Scott Essay 1

Anne-Randolph Scott
March 3, 2010
Managing Knowledge Essay 1

The ideas of calling a friend to chat, sending a letter to a friend by snail mail or even going to visit a friend are becoming more foreign as our technology continues to advance. Also changing is our concept of friendships and relationships. What classifies a person as a friend and what are our responsibilities as a friend? According to my Facebook profile, I have 218 friends; all of whom I share details about my life, as do they. However, out of those 218, there is only a handful that I speak to on a regular basis. The rest of my ‘friends’ could more appropriately be called acquaintances. Social networking sites are the driving force behind the changing meaning and understanding of friendship; how exactly have they changed and what are our new responsibilities as friends? Are our relationships growing stronger? Or are we successfully distancing ourselves from the people we care about most?

My mom reminds me often that we, college students, do things much differently now than she and her friends used to. If we are driving down the road and I start texting someone, she says something along the lines of, “Ya’ll don’t know how to communicate properly anymore.” Of course, I do not know any different, I have grown up in a world where communication always seems to become a little more impersonal every day. In the 1970’s, when my mom was around my age, if she and a friend wanted to catch up, maybe they would meet at the local drug store and get a fountain coke with a cherry in it. If a friend did not live in close proximity, they would send letters to each other to correspond or maybe talk on the phone.

The days of my mom’s snail mail and frequent face-to-face meetings are fast becoming extinct. They are being replaced by the convenient use of e-mail and other advanced methods of communication. Today, people do not even have to have a computer to send an e-mail, making it even more convenient as they can use their cell phones to send messages. Other new applications like Skype, an Internet service where people can use web cameras to see the other person while they are talking to them, is perhaps lending a hand to the decrease in actual physical meetings between people. Why drive hours to have a cup of coffee with a friend when you can click a few buttons on your computer and magically they are sitting right in front of you drinking a cup of coffee in their pajamas? Why hand write a letter, put a stamp on it, and put it in the mail box when you can just type out a few words and hit send? Of course, to my mother these forms of communication seem a bit impersonal; but she did not grow up with these options. College-aged people have grown up with these options though. As much as we hear about how things used to be, the truth is, they are not the same. Just as in 20 years from now, our children will surely be using new and different tools to communicate – tools that will more than likely baffle us.

It can certainly be argued that the new communication tools we use are impersonalizing communication and changing the meaning of friendship. However, there are some wonderful benefits as well. What is worse? Quickly e-mailing a friend to say hi or doing nothing at all because you are in a hurry to get somewhere and don’t have the time to sit and hand write a letter? Is it better to Skype a friend to chat or do nothing at all because you don’t have time to spend an hour traveling to meet them? It may be a sad realization, but today’s society relies on convenience. In using E-mail among other things to keep in touch with friends, perhaps we are making them stronger, especially if the alternative is doing nothing.

When Facebook appeared in 2006, soon-to-be college students rapidly created accounts to ideally learn more about the people they would soon be living with in college as well as having a way to keep up with their high school friends. The transition from high school to college is a difficult one to say the least. It is often difficult to say goodbye to your high school friends knowing that you will not be able to see them everyday anymore. It will obviously be difficult to keep up with all of your friends while making new ones at the same time. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s creator, obviously struck gold in his creation. Facebook quickly became everyone’s new best friend. Within 15 minutes, you could easily find out how all of your old friends were doing; the information was literally at your fingertips. It became a quick and easy way to stay in touch.

Now, Facebook has expanded their network significantly. Virtually anyone with a valid e-mail address can have an account. What used to be directed to college students has turned into a phenomenon that people of all ages now use. The many and ever multiplying applications Facebook offers allow users to see their friends birthday’s, write comments on their walls, view their pictures, and view their status’ to name a few. With these capabilities, are we not strengthening our friendships? Without Facebook, I would not know half of my friend’s birthdays. There is a little box that lists everyone’s birthday and when you click on their name, it directs you to wish them a happy birthday on their wall. Facebook also has a ‘groups’ application where someone can create a group for any reason at all and invite people to join. The president of my high school class created a group for our year and if there is anything happening with someone from our class, it gets posted on the group’s wall. She also created it as an easy way to communicate with everyone about organizing class reunions. Because most of our class has a Facebook, this is the easiest way to communicate with everyone, as people’s cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses can easily change.

