Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Facebook Friendship

It’s not news that Facebook has transformed the way we think of friendship. Essentially, it allows tenuous relationships to be revived, and survive once lethal obstacles to keeping in touch, such as moving away after high school or college. During the four years I have been on Facebook, numerous correspondences have sprung up with people I would otherwise have not been in touch with once our lives diverged. Geographical distance once made keeping up so-called “weak-tie” relationships quite difficult, as people generally did not take the time to call or write letters. People become busy with new relationships as they move through life, and the weaker ones of their past fall to the wayside.

Facebook, however, has made contacting old acquaintances easy—perhaps too easy. People (myself absolutely included) are notoriously bad at responding promptly to Facebook messages. Although they have largely taken the place of email for friend-to-friend communication, they still do not have the urgency that email can have. It seems people strike up conversations on a whim, and may not be ready when a short “What’s up” turns into a lengthy e-epistle.

My inbox is filled with conversations that started off strong, with myself and the other person trading messages regularly for days or even weeks, but which gradually dwindled away into nothing. One person fails to respond (likely forgetting, since many of us are deluged with countless messages each week), and the other person never follows up. I have experienced this with dozens of different people, but I don’t think either person is really to blame. Most of us do not have the time in our lives to devote to more than a handful of personal correspondences.

For some, this is where blogging comes in; it allows us to keep a mass audience informed of our activities, but saves the time of telling each person separately. Unfortunately, blogging is inherently not as personal as a message, so there is even less pressure for the intended audience to read it.

In the end, if everyone is on the same page regarding this issue, it doesn't really matter. True friendships will flourish, while ephemeral ones will fade away.

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