Scott Essay 2

Friendship can be defined in numerous ways. Depending on the context and person talking, the meaning of friendship can differ completely. According to www.dictionary.com, friendship is, “the state of being a friend; association as friends; to value a person’s friendship.” My grandmother and mother have slightly different ideas from my cousin and brother. I believe a lot of these differing and changing views have come from the continued advancement of web 2.0 and the way we use these social networking sites to form and keep up with relationships.

By dictionary definition, a friend is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. I often find myself referring to people as my friend, but according to this definition, they really are more of an acquaintance than a friend. I would argue that according to this definition, the people I should be regarding as friends are really my best friends; the people that I care deeply for. However, according to Facebook, I have 264 friends that I am attached to through “feelings of affection;” which is not the case at all and a perfect example of how the use of Web 2.0 has changed the meaning of friends and friendship. I would define a friend as someone I put forth an effort to stay in touch with; someone who I can call if I have a problem. To me, a friend is someone that I miss when I do not get to see them for a while and look forward to hearing from them or seeing them. So by my definition, of my 264 Facebook friends not including the family members in that group, there are around 15 people I would consider my friends; the other 249 would be acquaintances. I will say though, I know all of my 264 Facebook friends, which may set me apart from other Facebook users.

There is a maximum of 5,000 friends that a person can have on Facebook. What may be more surprising though is that some people have actually reached that limit. I have a hard time imagining that I have even met 5,000 people in my 22 years on Earth, much less, have that many people to keep up with on Facebook. There are so many different ways to acquire new friends on Facebook. There is a tool that automatically suggests people you might want to add as a friend based on your mutual friends, location, high school, and interests. To go along with that feature, you can search for people by their name or e-mail address. With these tools alone, it seems easy to expand your number of friends at a fairly quick and “effortless” pace, according to Lorna Li of Frienship in a Web 2.0 World – How Social Networks Have Redefined Friendship. All it takes to be someone’s Facebook friend is two simple clicks by the requester and one click by the recipient and, boom, you have a new friend. You may have met the person a hundred times, one time, or never before in your life, but you have a new friend and you can readily find out information about this friend. So again, who is a friend and what is friendship?

The generational differences between current college students and older people like our parents can really be seen when asked how they would explain the meaning of friendship. As professor Collier argued, “[he] would not count as a friend someone they had never met in person.” The idea of having Facebook friends that one has never met seems “profound” to him, but perhaps not to people my age. My mother is in her fifty’s and uses the Internet on a daily basis, but she does not have a Facebook account (thank goodness!) She knows the basics about Facebook though from hearing me talk about it and occasionally looking at my profile with me when I am at home. She often tells me that I spend too much time on Facebook and she questions why I choose to talk to my friends over Facebook chat or via text message; it seems like an impersonal and somewhat foreign idea to her. When she was my age, if she wanted to communicate with a friend, she would go meet them in person. Maybe they would go to the local drug store to get a fountain cherry coke or they would meet up at someone’s house. Of course, she was able to use the telephone, but only to talk – there was no texting. When I asked her what friendship meant to her she said, “Friendship to me is the relationship of being whatever your friend needs, whenever your friend needs whatever. It might be someone to laugh with, cry with, be silly with, or be serious with; to grow with, to learn with, to play with or just to be with.” There is a distinct difference in physically laughing with someone and typing “ha ha” or “LOL” and hitting enter to send a message. And sure, you can type “” to a friend on Facebook chat to let them know you are upset and you can tell them you are crying, but it is not the same as having someone sit beside you and dry your tears and comfort you.

My grandmother Anne has heard of Facebook, but she does not have an account, unlike her older sister. Some would argue that Anne is old fashioned. She visits with different friends in town on a daily basis. She calls her friends that live too far away to see on a regular basis to catch up with them. She sends birthday cards and thank you notes through snail mail. I asked her what friendship meant to her and she said, “True friendship means I have someone to whom I can go to to talk about anything, whatever I have on my mind.” That does not mean type a message too; but to actually be able to see face-to-face or hear their voice. Confidently, I can say that my grandmother knows all of her close friend’s birthdays and she puts forth a strong effort to make their day special with a birthday phone call. Granted, she lives in a very small town where everyone knows everyone, but if there was news to know, she would learn it by hearing it out of a friend’s mouth. Perhaps there will be an occasional e-mail alerting her to something, but she communicates with her friends on a very personal level. She has a g-mail e-mail account and my cousin and I tried to chat with her via the chat box and we got no response. The next time we saw her we asked her if she knew we tried to chat with her and she did not have the foggiest idea as to what we were talking about.

