The meaning of a friendship? March 9, 2007Posted by Malene Charlotte Larsen in Arto, Friendship, MySpace, Social Networking, Social networking sites.
Concurrently with social networking sites and services becoming increasingly popular the notion of ‘friendship’ is changing. Many of the large social networking sites like MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Facebook and Arto are using the friendship metaphor in relation to the contact lists. This means that the word ‘friendship’ has a new meaning online and rings more hollow than in its original sense.
Even though you have to be accepted as a friend from the other part, it is quite easy to collect many friends (since almost everyone wants a high number of friends). As a result young people often have more than 100 ‘friends’ on their friend lists. Then, what do they do when they want to signal who their actual or ‘real’ friends are?
What I found on Arto was that the youngsters use a love discourse in relation to their IRL friends. Instead of writing about themselves on their profiles they are writing about their best friends in an extremely loving and positive manner saying how much they love and never want to loose each other.
Thus, youngsters use the word ‘friend’ in the same way I use the word ‘acquaintance’ – and the people I would call my friends they would probably describe as the ones who they love more than anything in the world.
Also, on Arto it is possible to get “Arto-married” to another user. Often the girls are married to their very best IRL friend and in that way they manage to signal their strongest offline relationship.
On the new social networking service Explode which I mentioned earlier on this blog people can add you as a friend without your acceptance. Thus, I appear on many ‘friend lists’ of people with whom I have never even communicated. This adds yet another bias to the notion of ‘friendship’ online.