, is the overlinking to once, twice, or more removed FB members actually cheapening FB’s own loose definition of the word friend. Zuckerberg probably still hopes his algorithms are helping connect lost friends, but as much or more so, they are connecting strangers, as defined in a live context.

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DadsPlan April 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Great photo – we should have such friends. Funny, my future site is aimed at building an online community and then – guiding it to a face-to-face community – where “real” friends can be made. Not that FB can’t be used for live events forstering friendships, but if all you do is post frozen moments of your life, share menutia, and clicks links to youtube vids…then one can’t diminish the work friend, b/c you can’t even take FB’s interpretation of friend seriously – which is effectively “a member another member feels comfortable sharing specific and/or general details with”

I think/hope, most people when hearing of someone with a lot of FB friends, realize it’s only a only a fraction that may have ever been seen live. Very few stay strict to actually friending, “real friends”. Eventually, we get so comfortable with the technology, the environment (almost like leaving a door unlocked in a safe nieghborhood), members just friend almost any other friend-of-a-friend as found or suggested. So ironically, is the overlinking to once, twice, or more removed FB members actually cheapening FB’s own loose definition of the word friend. Zuckerberg probably still hopes his algorithms are helping connect lost friends, but as much or more so, they are connecting strangers, as defined in a live context.

Reply

Charlotte May 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

My name’s not Charlotte, and this isn’t my photo. In loosening the bonds between my real and virtual identities, I have not only freed myself and my relationships but also opened up a post-modern multiplicity of meanings, liberating words like “friendship” from narrow, external, “objective” definitions. My disembodied image is the creation of my will and desire, empowering all it touches. I am a whatever I say I am, a (Gnostic) God, beautiful to behold, pure Spirit “part of that Power, not understood, which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good.” I am Mephistopheles.

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