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Won't You Be My Virtual Neighbor?
September 24, 2007 11:06 PM   Subscribe

Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism. Examining the social rules and norms, as well as the pitfalls, of electronic "friending" (yes, it's a verb now - or is it a gerund?). Via.
posted by amyms (54 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have 1126 favorites from my metafilter "friends". Me me me me meeeeeeeeeeeeee!
posted by orthogonality at 11:26 PM on September 24, 2007


I have 1126 favorites from my metafilter "friends".

Nice! I aspire to achieve quadruple-digit favorites.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:03 AM on September 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I refuse to favourite such a blatant grab at internet celebrity status.

(especially from somebody who Anonymous AskMe never linked as their crush/muse/spouse)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:04 AM on September 25, 2007


Oh-kay, here I am, Ambrosia of the year of a thousand faves, love me and despair, yadda yadda.

I skimmed the article earlier today but found much of it intuitive. I guess that makes me 2.0
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:07 AM on September 25, 2007


It's not a gerund. It's a verbed noun. I hate when people verb nouns. Noun-verbing. Now that's a gerund!
posted by strangeguitars at 12:12 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's a mildly interesting article, though I found it a little heavy on the hand-wringing, full of fairly obvious observations and padded with too many questions based on unproved assertions like this:

Does this technology... undermine our ability to attain what it promises—a surer sense of who we are and where we belong?

I just don't think facebook ever promised to offer me anything of the sort when I got an account. It promised, IIRC, the ability to find old school friends and former work colleagues. When I was at university, I'd tuck away a phrase like "a surer sense of who we are and where we belong" and throw it in to some essay about something, in the hope that no one would realise that it, in context, doesn't hold much meaning at all.
posted by bunglin jones at 12:15 AM on September 25, 2007


'deracinated congeries' - I like it. Worrying about the impacts of social networks, not so much.
posted by tellurian at 12:20 AM on September 25, 2007


There is a Spanish proverb that warns, “Life without a friend is death without a witness.” In the world of online social networking, the warning might be simpler: “Life without hundreds of online ‘friends’ is virtual death.”

That probably depends on who you ask. I regard anybody with more than a few dozen online "friends" with suspicion, and anybody with more than a hundred is beyond the pale.

A few dozen is probably the watershed between actually having any intent whatsoever to engage with people, as opposed to simply collecting pseudo-popularity trophies, each of whom would be lucky if they received more than a few words every now & then, or perhaps a smiley on their birthday.

In fact, my general rule is that a person's online value is inversely proportional to their number of friends (and you could throw in communities & groups to that), due to limitations on time & effort, and difficulties in their ability separating the wheat from the chaff in the inevitable flood of status updates, messages, pokes, prods, invitations, announcements, etc etc etc that result from having too many superficial online "connections".
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:23 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just don't think facebook ever promised to offer me anything of the sort when I got an account. It promised, IIRC, the ability to find old school friends and former work colleagues.

These kinds of articles are always full of bizarre strawmen. There was one the other day ranting on about how people online seem to think that "the whole world is interested in where they ate dinner last night" - in fact, it's more like their immediate real-life circle might be interested, eg if recommending a local restaurant or mentioning that you caught up with X from your circle.

That's pretty much how I and most people I know use these kinds of sites, anyway. Less of the "I think I'm a special snowflake" angle; more the aspect of lazy, loosely-coupled social chitchat.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:28 AM on September 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


TL,DR. Thoughts on my blog at 11.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 12:33 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fuck friendship, who here wants to "cyber" with me? I'm typing this in my underwear. Ooooh it's so hot today, all I've got on is my skimpy little panties.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:39 AM on September 25, 2007


