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Facebook Friends

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on January 7, 2009 9 Comments

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal called “The Art of Making Online ‘Friends'” caught my attention today. The author suggests that in the troubled economic times we have today, the “weak ties” afforded by so-called “friends” on social networking sites could end up being very helpful. Networking is critical for finding good jobs, and that’s where social networking sites may afford new opportunities. The author of the article goes on to say: “…I find that the people who befriend me are often people who didn’t seem to like me at the time we knew each other in real life.No matter, you are not really becoming their friend. Accept their friend request.” I don’t know what unsettled me more: the use of the word “befriend,” v. (as opposed to “friend,” v.) or the sentence “you are not really becoming their friend.”

Here’s the main entry for “befriend” from Merriam-Webster online:

Pronunciation: \bi-frend\
Function: transitive verb
Date: 1559
: to become or act as a friend to

Can you “befriend” on Facebook? I don’t know…to me, it seems like “friending” is a more appropriate word… You friend, you de-friend…you don’t befriend, or unfriend, at least not in my book. Somehow, it seems odd to apply the word “befriend” given the Internet-mediated nature of the relationships on social networking sites like Facebook; I don’t know why that is, I just feel that is so.

And about all those “non-friends” on Facebook? I realize not all the 332 people listed as “friends” on my FB page are actually…my “friends” in the more traditional sense. But it just made me a wee bit sad to see the article laying that out for me in such clear terms.

And speaking of “friending” on Facebook…

Hat tip: daveski.

More on Facebooking here.

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9 Responses to “Facebook Friends”

  1. daveski on: 7 January 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I agree, “friending” seems like a corruption of the word “friend” and “befriend”. One of the prospects I like to contemplate the least is the possibility that the meaning of “friend” in face-to-face talk might be changing too, like reverse semantic shift from the realm of online communication.

    “Oh yeah, like, he’s my friend. But no way would I give him my phone number…”

    Here’s a good facebook group to join though, in the Berkeley network: “If we’re facebook friends, let’s at least say hi in public“. I just joined!

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 7 January 2009 at 10:30 pm

    I think the semantic shift is already happening…I say, “Oh yeah, we’re friends,” meaning we have access to each others profiles, news feeds, pictures, links posted, notes, application boxes etc…it does not mean that “we” are actually really “friends” in the more traditional sense of that word.

    at the same time, i am aware that when i add someone as a friend, i DO give him/her an important window into my world, so i exercise caution. my political leanings, states of mind, friends circles, and day to day musings-heh-are laid bare for others’ perusals on my profile. So there is some policing at the level of who you allow access to your world, and who you refuse. So…that gatekeeping…means that while the word friend is increasingly diluted for me, perhaps it still retains some recognizable shape of friendship.

    interesting fact, Facebook has a ceiling of 5,000 “friends,” whereas on MySpace you can have millions of “friends.” I figure Facebook has a sightly more traditional notion of friendship than MySpace….

  3. Youki on: 8 January 2009 at 12:51 am

    wow this is freaky. So I kinda recently got on facebook, and I don’t really advertise it because I don’t plan on checking it too often and I don’t want people to think that I’m purposely blowing them off. Today I got a message (it actually arrived yesterday):

    “youki, what high school did you go to?”

    from someone I knew in high school. Now, if this had happened in real life, like on campus or the grocery store, then I’d be completely ecstatic and would probably go have lunch with him and talk for a while.

    It feels different online, though. I only have 6 friends and I already feel overwhelmed with the amount of updates there are. What happens to people who have dozens, or even hundreds of friends? What kind of obligations are there in keeping up-to-date with that many facebook postings?

    And the important thing for me: how do I ensure that my unease with a technology is not interpreted as unease with a person?

    my response:

    “hey i remember you! yeah we went to Hamilton. How’s it going?
    I just got on facebook so sorry if it takes a few days to respond, not really used to it yet.”

    feels so awkward to me.

    p.s. I’m looking at my facebook page and I see “(7) friends challenge you to the IQ quiz. The smartest test scored 127. Find out who!” It’s on the top of the page, not to the right where i’d expect ads to be, and i see no “this is an advertisement” text. But i only have 6 friends so what they’re saying is impossible!

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 8 January 2009 at 1:07 am

    hmm…we’re faced again with the all-important issue of “netiquette.” there are NO obligations to stay informed about the hundreds of friends on your facebook page….you generally hear only the most recent updates. plus, now you have multiple facebook tools that allow you to prioritize receiving news updates about particular people, and minimize news updates from others. you can also control what KINDS of updates you receive: pics, posted items, etc.

    I wouldn’t worry too much…facebook is a new, different kind of animal…and it’s definitely YOUR personal space (though it’s also shared), and people understand if you don’t accept their gifts, requests, or ignore friend requests or take years getting back to them. every one has the right to pace things as they see fit on facebook, and i think that’s part of what makes facebook this popular.

  5. Usree Bhattacharya on: 8 January 2009 at 11:19 pm

    This is unbelievable: Burger King is offering a free burger if you eliminate ten “friends” through the Facebook Application, Whopper Sacrifice.

    What a sacrifice!

  6. Usree Bhattacharya on: 14 January 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Heh…The Whopper Sacrifice application mentioned in the comment above has been banned by Facebook!

  7. Youki on: 22 February 2009 at 5:53 am

    more facebook humor:

    25 Things I Hate About Facebook

  8. Usree Bhattacharya on: 22 February 2009 at 11:33 am

    Thanks, Youki! Funny!

    This article is an amazing follow up!

    And Dave, apparently you’re not annoying at all!

  9. Margo Wright on: 18 April 2011 at 10:47 am

    You are right, most of the 350+ friends on FB are not people that I would hang out with. I just didn’t want to offend them by turning down their friend request…



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