Posted by: cannedcumulus | July 24, 2009

Social Networking Sites and the Death of the Best Friend

With the booming expansion of social networking web sites, worldwide populations are being defined by their online persona and are signaling an interesting social shift: the death of the best friend as a societal norm.

While many who are reading this may have had best friends in the past,

Credit Danah. M Boyd- UC Berkeley

A Timeline of Social Networking Sites- Credit Danah. M Boyd- UC Berkeley

this may be only because it is the younger members of our society (those who were born most likely in the late- 90’s and beyond) who will be marking this move and showing this trend.  Online social networks are a relatively recent phenomenon with the failed SixDegrees.com starting up in 1997 and the more successful Myspace.com in 2003.  Therefore, only those under twelve years old have lived with some sort of social network system for their entire lives.  Only those younger than six years old have lived with a major social network in place for their entire lives.  Therefore, we have yet to see the full implications of these networks and their full effects on the psychology of the youth.

However, we can predict that as these technology soaked youths “get connected” to the world, their online personas may start to control their offline lives through ego disposition.  Entire social interactions will be based through the youth’s social networks.  Instead of talking to only their close friends at school, these young broadcast what they do throughout their entire network of friends.  Lack of privacy online (from applications such as Facebook’s news feed) leads to rumors soon reaching exponentially explosive levels and resulting in possibly cataclysmic embarrassments for the young, impressionable teen.  These vast networks, on the other hand, also may make it hard for the average young person to distinguish those friends that stand a little above the rest.

If a young person was asked to go through their friends online in an empty room and pick out a best friend, they may be able to point you to one.  Put in this friend

"IDK my BFF Barney?"

"IDK my BFF Barney?"

and possibly some others, and the result may change; the young person may be unsure of who to choose in front of a crowd.  Unwillingness to choose a “best” friend may result from hyper- connectivity to multiple people online; choosing one connection over another may lead to lost interactions and a decrease in friend popularity.  Places such as chat rooms have taught teens to hang out with multiple people at a time, in order not to become bored with just one connection at a time.  The entire generation may face a serious condition I dub “Friend ADHD.”  The prognosis is severe: while these youth may have many acquaintances within their massive online social networks, they may risk missing out on true, deep connections with one or even two real best pals.

The core of human friendship is true connections, the joy of knowing someone truly, down to their very essence.  You could know them your whole life, from the beginning, or you could meet them twenty– forty years down the road of life.  They’re the one you can always call upon in a time of need, the one that you would do anything for.  Ask a teenager to do that for their entire social network and you are going to have a very stressed out, not to mention dysfunctional, adolescent.

While social networks have become a huge benefit to many, ranging from musicians to aspiring filmmakers to even political campaigns, I fear that the thrill of a real connection may become lost in the coding of these sites.  Thus, real world face- to- face conncetions should always be pursued and invirgorated.  Even the older generation may not be free from this deteroriation of friendship.  Perhaps some of you know old friends who have been lost in the shuffle of your professional life.  Reconnect.  Call that friend or even send them a message and rekindle that faded friendship with a trip to the coffee shop or an invigorating walk.  All would be well advised to truly keep up with their special friend or the notion of the best friend may become a faded memory in time; a nostalgic statuette resting on the broken mantle of a generation.

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Responses

  1. great post! quite thought provoking!

  2. it does make you wonder


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