Lately I've been thinking that people who are addicted to these sites (my roommate), and avatar worlds too, are suffering crises of self-definition because they have a fantasy as context, just like Don Q...
This idea is fascinating to me because like Don Q the account holders are creating a fiction of themselves, and the acceptance of the avatar by the other members is like the acceptance of Don Q by the duke and duchess in part 2. And that fantastical context, when your peers just accept whatever you claim about yourself, is needed so Don Q can fully become his fantasy and yet, he decides, is finally in opposition to actually living socially.
I guess my question is, are these sites forcing, or at least allowing, each individual to have a comparison between a Quixotic self-authored awareness and a "normal" one? And if so does that mean our relationship to, or maybe just use of, language has changed?
posted by MNDZ at 1:42 AM on September 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


MNDZ,

No not really. I don't know about you, but i'm always pretty brutally honest when writing online. When i started keeping an online journal in 2001, the whole POINT of the thing was to air my secret and forbidden thoughts in order to get a response without the threat of real-world reprisals.

Stuff like....

"The first time i masturbated, i was thinking of a cartoon character."

"I think i'm straight, but i'm kinda turned on by really femmy gay dudes."

"I hate my family, and i can't wait until they die and i get the life insurance money."

"The White Stripes suck, and Duran Duran fucking kick ASS."

To me, it's always been the real world where everything is fake and for the sake of appearances.
posted by ELF Radio at 2:07 AM on September 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have over a 100 friends on Facebook and with the exception of about...three, I know them all in real life, be it the past or present. I don't know about you, but it adds up. primary school peers, high School peers, college peers, workmates, family, extended family, etc etc. I guess "friend" is the wrong word for it, but they're all people I know and connect with via Facebook. What, exactly, is the problem then? How does it inconvience you in such a way to cause such hand-wringing? The very definition of friend may well be changing, why is that so uncomfortable of an idea?
posted by liquorice at 2:19 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


inconvenience
posted by liquorice at 2:28 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know about you, but it adds up.
And it just seems mean to say no to when someone I recognise sends a friend request.
posted by bunglin jones at 2:48 AM on September 25, 2007


I hate when people verb nouns

HYPOCRISY!

I hate that as much as I hate hate.
posted by Sparx at 3:06 AM on September 25, 2007


I guess I'm glad Hillary has more MySpace friends than Miss Irresistible.

I liked the article because I never go to these places (I have a 'low need for affiliation') so this is kind of a primer, like those articles for parents about all the drugs their kids are doing.
posted by MtDewd at 3:17 AM on September 25, 2007


My new virtual friends need to stay off of my lawn.
posted by psmealey at 3:36 AM on September 25, 2007


I thought these social networking sites were harmless until I noticed that people were pirating my friends.
posted by srboisvert at 4:40 AM on September 25, 2007


I picked up my 1000th favorite last night.

*prepares to trade them in for the big stuffed monkey*
posted by Poolio at 5:14 AM on September 25, 2007


1126 favorites?! That's almost exactly the number of comments I've made here and I think of myself as moderately active.

This article was rather depressing and makes me feel good that I don't have as many as a dozen friends on any of these networks -- precisely because I don't friend people who aren't my actual friends.

Like Touching You (a songwriter around New York) says, "The only reason I call you 'friend' is because the word 'acquaintance' is too long."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:23 AM on September 25, 2007


liquorice: The very definition of friend may well be changing, why is that so uncomfortable of an idea?

Because it's a usefull concept, and changing it to mean "person on my list of contacts" lowers the signal to noise ratio. Of course this kind of thing is decided by use and majority, but people who disagree have a right to do so - nobody is feeling uncomfortable.
posted by the number 17 at 5:44 AM on September 25, 2007


Kids these days, eh?

I want to grind them into a thin paste to fertilize my lawn.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:56 AM on September 25, 2007


The very definition of friend may well be changing, why is that so uncomfortable of an idea?

I don't think the concept of friendship is changing, just that the word friendship has acquired another meaning. Language evolves. Plus, when I'm talking about someone that's more of a facebook friend than a true friend, I generally say such.

