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Friends just aren’t what they used to be

Topic / Culture

The Internet is changing the definition of friendship.

Because of my blog, I tend to have a lot of people who I don’t know and have never met request to be my friend on Facebook. Like everyone else, I blindly accept pretty much anyone. My wife gets it, too, on Virb.com. A couple days ago she said, “Look at this person who requested my friendship.” The way she said it sparked something in me I hadn’t thought of before: the Internet is changing our definition of friendship. A person we’ve never met, never talked to and have never heard of instantly becomes a friend just by clicking the “Accept” button. In real life this person would be called a stranger. If you talk a time or two they become an acquaintance and if you intentionally hang out together maybe then they’d be considered a friend. Not so online.

I wonder what kind of ramifications this will have on the “Myspace generation.” We already know that the Internet has completely altered teenagers’ perspective of community and now possibly on the individual level of friendship, too.

I don’t really have any answers here, just something I’ve been thinking about.

[tags]Facebook, Virb[/tags]


Posted on October 30, 2007

  • I’m often surprised when people friend request me. I know a lot of it has to do with wanting to keep track of somebody from the past without having to actually call them, so I’m not too shocked when I receive random people requesting me from my old High School.

    There has been somebody who I have denied request from a couple of times on facebook. I had never met, nor spoken to him except for a brief e-mail exchange about a mutual friend. — I try to keep my Facebook to actual friends, students, and people I come in contact with on a semi-regular basis.

    For teenagers, MySpace basically forces students to rate their friends with the “Top 8” feature. And because there is a rating, there are unspoken standards. A big one seems to be that there is a strength in numbers. — You value your friends based on where you rank them in your Top 8 (4, 16, etc.)

    I don’t really use MySpace for personal use, mostly to keep in touch with students. Because of this I found myself not able to fill a top-eight without putting a student on the list. But then that seemed like a recipe for disaster. So I friend requested a couple of bands to fill out the rest of my Top 8 and keep any student off the list. — Youth leaders should be careful of the Top Friend trap.

    Students also seem to buy into the lie that your personal value is based on how many people you have on your friend list. I think this is part of the reason why students are willing to approve almost any friend request.

    Facebook is a little bit different, but people are still able to rate you in so many different ways… who are you talking to more, who are you poking more, who is sending you what cheesy gift item… The more clutter from a larger variety of people you have on your Facebook the more popular and liked you are.

    I’m rambling, but basically my concern is that social networking sites have really messed up the ways students, and even we evaluate relationships instead of encouraging an appreciation of the unique offerings each relationship has.

  • Pingback: Social Networking « Matt Hall()

  • Nick

    All the more reason to teach students what real friendships and relationships are in light of myspace other social networking sites.

    We did a series a little over a year ago called "Podculture: We're Connected, But Are We Really Connecting?" It was pretty cool, not sure how impactful it was though.

    How did your parent meeting go last night?

  • Tim

    Nick, that sounds like a great series! You mind sending it my way for a Freebie Friday?

    Yeah, experiences are very powerful. If they experience one thing with the technology but we tell them something different, the experience will always win hands down. It's hard to make an impact when teaching and experience conflict.

  • I generally agree with Matt’s comment, although I have “friended” people with whom I’m not really close friends.

    For example, I became friends with Caleb Bislow on Facebook after meeting and speaking with him at a local Christian concert. I chose to add him as a friend so I could see what kind of things he’s up to in the world of Christian missions.

    The same goes for Josh Griffin. I listen to the SYM podcast and have learned quite a bit from him and others, so I use Facebook as a way of asking him questions and seeing what’s new in his youth ministry.

  • This is so true. I wonder how many friend requests you are going to get as a result of this blog post, LOL.

    Forgive my ignorance – what is Virb? I do plan on watching the Teens & Internet workshop so I may get my answer there.

  • Tim

    @ Shane: Yup, you'll learn about it during the Internet workshop. :) Virb was created by the people of Purevolume.com and is similar to Facebook, except it revolves around blogs, fashion, photography, design, comedy, art, sports and mostly music. It's not the hottest place to be right now, but it has the potential of becoming one.

  • I have several youth who are avid XBOX Live players. They have introduced me to their "friends" who they play with on a regular basis. At 33 I still find it strange that these guys are friends with people they have never met face to face. Of course they play games together and talk many nights a week.

    But how is that for 21 century evangelism. These guys introduced their friends from around the country to their youth pastor over voice chat on a video game. Some of them have even been added to my friends list. Now we just need a game that facilitates corporate worship and we can have an XBOX Live church.

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