#361 Can I be your Facebook friend?
Tuesday 22nd July, 2008
What does it mean to be friends on Facebook? Are you really mine? Am I really yours?
First, i think that it is important not to be too overly Facebook deterministic. The word ‘friend’ has already had different meanings in different contexts and social situations, between cultures and between different SNS (MySpace ‘friends’ – pah!). Add to this how one chooses to label ‘social networking’ and we have another set of social consequences to deal with. Instead of thinking what it means to be named as your Facebook ‘friend’, it is more interesting to see this as part of an emergent modification of other trends that are taking place. And how your friends choose to converse with you (Facebook or otherwise) says a lot about your relationship.
For instance ask yourself: Are you spending longer ‘social networking’? (and no, not the essential ‘wining and dining’ of potential clients/contacts/bosses etc). Related, what it is that we are actually doing when we social network. Once upon a time this involved a quick introduction to new acquaintences, and a whirl round the room meeting and greeting before ending up in the kitchen, or at the canapé table for the rest of the evening.
In short, our expectations have changed. Instead of hovering by the canapés we expect to be able to communicate with one another instantaneously, in any place and preferably with a poke via my iphone. The fact that Facebook is expected to be available and updated immediately is more important than how we label ‘friend’, ‘lover’, ‘acquaintance’ etc. Moving away from the canapé table and out of the kitchen our social situation has changed. Facebook is more popular than ever and as a consequence the relationships that surround us, that we choose to take with us (or not) and social habits that we develop all impact upon the capacity and meaning of what it means someone’s Facebook friend.
What I am trying to get at is how the broad and general relationship between Facebook and various interpretations of friend have been informed by the material ‘reality’ of society. This is as much a part of the internalised profiling of your own social intent (who you choose to be friends with and why). So what you want to do, when you want to do it and how you want to do it. Not to mention the way in which you want friends to know about it. Whatever ‘it’ may be.
You and I right now are continuing to come to terms with the newest dimensions of being friends on Facebook. One of the emerging consequences is that my being ‘friends’, might not mean the same as your being ‘friends’. But if we have choosen to be friends on Facebook I’m sure we will get on.