Like most college students, I have a ton of facebook friends, some of which are true friends and some are not. But I don't think that's the only purpose of facebook. For example, I've used it to get in touch with people like lab partners I wouldn't have been able to get in touch with otherwise. Also, I have some people friended that I've had a nice conversation with, but we both know we'll probably never become real-life friends. It can just be a way of acknowledging that in a non-creepy way.
posted by fermezporte at 6:25 AM on September 25, 2007


Paste. To fertilize.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:35 AM on September 25, 2007


I picked up my 1000th favorite last night.

that has to be some kind of record.

i thought you did it all by multi-youtube posts, but there are others, and they all seem to be one-line quips.

*retreats to study poolio's style & work on half-baked theory based on livejournal & the one-sentence attention span of kids today*
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:50 AM on September 25, 2007


I guess "friend" is the wrong word for it,

The very definition of friend may well be changing ...

Well, which is it? I would call these 100+ folks primarily acquaintances. I have no hand wringing over people having a ton of online acquaintances.

But the idea of a friend is someone that I share deep intimate emotional bonds with. A friend is someone that I would call if my cat was on fire and I didn't know what to do. I would trust a friend to help me and not just change their status to "Busy".
posted by YoBananaBoy at 6:52 AM on September 25, 2007


Grind. Into paste.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:56 AM on September 25, 2007


(maybe i'll just give up & aim for 1000 facebook friends instead)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:56 AM on September 25, 2007


stavros: why don't you go fertilise some other lawn?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:58 AM on September 25, 2007


Ubu: sorry you feel so embarrassingly inadequate about something so utterly worthless.

Me, I'm just makin' jokes here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:07 AM on September 25, 2007


People take this crap too seriously. I just use MySpace and Facebook as a point of contact, so that people can get ahold of me and such. But then again, I'm in my late 20s, so what the hell do I know about the younger generation and how they use technology.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:09 AM on September 25, 2007


Pan-homo, deep-dish-homo, it's all apes to me!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:12 AM on September 25, 2007


Wasn't so impressed by the content of the original article but definitely interested in the topic of offline/online friendships and online socializing, authenticity and narcissism.

As a NYC streetvendor I'm used to sound bytes and communication lite. It's part of my business and yet can be meaningful.

It would seem useful in the article if friendship or narcissism were defined. Those are big subjects with a lot of facets.

I think of friendship as mutual well wishing upon which one can incrementally experience mutual understanding, camaraderie, authenticity, enjoyment and intimacy, while spending time together or knowing each other over time.
Paradoxically, some friends I haven't seen in years and communicate with rarely but feel profoundly connected with.

Narcissism, among other thing, is a compulsive need for attention to inflate a false self as a camouflage for a hollow core.

Enjoyed both MNDZ's and ELF Radio's comments.

I can imagine kids especially might have fun role playing fantasy characters, as they would offline playing let's pretend. Teens/young adults might easily take that game playing into a more sophisticated, complex realm. Playing Sims of sorts, Cowboys and Indians, Dungeons and Dragons or Let's Play House in an online community.

In my life experience, friends may come in many degrees and all may be valued. Just as kids have playfriends, fun to hang out with, play with, spend time with lightly, I think adults can have friendship lite, playful well wishing communication. Not deep necessarily but still enjoyable and meaningful.

For many years I went to recovery groups for adult children of dysfunctional families, where sharing dark secrets and deep pain of our lives and childhoods was routine. But exchanging secrets, dark or otherwise is not on its own authentic intimacy and can, with some people, become a kind of emotional promiscuity, a dependency of sorts.

It's understandable with the physical distance between people that the web creates, there will be all kinds of experimentation with the anonymous aspects, healthy and unhealthy. It's a new world and it's being explored.
posted by nickyskye at 7:16 AM on September 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


i suspect you're on the umeshu again, stav. am i right?

apart from that, pan-homo is such a cumbersome term. we should call them/us either homos, or perhaps pansies at a pinch, but i confess ignorance about this deep-dish of which you speak. is that some sort of korean slang?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:16 AM on September 25, 2007


And it just seems mean to say no to when someone I recognise sends a friend request.

