I believe I first started to formulate the answer to that question around preschool, when it was still pretty obvious. A friend is someone with whom you share secrets, sugary treats and most importantly, Barbie related paraphernalia. As I grew older my definition of the word did in fact develop into a more concrete and mature answer, centered on trust, loyalty, and humor (I am not friends with un-funny people.)
But the word “friend” is not the common thread that links us to these other individuals who we deem appropriate for this category,it is the meaning which we place in that word.
For the one person out there who doesn’t know, Facebook.com is a social networking site designed to connect friends, family and coworkers alike. This phenomenon was originally designed solely for college students, which I greatly utilized and appreciated during my many hours spent procrastinating in the bottom of my alma mater’s library. The Facebook craze spread far and wide, and quickly membership was no longer limited to bored college kids. The social networking site enables people to stay connected and aware of what is going on in each others lives, including information on everything from engagements to babies. It is truly heart warming to learn about the most monumental moments in a person’s life through their Facebook status.
Example: Joey Smith is … ENGAGED!!OREmily Jones is…going to have quadruplets!! ORSarah Wilson … just failed out of college… AGAIN.
Facebook developed into a common area for the young and old to chat, share pictures and videos and generally stay connected with those they care about. And I must admit, although I would like to say that I do not partake in any of this, I have found that Facebook allows me to access important information about my old friends that I may not have found out otherwise, but still it is more interesting to argue how ridiculous it has become.
Some people choose to use social networking sites as a means to not only keep up with their old friends, (or former significant others, although that could arguably result in a little thing I like to call “stalking”) but also to acquire new friends. I have a friend who was once approached in a crowded room and asked his name. Not weird, right? Once he introduced himself the person replied, “That’s what I thought, I knew I recognized you from Facebook!” Kinda weird, right? Not to some people, the same people who use these sites for what they are technically used for, social networking. In an article by the New York Times the idea of this new form of friendship via Facebook is explored and the question is ask, are these online “friends” really your friends? I am obviously not saying that you are not liked and do not have a lot of real life friends who stalk your Facebook profile and genuinely care about your well-being etc. No, I am talking about the Facebook “friend” who I would not recognize even if I was playing a one on one pick-up game of b-ball with him or her, even though I do not partake in such activities. In a sense some could view it as a means of advertising yourself, to acquire new friends or connections. Your Facebook profile speaks to the kind of person you are: whether you have Kelly Clarkson or Marilyn Manson song lyrics, whether your interests include pb & j sandwiches and puppies or German beer and cage fighting. Is this how we are going to choose our new friends, though the manifestations of themselves a.k.a. their Facebook profiles?
During my stint at Meredith College, I dabbled in many fields of academia, generally relating to Interpersonal and Mass Communication. In an independent research study, I explored the implications that this type of technology has on identity and community. Boy was that interesting, and by interesting, I mean depressing. I came to the conclusion that friendships do in fact lose some element of authenticity and worth with these advances in technology. Friendships may become superficial and meaningless due to the ability to disengage or tune out with one click of a mouse. I’ll break it down for you and I will only use one word: de-friend. If you do not want to be friends with someone anymore there is no need to have a long, drawn out conversation about your imminent falling out, all you have to do is sit back, kick your feet up and de-friend them. How refreshing.
It is an on going debate centered on people’s definitions of relationships. Technology has undoubtedly changed the face of this debate because it continues to alter how we communicate and interact in our relationships. So the question that is posed must be, is technology assisting our relationships or diluting the meaning of them? Ok enough writing, I need to get back to Facebooking.