Friday, September 28, 2007

When Friend Becomes a Verb

" Because friendship depends on mutual revelations that are concealed from the rest of the world, it can only flourish within the boundaries of privacy; the idea of public friendship is an oxymoron." Christine Rosen

I have read Christine Rosen's articles before. One of the discussions I had with my classes as a music teacher was, "Can we simply assume an iPod is a good thing?" Of course, this was not always so much of a discussion as a series of disbelieving statements, like, "Mr. Roman, of course an iPod is one of the most desired objects in my life." Many of my talking points for that discussion came from Ms. Rosen's articles, The Age of Egocasting. She was even kind enough to answer some questions that my classes compiled and emailed to her.

More recently, Ms. Rosen's article on Facebook and Myspace came to my attention through The New Atlantis. The quote at the beginning of this post highlighted an important point for me; my relationships with people flourish when I spend time with them. People get excited when they are able to see, face to face, friends that they have not seen in awhile.

There is a certain excitement that arises from being "friended", but it quickly fades, and for me, the ensuing correspondence is dull, not nearly as vivid and important as face to face contact. An important questions is, then, "What role does and should social networking play in our circle of friends?" This question is even more important as we think about what "social networking norms" are being developed on these sites.

I'm not sure that people spending extreme amounts of time on social networking sites would disagree with my statements, but there does seem to be a kind of downhill rollercoaster ride once you get involved on a site like Facebook and start to "make" and receive friend requests. It is harder to question the value of "friending" as you go along. The number of friends goes up, and you want to get more involved.

What do you do when somebody you once knew in highschool, ten years ago, decides they want to friend you? How much information does he or she really need to know about your life? What if you simply don't respond? Why make this connection online if it can't or won't be made in person, or even on the phone?

I ask these questions to keep myself engaged with the issues of what makes a piece of technology or a virtual community good. This is much the same reason I read the article wondering how "good" an iPod really is. These devices and sites are a sort of disconnection from what makes life and friendships real. Though I often comment about how "cool" a device like the iPod (Touch or iPhone) are, I wonder if I spend to much time coveting them?

Really, I worry that I should spend much more time with the people around me than with my iPod or on Facebook. Just today it was said on the radio that the money-making engine of the internet is advertising. But really, how much more do I need to buy?

Christine Rosen says, "Real intimacy requires risk—the risk of disapproval, of heartache, of being thought a fool. Social networking websites may make relationships more reliable, but whether those relationships can be humanly satisfying remains to be seen."

If I am truthful to myself, I quickly realize that I am really happiest when I am happy with other people.

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