How has the Internet - particularly its social networking capability - changed your own relationships to friends and others?
I find that I don't really carry on conversations online too much anymore. When I was in middle school and high school, I lived on AIM but I haven't been on in that years. I use Facebook mostly to see what my friends are up to or to share the occasional video or link. With my close friends that I see on a daily basis, social networking sites really help for us to plan get-togethers. In that way, I would say the Internet has helped my close friendships.
However, I feel that Facebook has somewhat contributed to losing touch with my friends from high school. Because I can so easily see what my friends are doing, who they're hanging out with, what their majors are, etc. there is really no reason for me to call or email those friends to find out what they're doing. Without the information so readily available to me, I would have had to take the time to know what they were doing. But now, with a few clicks I can find out all of these things on my own. Therefore, for me, Facebook gives me the illusion that I'm closer to my old friends when I really am not.
While I concur re: Facebook and my close relationships, especially those in college, I have had a totally different experience with my high school biffers. I almost never Facebook-stalk them because there's an underlying feeling that I'm going to talk with them soon anyway, so why bother? Their pictures are experiences that I haven't shared; their statuses are inside jokes I don't understand. Both require a conversation with that specific friend in order to truly comprehend what's going on in their lives. And it works both ways.
Ever since Facebook expanded its base to those outside of college and high school (i.e. to my parents, professors, etc.), and ever since rumors started swirling about future employers searching for future employees, it has inadvertently changed the way I approach it. The general rule of thumb has become, for me at least: "Never put anything on Facebook that will give Aunt So and So a reason to call my mother. Never put anything on Facebook that would make Professor So and So blush when they pass me in the halls. Get hired." Facebook itself hasn't changed my relationships, but my relationships have changed the one I have with Facebook.
Does anyone still have a MySpace?
I find I use Facebook as a kind of informal, internet-based cubicle rather than a method of meaningful communication between friends. I have a list of contacts I can edit and organize depending on who I want to get ahold of for what, I receive messages and invitations and store them in a planner, and I have photographs to brighten up and personalize this workspace (as such a workspace, I agree with Hannah that it's important to keep Facebook presentable, if not downright professional). So most of the communicating I do with friends is stuff that would go on paper in the real world anyway. I'm lucky enough to have many of my friends close by if I want to have a meaningful conversation, and I keep in touch with distant friends through other methods. The one notable exception is my mom- we only talk on the phone once a week, and Facebook is a nice way to keep up with each other without the long time commitment of a phone call.
As far as general friendships go, I think that some get too worked up about the changing nature of friendship when they see that a particular social networking site uses the word "friend." I believe words like "friend" are much more malleable than cultural institutions like friendship, and can change and expand to have many definitions, from "informal contact" to "soul mate."
Facebook has definitely affected my relationships, but I'm not taking about my relationships to the people around me. Growing up in an international bilingual school, I have become very used to the transient nature of friendship. Every year, I had friends move to Singapore, France, or Australia, and I would always write for a few months, and eventually lose touch. It was ok though, because there was also a constant influx of new kids who had just come from a different far-away location. I am not saying that my friends now are expendable, but as I child I concluded that it was better to focus my energies on the people in front of me, as I would be seeing them again, and soon. A funny thing happened when I got a facebook: I found out I was right. People from my past, mostly elementary school buddies began to friend me. And the funny part was, even if we had been close, I would take one look at their profile and realize we had nothing to talk about anymore. Even the friends I kept through middle school, after my switch to public education, were now just people who bore a slight resemblance to those good playmates from the olden days. At this point I've defriended most of them. We just had nothing to talk about. The notion that facebook can help you reconnect with old friends has never proved true for me. The only way it has changed my relationship with these people is to go from fond reminiscing to complete disinterest.
It's sort of hard for me to ferret out whether or not Facebook has changed my friendships because my use of Facebook pretty well coincided with my arrival at college. So my friendships at college have always been Facebook friendships, whereas my high school friendships were not. Yes, my friendships with my high school friends have changed - but did they change because of the geographical limitations of going away to college or because I started using Facebook?
That said, I think Facebook has limited impact on my relationship to my friends at college. Yes, we send messages and post on each other's walls ("check out this link, lol; "hey, lunch today?"; "what's the Arabic homework?"), but these exchanges could just as well be carried out via text, phone call, or in person. Same goes for my friends from high school - we communicate via skype, text, phone calls, emails, and Facebook, and I don't find that any one medium is privileged more so than any other.
I agree with MJ that the repeated refrain that Facebook helps you reconnect with lost friends has seldom proved true. Yes, old friends have friended me on Facebook. We'll exchange a few messages. If we live close, we might even suggest coffee. But we've never actually gone for coffee. And eventually, the messages stop.
