Facebook, The Tyranny Of Time And Instrumental Friendship
I’ve been meaning for some time to write a piece on Facebook, expanding on comments I’ve made previously, here and here. But, like so many things, I can’t make the time to do the topic justice. And, time is one of the two big questions I have when considering social networking sites like Facebook. Namely, […]
And, time is one of the two big questions I have when considering social networking sites like Facebook. Namely, where do people find the time?
One good thing about Facebook (and possibly a reason for it’s success), is you can use the site with a minimal commitment. It takes little time to set up a page, find some friends and get found. Moreover, the site (through its applications), does an excellent job of being a placeholder for other Web 2.0 applications like Flixster and Last.fm. Although my objections to following the crowd are still in place, I’m finding that via Facebook, these sharing options are easier to deal with.
But, they still take time.
A deeper problem, however, is the question of Facebook and friendship. I’ve already commented on the issue of “re-opening closed relational loops” and dilution (or abstraction) of the idea of community. But, I’m also beginning to wonder about the whole definition of friendship. It’s often claimed that Facebook’s initial success was down to its ability to map real world social networks. Perhaps. Whilst many my Facebook “friends” are people I’ve actually met, it soon becomes clear that many Facebook users have significant “virtual” networks.
“Is this friendship? Or is it playing a game called Friendship, using someone else’s words, by someone else’s rules? As I remember it, friendship was never that easy. It takes time to form, involves as much challenge as enjoyment, reaches and pulls on the parts of you that your relationships with acquaintances don’t. Because friends take time to prove themselves, you can turn to them for specific, not general, responses to you.
My worry is that this new activity will actually be mistaken for “friendship” in much the same way that 10 minutes of “quality time” with children can be mistaken for the real labour of love required to raise them. Meaningful engagement with others, whether children, friends or those who need our help, brings the greatest of rewards, but for that reason, it is not easily achieved. It demands the most precious of commodities: time and attention.”
Indra Adnan – Friendship by Numbers
It’s not that I don’t want to ever extend the title of friend to people I’ve not met in the flesh – virtual friendships are, of course, a reality, so to speak. But, when I think of friendship, there is a “good and bad,” seeing “behind the mask” attribute that is essential. Part of the danger (or appeal) of virtual identity is that the person we present can be little more than an avatar, a narrative fiction. Of course, this is often true of the person we present to real world, depending on context and circumstance. However, we assume that in the real world friends are those people who can see beyond this (or to whom we confer permission to see beyond, or reflect what is beyond the facade). My Facebook page is true, in so far as each component of it is veridical, but it is little more than a partial and fragmentary snapshot.
“Because Facebook is a social media network and because it is built in the spirit of individualism, relationships are often exploited and used for personal gain. This goes too far into the vain of personal ambition that it abuses the relationship definition of friend.”
John Santic – The 3 Maladies of Facebook relationships
The danger is not just that we will cheapen the definition of friendship, but that we will conflate it with networking. Networking is a bad thing, but we need to recognise that networking is an intentional and goal-oriented task. We build networks because we need them and they are successful to the extent that they help us get what we want (a contract, a job etc). Friendship is something different to that.
“But to develop a real friendship we need to see that the other person is trustworthy. “We invest time and effort in them in the hope that sometime they will help us out. It is a kind of reciprocal relationship,” said Dr Reader, “What we need is to be absolutely sure that a person is really going to invest in us, is really going to be there for us when we need them…It’s very easy to be deceptive on the internet.””
James Randerson – Social networking sites don’t deepen friendships
[tags] Facebook, Friendship, Social Networking [/tags]