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Tickle · the · Pear


Facebook: the veneer of friendship without the emotional commitment?

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It's been a year since I joined FB. At this point I have 368 friends. Granted, Facebook (and LiveJournal) have made me think about the nature of friendship. Are we "friends" or *friends* if we are only tenuously linked in cyberspace?

I never thought about quantifying friendship. I have 1,000+ contacts in Gmail but a lot of them are "customer service" addresses or from the various mailing lists I've been on. People contact me out of the blue for the book club or because they got my name from a professor at BYU or some other random reason. So I wouldn't consider my Gmail address book to be a good proxy for the number and quality of friends I have.

Facebook though is a lot more tangible than that. Once in awhile I scroll through my list of friends and think about how and why we became friends in the first place, and how glad I am that we're still in touch, however tangentially.

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On October 6th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC), curieuse commented:
I taught this article to my new baby freshmen:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/18/AR2008041800736.html

Even though it's sort of weird.
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On October 7th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I think that's what I had in the back of my mind! What did your students think?
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On October 7th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC), curieuse replied:
They thought the writer was out of touch with reality and that all their friends understood that being "Facebook" friends really just meant you used to know each other and wanted to keep in touch.

That's consensus, though certainly not unanimous.
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On October 7th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I'm sure someone is doing a PhD in sociology on this phenomenon!
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On October 7th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Yep. I certainly haven't stopped being friends with people who don't have an online presence.
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On October 6th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC), jandjsalmon commented:
Hrm... I think that there are different levels of friends. I have both surface and deep friends (as I like to call them). Many many surface friends - who could tell me what my favourite colour is or how many children I have - and then only a close group of deep friends - who (whether I'm connected online to them or not) MATTER - their day to dayness. I pray for them. I worry for their daughters when they have cheer practice, or surgeries. I tell stories in my daily life about "My friend who has this crazy stone owl.." Things like facebook, I appreciate because I'm able to be in contact (even tenuously) with people who USED to matter. I remember years ago looking online at places like classmates.com and wondering how my old friends were doing. That's why I love the premise of FB - I can keep tabs on people who I cared about once, maybe reignite friendships that wouldn't have been due to time and space - but are they 'real' friends who I'd call if I needed them? I don't think so. Even on LJ - a place I LOVE - I have many many more surface friends and a VERY SMALL group of people who I can't imagine my life without. I don't know... it brings a lot of good questions to mind. Thanks for spurring this reflection. ;)
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On October 6th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC), dewgirl replied:
"That's why I love the premise of FB - I can keep tabs on people who I cared about once, maybe reignite friendships that wouldn't have been due to time and space - but are they 'real' friends who I'd call if I needed them? I don't think so. "

that's a great way of putting it. I feel much the same way. I've never been one to keep many close friends, I much prefer acquaintances. On the other hand, I don't like letting go of them simply because of moving to a different city, different jobs, etc.

Interestingly, none of my few, close friends are on FB, or if they are, they just have a page but no activity :)
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On October 7th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Then you can friend me on FB. :)
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On October 7th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Too right. As one of my friends said, "just because I don't email doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you."
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