However, I do use Facebook to communicate with friends in Cambodia and Egypt. Facebook is, socially, new to Cambodia. Facebook doesn't offer a Khmer language option, so access is limited to English speakers. For that reason, probably only half of my Cambodian friends have Facebook, and I left my friendships with the friends that didn't have one behind in Cambodia. I still talk to my Cambodian friends that do have a Facebook - but I wonder for how much longer. How long can friendship sustain itself in the absence of shared experiences and shared geography?
Overall, I find that I tend to use Facebook more so to spy on the people to whom I don't talk anymore. I troll through photos of the girls with whom I used to dance, vicariously living out the life I didn't choose. I know that girl that who used to sit next to me in senior year English is on study abroad in England now, and that she has a boyfriend. I know that the quiet boy from Physics class has re-fashioned himself a booze-chugging party animal with a backwards baseball cap. I tend to regard Facebook as an collection of stories of people I don't know yet in whom I somehow remain interested.
I find that facebook doesn't really have any major negative effects on my relationships. In general, it has made it easier to stay in touch with friends from high school and makes it easier to share information with friends from college. Like someone else mentioned, social gatherings are organized on facebook with great ease. I am also made aware of different things going on on campus through facebook. Though I am slightly embarrassed to admit it, I have (I think) close to 700 friends on facebook. I'm not very discriminatory about accepting friends as long as I know a person, and while I do try to weed people out sometimes, I actually like being friends with distant acquaintances on facebook. Often I can find an interesting article or find out about an interesting event that I wouldn't have known about otherwise, because usually I'll know what's going on with my immediate friends. I find it a lot easier to stay in touch with friends from high school via facebook because I don't usually have time to talk on the phone or spend a lot of time texting, so dropping a quick post, message, or video on facebook to catch up. I don't think it cheapens my relationships like some people claim that it can. My mom has told me in the past that I have managed to stay in touch with more high school friends than she did when she graduated, and I think that technology and social networking has contributed to that.
I have always prefered a phone conversation over texting or chatting. However with school and a very busy senior schedule there are times when the internet is very uselful in facilitating these social connections. I am able to keep in touch with high school friends and family members from around the world. My close friends will still receive a phone call from me, I feel like there is a special emotional element that comes with hearing another's voice. There are moments when I catch myself on facebook reading a "friend's" status or pictures. The internet is great for keeping up with these more distant friends, but it is nice to know that my close friends will still receive a letter or phone call as a form of communication.
Yeah, I think I would have to agree with Katelyn: facebook and other social media tools have not had a negative effect on any of my relationships. If facebook were not around, I would still call or write the same friends I do now, probably just as often as I do now. Facebook has just allowed me to keep up with distant friends from the past that I would never normally have kept in touch with. I don't mind that I have 'friends' on facebook whose wall I will never write on, or who I will never actually interact with on facebook; it may sound strange, but it's just nice to see what they are up to and it makes me feel more connected with my past. I do have a general rule of thumb for who I keep as a fb friend: if I see them on campus (or around my neighborhood) and we don't at least say hello, we are no longer facebook friends in my eyes.
It is also funny to see the older generation (aka our parents) establish their own, personal facebook etiquette that is so different from our generation. My mom doesn't seem to understand the offense that comes with not accepting a friend request (or defriending someone) you know well and see on a daily basis...but just don't happen to like all that much.
I have mixed feelings about facebook. For one I agree with what many people have said- it does not radically change any of the friendships i have. Although i have reconnected with childhood friends via facebook, neither one of us has pursued a friendship aside from that. So it really becomes really a little window into someone's life- someone that you actually don't know that much about. Its fun and interesting, but does not alter my life or relationships in any serious way.
In my close friendships, facebook plays a mixed role. It is undoubtedly a good way to make plans and keep in touch. I love facebook in that it allows me to have a consistent relationship with friends that I met abroad. Having said that, when i really want to talk to any of my friends, I simply call them. And I get much more out of a phone conversation than a facebook interaction.
I think where social networking really plays a role is in new friendships, acquaintences, and planning events/get togethers. It provides a "safe" space to branch out- throw out friendship lines that have the potential to develop into something meaningful.
On a side note, what annoys me to no end is people who feel the need to post thier entire life on facebook. For some people, this means creating as many witty (or not so witty) statuses as they can in one day. For others this means posting every change in emotion or though they have in a day. I can recall one high school acquaintance in particular who, multiple times a day would post how she was feeling about a boy she was interested in. I am baffled at why she would want the facebook community to know about her personal romantic relationship (which, needless to say, did not work out). It is entertaining in some ways for me, but also a little sad. Anyone have any insight into this?