This is timely. I am the sole holdout in an ever-expanding circle of people I know who are on Facebook. The main reason I don't want to join is that I've known people who will inevitably, sooner rather than later, send me friend requests, and while saying no would tip off some kind of conflict I'd rather avoid, I sure as hell don't want to say yes and represent these yahoos to anyone else as my friends. Added to which, I'd really rather they didn't know how I'm feeling today, or what I had for breakfast, or what have you.
posted by dreamsign at 7:21 AM on September 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


is that some sort of korean slang?

No, no, I'm just willfully wandering into cross-thread randomness-repastery, Ubu. Anything I've said in this thread should be taken as comedy only. Seriously.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:24 AM on September 25, 2007


Added to which, I'd really rather they didn't know how I'm feeling today, or what I had for breakfast, or what have you.

Meh. Just set up half a dozen pseudonymous facebook accounts & populate them all with crap.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:24 AM on September 25, 2007


stavros - so, you're joking when you say that "Anything I've said in this thread should be taken as comedy only"?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:25 AM on September 25, 2007


I am not on any social networking site and I think that my refusal to join is my first step towards "Darn these kids today and their rock music and their long hair and their wheelie shoes and their etc. etc. lawn." I suppose that if I am going to go down that road anyway, then refusing to join MySpace is as good a place as any to get on.
posted by ND¢ at 7:31 AM on September 25, 2007


Language is very powerful and our choice of words can make a powerful statement, or a limp statement.

By calling these social connections "friends," the marketing geniuses behind sites like Friendster ensured that people would want to be a part of it. Because, really, who wouldn't want more "friends" or to be seen as more popular? Of course, its a completely unreal, disingenuous use of the word. These connections already have a word for them -- acquaintances. Or better yet, virtual strangers.

But who wants to be a part of a network of "virtual strangers?" Nobody.

My watershed moment for acknowledging my age was when I was consulting for a large DC startup and one of the (young) guys who helped out in their community asked me how many Myspace "friends" I had. He thought that the more "friends" you had, the "cooler" and more Internet-savvy you were. He thought such friends characterized online communities. Uh-huh.

He couldn't understand why I couldn't care less.

So yeah, I'm going to continue to object to this new definition of the word "friend," because we have existing perfectly good words to describe these connections. If friend can mean everything from "complete stranger" to "person I couldn't imagine not having in my life," it becomes meaningless as a word.
posted by docjohn at 7:43 AM on September 25, 2007


Article seemed a bit outdated (what's up with all the New Atlantis articles recently anyway ... I'd never heard of it before ...)

I enjoy online social networks, well, such as this one, in many regards (as mentioned, favorites, friends, etc.), but I don't collect a lot of "friends."

As ELF Radio astutely mentions above, it's a fun way to get free amateur therapy ... ("So I was fantasizing about fucking a decapitated pigeon in the neck the other day ..." or ... "I think I'm in love with my roomate's gf")

who wants to be a part of a network of "virtual strangers?" Nobody.

That would be me. I enjoy talking to intelligent strangers very much, but I have no desire to share my (identifiable) personal information. The details of my life that I share are very true, though.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:56 AM on September 25, 2007


And it just seems mean to say no to when someone I recognise sends a friend request.

I don't think it's mean when it's someone I don't know well to begin with. I frequently turn down Facebook friend requests from people I've met, but that I don't know very well. Some people want to "friend" everyone they know, friend or not, but I don't. I'm a curmudgeon that way. I joined to keep in touch with friends who are dispersed geographically, and that's how I use it.