My sixteen-year-old brother refuses to get a Facebook account, even though all of his friends have them. I have asked him on more than one occasion why he is so against getting a Facebook account and he always says that it is unnecessary; he can talk to his friends on the phone or at school. Frankly, he thinks it is a waste of time. When I asked him what friendship meant to him, he said it was, “A bond between two people who care for each other and who have a good time together and can always laugh with one another.” Perhaps he is one of few people his age who have these thoughts about Facebook. He is an outlier for certain because all of his friends add me as a friend on Facebook; which he thinks is very strange, as do I. I am often reluctant to accept their friend requests because honestly, I do not really know them; I know of them only through my brother. I often let the request sit idly in the corner of my welcome page for at least a week and then I accept them, only because I feel bad denying his friends. Staying in the same generation, my twenty-four-year-old cousin thinks of a friend as, “Someone that helps you make it through the tough times and the good times of life. These are the people you talk to, hang out with, make fun of and get drunk with. There are many different types of friends though. Some are the type that you only have serious talks with, while some are the type that you never have serious talks with. It takes all types to get through.” In saying that, it helps explain why people of my generation use Facebook as a tool to maintain friendships.
Web 2.0, Facebook most specifically, has allowed us the chance to stay informed and communicate with our ‘friends.’ That friend could be from your childhood neighborhood, middle school math class, high school graduating class, college freshman English class, random college party, or even a family member. With the click of a button and a few seconds of scanning a page, your friends will tell you where they are living, if they are in a relationship, if they have children, where they are working, when their birthday is, all of their interests, and you can even see pictures of them. As if that is not enough, if you spend a little more time reading, you can probably figure out a little more about their lives depending on what other friends have written on their wall or what they have posted as their status. After spending a solid 30 minutes on Facebook a day looking at friends profiles and posting little notes on their walls, one might feel as though they have ‘caught up’ with their friends.

Ann Truitt Zelenka argues in Li’s article that social networks have improved the quality of friendships. She argues that social networks make it easier to keep in touch with a larger number of people because you can know when they are available and how to reach them. She believes you can, “give specially targeted support because you understand much better the contours and context of each friend’s life.” It is hard to form an argument against that statement. Facebook allows us to maybe look a little deeper into our friend’s lives, granted that either they post personal information or someone else mentions it on their wall. Just the other day, I learned via Facebook that my high school friend’s grandmother passed away. She is not someone that I talk to on a normal basis, so I sent her a personal message and she seemed to appreciate it. If it were not for other people posting their condolences on her wall, I might not have found out for months. Facebook has also kept me up to date on when all of my high school friends are graduating from college and what their post-graduation plans are. In reading their wall’s and status’, it has given me the opportunity to congratulate them either via Facebook or phone, for my closer friends. I have to admit that as of recently, I have become an avid Facebook chatter; gone are my days of AIM. It is so convenient to stay logged onto Facebook and be able to chat with friends while typing papers and studying; my computer just beeps at me when I get a new message. I can simultaneously write a paper and talk to friends unlike if I were to talk on the phone; I am not that good at multi-tasking.

Li considered the meaning of friendship in Web 2.0 and said something that really stuck out to me: “…it became clear to us that it all boils down to time. Authentic, real-life relationships take time and effort, and when you’re spread too thin in a hectic, modern world, it’s hard to cultivate meaningful friendships.” The facts are simple; the way we do things has changed since my mom was my age and undoubtedly things will have changed down the road when I become a mother. Even the ‘lazy days’ seem hectic; there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. It is understandable that my grandmother and mother do not understand Facebook; they did not grow up using it to keep in touch with their friends but my generation has. In considering Li’s quote about time and effort, I agree that I put forth a lot of time and effort with my best friends; after all, they are the people I care most deeply about. It is fair to say that even without Facebook, I would have a solid 15 friends who I could tell you what was going on in their lives, when their birthday’s are, what their interests are, and so on. For those 15 friends, Facebook just gives us a forum to post pictures that document our friendship. We have a common place to talk about inside jokes and pick at each other. If Facebook were to disappear today, we would still be friends and we would still keep in touch. But, I am thankful for Facebook because it gives me the opportunity to keep in touch with other people I know. It informs me of special circumstances that might warrant a phone call or more in-depth message than a wall post.

Web 2.0 has already changed the meaning of friendship. As more time passes and new social networking sites are developed, the meaning will probably change again. It is hard for me to imagine, but I am sure that down the road, much further when I am a mother, I will undoubtedly question my children’s forms of communication; Facebook might seem ancient to them. They will likely have a new way of keeping in touch with friends and they will probably define friendship differently than I will. But for now, thank you Facebook for allowing me to keep up with old friends and make new ones.

- Anne-Randolph Scott
The website I gathered quotes and information from is "Friendship in a Web 2.0 World - How Social Networks Have Redefined Friendship" By Lorna Li on greenmarketing2.0:
http://lornali.com/social-media/friendship-in-a-web-20-world-how-social-networks-have-redefined-friendship
I also asked various friends and family members for their ideas of friends and friendship and they are quoted in the essay. Thank you!

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