I was speaking to my housemate about generational gaps in technology as well, and she was noting that her little brother often posts personal things to his facebook, or on her wall, that she feels are totally inappropriate for a public space. She thought that this type of interaction on facebook was more characteristic of people who are in middle or high school now.
I agree with Sierra that there is definitely a generational gap when it comes to facebook etiquette. My parents' friends seem to have....very self-aware statuses and conversations on facebook. Posts and responses tend to be longer, more poetic and include abbreviations or omit words where it (from my perspective) does not seem necessary. This might just be my parents' friends style tho....?
I disabled my Facebook account and never had a MySpace account.
My mom once made a comment about one of my siblings: after reading my sibling's status, my mom said, "Nobody needs to stalk her to know what's going on in her life--she's made it all plain for everyone to see!" And what do you know? That's so true! I read in the news once that this lady put up on her status: "Going to the park" or something like that, and one of her Facebook friends actually broke into her home at that time. Mercy.
I think that Facebook has gone beyond what it was originally intended to do--to be a site for social networking. Now like Hanna has said above, employers are going in stalking employees (well, you didn't exactly say that Hanna; I'm paraphrasing here), family members and professors are there, too, and people younger than college students are on. Why in the world do middle schoolers need to be involved with social networking? They don't. And like Sophia said, I have a little brother, too, who's on Facebook and who gets in trouble with my mom because he also puts stuff on that shouldn't be out there. Instead of being a site for social networking, Facebook has turned into a place to put your private life out there. I don't like that aspect at all.
I remember once when a friend's parent passed away. I was a little bit shocked to see everyone send their condolences via Facebook wall post. The whole thing seemed so impersonal, especially when people that she barely knew were saying sorry. What did they know about her loss? Were they really sorry? Another time, another acquaintance put up pictures of her deceased grandfather up on Facebook. I dunno, that just seems wrong.
But then again, I don't think that we can blame Facebook for all of these things. Sure, Facebook might be there, but it's still only a site where people can choose to go there or not. It doesn't have a weird force that drags people to type in "facebook.com" and insert their username and password and go peruse everyone's profiles. It's also not Facebook's fault for "making" people lose contact with their friends. People choose not to make the phone calls, not to send the letters (or emails, I guess now), not to take the plane ride to that far away city and visit that friend from way back when. People choose to ignore people, not Facebook.
Ha...but I still disabled mine because eh, it was too easy for me to choose not to stay in contact!
A friend of mine recently posted a status, asking his facebook friends whether or not he should shut-down his facebook or censor his statuses. A whole slew of people responded in the negative. The reason, he said, is because some people find his statuses whiny and therefore treat him poorly.
My response was this- "Facebook exists only to supplement the judgment of others. If these people didn't like you in the first place, censoring your status probably wouldn't fix much."
Facebook is not about making friends. It's about corralling all the friends you already have into a little pen so you can keep track of them. It's friending people you might not like very much because you see them on the daily and you want to creep on that shit. Facebook makes stalking okay. And I love every part of that. But that has a lot more to do with my crazy, I'd think.
I had facebook for all of high school, but it didn't mean much. I logged on once in a while. I didn't really utilize it at all, except maybe for lengthy private messages between friends. And I continue to use it much in the same way. Those friends I lost touch with from high school, I honestly believe I would've lost touch with, whether I was writing them, texting them, calling r facebooking them. Facebook is just a way to keep track of the friends lost and friends gained. It's like... a friendly data set more than anything. So, yeah, I agree with Eunwoo. It's people making the choice, not facebook.
@Eunwoo: I am a firm believer in the "Facebook Force". Facebook is not my homepage, but before anything else I will head over and log in. Literally. I don't even do it on purpose.
I was a more astute user of the "internet-forum". When I was "online", so to speak, from about 14-college, I had a whole bunch of friends from across the globe. And they were real friends, not fake ones. (I'm very particular about who I call friends. Pretend you know me very well and then be shocked by that.) I could talk to them about anything, Actually, I could talk to them more so than IRL friends, because I never had to see their faces the next day and know that they knew what I had said.
I do think it was a problem for me, because it created a disconnect between my "online" self and my "irl" self. In case you all HAVEN'T already noticed, I'm a lot more eloquent online than I am in person and I can work through my thoughts more effectively without the immediacy a face-to-face conversation brings. It connected me more than others, I think, to my computer. But it also helped me grow as a person. I was able to discuss my problems with older people without feeling condescended to or judged. Because the internet is textual and that makes discerning intent a little more difficult. I was able to work through my awkward without worrying about the residual "remember how awkward you used to be?" because in the internet, the attention span is short.