I'm also holding my own against the MySpace-application-crapification tide on Facebook. Most of my friends have profiles that are painful to read nowadays. I like a few of the apps, like Flickr and Pandora, but I don't presume that anyone sane is interested in seeing every book I've read, movie I've seen, country I've visited, album I own... and so on. I'm far too lazy to document all that, and some of it looks like it's a marketing ploy to me. More importantly though, it bothers me that sharing lists of products passes for meaningful communication. I might list what I'm reading now, or a few favorite movies, but listing every movie I've ever seen doesn't strike me as meaningful information.
posted by Tehanu at 7:58 AM on September 25, 2007


1020 favorited by others? What the fuck is wrong with you people?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:58 AM on September 25, 2007


Strangeguitars: It's a verbed noun. I hate when people verb nouns. Noun-verbing...

You saw what you did there, right? Apologies if this was intentional and obvious, but my Irony Detect-O-Meter is in the shop.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:01 AM on September 25, 2007


I appreciate favorites, but what having 2117 favorites has really done for me is to tell me that I clearly need to step away from my freaking computer once in a while and spend more time outside in the sun. I'm obviously here waaay too much. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:06 AM on September 25, 2007


Verbing weirds language.
posted by danb at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I got about halfway through and was so bored I went to check facebook. True story.

I did eventually finish the article, but I don't think it added any new information to my life. It was very much a "Look what these kids are doing!" kind of read. As one of those kids, not news.
posted by crinklebat at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2007


I tried googling "SoCal networking" to see if anyone succeeded in making a pun that I was striving unsuccessfully for. Hard to tell from the synopses; I'd have to click through to a lot of misspelled content to find out, not at all a good use of time by any measure. I'll assume the joke has been made somewhere and was like funny and shit.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:07 AM on September 25, 2007


My SigOth and I had a long discussion about my disdain for social networking. I happen to think EvE Online and WoW are way cooler, and she wanted to know what the difference is.

You aren't socializing if you aren't doing anything together. Call it what you will, but planning a raid is at least an activity.

Obsessing over your profile is just lame, and in the end boring. MMOGs have staying power, whereas Friendsters/MySpaces/Facebooks are really just virtual scenes that people tire of once they've been seen.
posted by butterstick at 9:33 AM on September 25, 2007


Did we just trot into another discussion about favorites? We're too narcissistic to bother discussing other social networking aspects of this site, even?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2007


Which is lamer: being proud of having lots of MySpace/Facebook "friends"? Or being proud of NOT having lots of MySpace/Facebook "friends"?

The truth is, it just doesn't matter much either way. And I think most users of these networks don't take them all that seriously.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:08 AM on September 25, 2007


You aren't socializing if you aren't doing anything together.

True, but if your social networking 'friends' happen to be people you know in real life (or, perhaps interesting-sounding friends of real-life friends) then these things open up opportunities to share information about all kinds of concerts, parties, festivals & other kinds of social or cultural events that you mightn't otherwise have heard of.

For example, I've only been messing about with facebook for about two months, and considering that I only have about three free nights a week, these have been quickly filled with multiple alternatives for things to do, and I'm pretty much booked out for potential events until xmas. It's not uncommon for there to be a handful of decent social choices on any friday night, saturday or sunday.

Which is lamer: being proud of having lots of MySpace/Facebook "friends"? Or being proud of NOT having lots of MySpace/Facebook "friends"?

If any of that was directed at me, I'm not 'proud' of having few 'friends' (somewhere between 30 & 40) - I just recognise that it becomes difficult to deal with the glut of 'information' generated by too many contacts. Once a day's worth of notifications etc pushes your 'update' page past one single page (like AskMe after three hours), or once it takes more than half an hour to work through all your invitations, messages, requests etc, then I think you've hit information overload.

From what I've noticed about livejournal, people with heaps of friends & communities etc are more than likely to miss your post about your mother's suicide - even if they are actual real-life friends - amidst the glut of cuteness overload updates & descriptions of "what i ate for breakfast".

It's a basic principle of not spreading yourself too thin, along the lines of "when data doubles, information is halved, knowledge is halved again, and wisdom halved once more"
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:21 PM on September 25, 2007


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