Facebook also offers an ‘events’ application. Again, anyone can create an event and invite anyone to it. Frequently, if someone gets a new phone and has lost all of their contacts, they create an event for people to ‘attend’ where they really just write their phone number on the event’s wall. If someone is having a birthday party, creating an event on Facebook is a quick and easy way to let people know about it. I have even heard of events being created for family reunions because so many members of that family are on Facebook. There are also events that are created to simply let people know about something that is going on – and there is no actual event. Here at Virginia Tech, around this time every year an event is created to remember April 16, 2007. There is no actual event, but by RSVPing ‘attending’ it shows that you will simply be thinking of the Hokies we lost on that fateful day. Another great example is Morgan Harrington. Her friends created an event “Please help find Morgan Harrington. Please.” Any updates in her case were posted in that event. People were also allowed to post their own stories about their time with Morgan on the wall for the event. It was a way for everyone to be informed as well as a way to remember her.

So, with these new communication tools that we are using, has the meaning of friendship changed? Have our responsibilities as friends changed? How have our friendships changed? Are they stronger now? Or have we cheapened our friendships by hiding behind these new cools that decrease the amount of actual face-to-face contact we have?

For people born after 1986, we have grown up communicating through technology. Of course it is hard for our parents and grandparents to understand this change because it is so very different than how they communicated, but as we can already tell, things are never going to stay the same; things are forever going to be changing and advancing. And as hard as it is for them to understand these changes, they too are using these new tools. Even though there have been many changes in the way we communicate with friends, the true meaning of friendship has not changed. Friends are still the people we rely on whenever we need someone. Just because we do not go to the local drug store weekly to chat and get a coke, it does not mean that we do not have friends. The only thing that has changed is the way in which we communicate with those friends, and perhaps things have changed for the better. Snail mail is not completely gone; I still love to get handwritten mail, especially from friends and family while I am away at school. However, it is becoming less popular and is being replaced by communication tools found on the Internet. My mom, and the people of her generation, did not have the Internet as an option; snail mail was the norm for them. Now, the norm is the Internet and the vast opportunities it presents us with to keep in touch with those we care about.

I feel certain that if Facebook did not exist, something else would. As mentioned earlier, if I did not have Facebook, I can say that unfortunately I would probably forget to wish a lot of my friends happy birthday even though it is my responsibility as a friend to do so. And even though it is always a nice surprise to get actual mail, as a college student myself, I know that it is sometimes hard to remember to go get a card and mail it. With the ‘wall’ application on Facebook, I can accomplish virtually the same thing as if I sent a card. Even if I just wanted to say hi to someone and let them know that I was thinking of them, Facebook allows me to do that, in about 10 seconds or less. Just because I post something to someone’s Facebook wall does not mean that I do not care enough to send a card, it is simply about convenience. It can be argued that it is more impersonal than sending a card, but if I had to choose between sending a card or doing nothing because I did not have time, doing nothing would be even more impersonal than writing on someone’s wall.

Facebook makes it easier to keep up with all of your friends and what is going on in their lives. If something important happens to someone, you find out on Facebook. Then, you can congratulate or sympathize with them as you see fit. As a friend, it is your responsibility to know what is going on with your friends and do whatever is needed if they need your help. Facebook gives us pretty instant access to any information. Without Facebook, it could take days, weeks, or even months to find out something; especially if you are not close friends with someone. If one of your friends, or even acquaintances, loses a family member and you do not find out until weeks later because you heard from another friend, it might seem impersonal or insensitive to approach the person after you find out. But Facebook allows us to find out information quickly and react as needed.

Skype allows us to communicate with friends who are too far away to see on a regular basis. Sure, you are looking at each other through a computer screen, but the alternative is not looking at them at all. Think about soldiers especially, Skype allows them to see their family members while they are away training or at war. Even though it is not the same as being at home, I feel certain that it offers comfort to be able to see their children, wives, or husbands opposed to maybe just talking to them on the phone.

The new communication tools such as e-mail, Facebook, and Skype are not at all cheapening friendships; they are doing the opposite, strengthening them. The only change these tools have brought to friendships is the way in which we communicate. We still have the same responsibilities as friends and to our friends; if we do not have more responsibilities now that we have pretty unlimited access to their lives. We are now able to communicate more frequently with the people we care about. It is our choice to keep in touch with people and Facebook offers us an easy and quick way to do so; so if anything else, we have more of a responsibility to our friends, because the information is at our fingertips, it is up to us to decide what to do with that information.

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