Take a second to look at the numbers listed in this week’s masthead. Weekly staffers claim as many as 3,000 Facebook friends and as few as 22. I clock in at 726. And I’m at peace with that. Almost.
In this week’s cover story, John Katsilometes talks about the changing definition of friendship, thanks to social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. With round-the-clock communication possible with acquaintances, online-only buddies and actual friends, are the differences between the three getting lost in the mix?
When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at Harvard University in 2004, I was living exactly three miles away at Tufts University. It wasn’t long before the website invaded the campus, and my friends and I began crafting witty, informative profiles to amuse ourselves. I can’t remember exactly how many friends I had during those first six months on Facebook, but I’d put it somewhere in the 40s. Being on the site felt like being part of something exclusive and exciting, and when friendship requests came in, I had a strict formula for who was accepted: If I didn’t have your cell phone number, or if you didn’t say hi to me on the quad, you weren’t going to be my virtual amigo. My Facebook friends were my real friends, just online.
In hindsight, that system seems quaint, and 600-odd Facebook friends later, I’ve obviously relaxed my standards. Now, nearly anyone I meet constitutes a potential Facebook friend, and the only people I still firmly refuse to accept are total strangers and my parents. While my personal definition of friendship hasn’t changed, my thoughts on Facebook friendship certainly have.
Though I miss the days when I was a tad more discriminating, my up-sized network has yielded couches to crash on while traveling and brought lost friendships back into view. I may not pay as much attention to the close friends I guarded so fiercely when I first joined the site, but in expanding my definition of what makes a Facebook friend, I’ve gained a few real friends, too.