The concept of “friends” on a social network (SN) is different to the concept of real-life friends. For one thing, we expect in-person interaction with real-life friends, at least to a degree unlikely or not possible with SN friends. For another, our emotional commitment to real-life friends may be more than it would be to SN friends we’d never met (or meet).
Yes, there is some overlap. Some of our SN friends will be real-life friends, but there’s no reason it has to be that way. To argue that a SN “cheapens” the concept of friendship is a gross oversimplification since it assumes a monolithic, one dimensional definition of friendship. Without descending into a semantic debate, it is clear that the burgeoning of online relationships through social networks will necessitate redefining what friendship means. Now that’s going to be complicated!
Original post May 23rd, 2008 @ 5:40am