October 23, 2012

Redefining Friend in the Post Facebook Era


If judged by how many friends I have on Facebook, 62 as of this writing, I’d probably be in the “loser” category. That’s fine with me, mostly. See, I’m probably still stuck in the 80s with my big hair and shoulder pads (which, I’ve seen are making a fashion comeback!) with my definition of “Friend”. I’m definitely on the low end of the tipping point scale when it comes to defining how my group of friends works.

Just a few years ago, we had plain ol’ friends. Real friends. People we’d call or write periodically. People who we were close to even though we may not have talked or written as frequently as we had wished. And this would sometimes include “virtual friends”, those people we met online through message boards and forums and spent countless hours chatting about whatever it was that brought us to the website. Then as time went on we’d chat privately and by email, growing and developing a friendship.

Then came Facebook. OK, really, first it was MySpace but it was clear that this wasn’t about friendships but just people following other people in a bit of voyeuristic fashion. So, Facebook pops onto the public scene in 2010 (yes, it’s that young!) and thus begins the change in how “Friend” is defined. Quickly it went from being a noun to being a verb. Never in the history of the world did people ‘friend’ each other. But now that’s what we do. It’s a action, a doing, a one-click that connects people not because they are in fact friends but because they friended each other.

Like I said, I’m pretty much a loser when it comes to “friending” people. Besides my paranoid tendencies thanks to watching too much Criminal Minds, I guess I’m old-fashioned when it comes to calling someone a friend. I’m glad Facebook moved away from making us friend businesses, because that’s just kind of creepy. The Like is bad enough because I don’t only follow pages that I really do like, but I also follow pages that interest me for research purposes. But I digress.

Anyway, back to the friend thing. For me, a friend is much more than a few clicks on the computer. And a friend is much more than me reading about their life. Friend used to mean that people connected with each other and had conversation. In the realm of Facebook, people can be friends and have nothing in common other than having met once for 32-seconds.

The concept of friend that has evolved through Facebook reminds me of little kids meeting other little kids at the park. After 3 turns on the swing and a few trips down the slide together, parents will ask “Who’s your friend?” as if that’s all it takes to become a friend.

I know a lot of people. I’m friendly with a lot of people too. But I don’t consider them my friends. Being a friend is more. Or so I believe.

I’ve thought of adding many who have sent me friend requests and further compartmentalizing people. I know that, for some, there is a difference between friend and “Facebook friend”. I just haven’t gotten there yet.

Do you think Facebook has helped to redefine who we call ‘friend’?




Kate @ Songs Kate Sang October 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I agree. I think of the word “friend” as “acquaintance” now. Maybe we need a new word? 🙂

Sara October 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

Hi Kate! I, too, find myself needing to more precisely define who people are on the friend-spectrum. You’re right that we probably need a new word. I kept thinking of that song “Someone that I used to know” and how “ex” wasn’t even good enough any more in that song. Used to be that we understood the universal basics of what it meant to call someone a friend.

Tracie October 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I think there has been a redefinition. For me personally, I have a list on facebook that is actually called “Real Friends” and those are the people in my life I have relationships with like you described above. It probably is about 45 people? Maybe 50.

I have other lists set up as well, and I have a much larger number of “facebook friends” (I personally like saying “facebook connections”), but there is that core group that is real. Being a real friend is so much more than a quick introduction or a few clicks on a computer. But I do have a few relationships that started on the computer and let to very real friendships, and I’m thankful for them.

Shifra October 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm

So glad you are my real friend! I miss you!

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