Saturday, September 24, 2011

Facebook and Friendship

I'm an early Facebook adopter (circa 2004?) and an admitted addict.  I Facebook, blog (obvi!), Tweet, and I'm on Klout checking out my social network influence.  That said, lately I've been thinking a lot about social media and how it affects our relationships, specifically Facebook.

Since going through the divorce earlier this year, I've realized that friendship is not a word to be tossed around lightly.  I need people in my life who contribute/complement it in some way.  I don't need 'lurkers' or people who don't reciprocate friendship, because it's a two-way street.  So I went through my Facebook friends list and slowly trimmed it from a grossly large 1000 to under 600.  There were some hurt feelings, apparently, as people requested to be my friend, sometimes multiple times.  But I can honestly say it doesn't hurt my feelings to have someone delete me from their Facebook, and it shouldn't hurt yours.

Aristotle said there are three types of friendship, based on utility, pleasure, or virtue.  When I think about who is on my 'Friends' list on Facebook, that's exactly how I decide who to keep and who to delete.  (SN: The word 'Unfriend' is particularly cruel-sounding, isn't it?)  But if I'm not getting any useful networking/assistance/advice from you, I don't enjoy hearing from you/you don't contribute to my happiness, or if you aren't one of my "true" friends, someone I can call or count on throughout the years... why should I keep you and divulge so much of my life story to you?  Are you really my friend?

If we attended the same high school but we were never friends in real life?  If the last interaction I can find online between us was you wishing me a 'Happy Birthday' in 2008?  If I don't trust you enough to give you my cell phone number?  THEN WHY SHOULD WE BE FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK?  If I look at your name and I think, "Who?" I will probably delete you.  Often when it's your birthday, because it pops up on my sidebar and comes to my attention.

I also get annoyed when people are upset with you for not responding to something they wrote on Facebook.  I try to be vigilant and look out for when my friends are sick, lose a loved one, etc. and post my sympathies.  I always read direct messages and posts to my wall.  But Newsfeed is constant (and these days even more confusing) and I may have missed something.  That doesn't mean I don't care... it just means I wasn't glued to my Facebook at the time.   Call me!  E-mail me!  Send me a direct message!  But don't assume that because you stick something in your Newsfeed that a response is merited from me.  Please.  Sometimes I 'hide' people from my Newsfeed that I love because their posts are obnoxious.  I don't do Farmville.  So don't get mad at me over something so silly as Facebook 'friendship'.

I love Facebook.  It's been an amazing way to keep up with friends and family over long distances, life changes, and more.  It's my window into the lives of people I know.  It's a way to share my thoughts and express myself in a way that wasn't possible before the era of social networking.  But it's not real friendship, and it doesn't replace phone calls and lunch dates and hugs.  It's not worth fighting over, it's not worth the drama people derive from it.  Definitely doesn't replace hugs.

I know, serious post.  But I couldn't end it that way... check out this brilliant Toyota Venza commercial that will really make you think about what I've said.  :)

Here's an old but good WSJ article on this...  How Facebook Can Ruin Your Friendships


  1. We talked about this issue quite a bit in my Social Networking Sites class this summer: what is the definition of "friend"? We basically came to the conclusion that everyone has their own definition, which is not terribly helpful for research, but it is helpful to think about it for yourself.

    Facebook has definitely blurred the line between "friend" and "someone I met or heard about or who knows that one guy I talked to once". Hence why people have 1,000s of "friends" on Facebook, while if they took a closer look like you did, that number would come wayyy down. There's a theory called Dunbar's number, which suggests that there is a limit to the number of people any human can maintain a stable social relationship with (the number usually quoted is 150).

    I think it's important to think about who you're spending your time on--are they worth it? Are you getting anything out of this relationship? If not, kick them to the curb. If they want to stay, they've gotta give you a good reason.

  2. Annnnnnnnd you once in a while can cultivate a friendship because of Facebook! You would have just been 'that cool girl we met zip-lining in St. Lucia'! But through the magic of FB we've connected and found that we've got so many things in common. You're a person I actually consider a friend/modern-day pen-pal and it was so exciting to catch up (and milk a cow) this summer! That being said, there are lots of people on my friends list that could go...

  3. Em, that is SO TRUE! Best internet match-making ever. :)

    One of my best friends here in Savannah is someone I met in Yahoo! groups years ago and now we're friends in real life and I'm going to be in her wedding. There are some upsides to friendships online, if you continue to communicate (not 'lurk') and cultivate them.

  4. I suppose I'm just a tad prejudiced because I connected with my current boyfriend through facebook. We're from the same home town and while we attended all of elementary and high school together (he was a year ahead of me), we didn't really speak much, ever hang out socially, or really know each other at all. But we do now because we both had a policy of accepting any friend request from anyone that is from our crappy little home town. I have quite a few "friends" on facebook from that town whom I don't consider more than acquaintances. Sometimes, I hide their posts if I don't care to read what they have to say. I think it's mostly a matter that anyone who survived growing up in that town is worth a "friending" on facebook.

    In my graduate program, facebook is a way of keeping up with what my colleagues are doing, particularly here in Madison where facebook was used extensively by the TA association during the protests last spring.

    While many of my close friends are on facebook, I tend to interact with my close friends outside of facebook as well: we call, we email, we visit, we do lunch, we go to some of the same social and community events.

    I see facebook as a social network--and the very name implies, to me at least, a very broad network of people, some whom I know better than others. Therefore, I will accept friend requests from people I barely know and I don't trim or unfriend unless I feel someone has done something abusive to me or to others.

  5. LTC M, I think you make some valid points! I never thought of it that way. As Em said above, she and I met ONCE and then stayed in touch via Facebook for years, and now we are extremely close! If I hadn't found her on Facebook we would never have become friends, after once chance meeting.

  6. I never "hide" someone's request, I just delete them, I would rather they not see my stuff if I don't want to see theirs! haha

  7. Since I live in Hawai'i, I totally use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family and let them know what is going on in my life. I always feel weird posting personal posts/ pictures knowing some of my 'friends' may judge them or take them the wrong way bc they don't know me well and I end up posting vanilla updates to stay safe. I think you just inspired me to trim my list down :)

  8. Chiemi, I think that Facebook was one of the best things to have during my year-long deployment to Iraq to keep in touch with folks! But I do have strict lists for privacy purposes, where I can confidently block specific groups of people from seeing things. I am all about privacy settings.

    Here's another recent entry I did on Facebook/social media... in response to the article that Dani posted on Facebook.

  9. Facebook is one of my digital friend!.A friend, a world for me.
    And this Friends has always helped me. It made me stand by making bridges and provided solution over difficulties on my life. There is number of scenario playing dynamically over my mind, i remember's. In my Boy-hood day's, It broke my loneliness into the pieces of happiness. I enjoyed several application.I conveyed my feeling without any hesitation. It helped me to explore my knowledge. I brought out myself as a being, a good human being. I meet my friends and my family. I get en-touched with my community. It's a best world to dwell, And my best friend to walk away with him.


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