In 2006, danah boyd wrote an article named Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites.” In this article she discusses, among other things, what is the motivation people have behind “friending.” She mainly looks into two social networking sites: Friendster and MySpace. Until I got to the U.S in my sophomore year in NYU (I did my freshmen year in Florence, Italy) I did not even know about the existence of Friendster. And in the case of MySpace, the only reason I used it was to promote me and my friend’s music when we were 16, so I never really used MySpace as a social networking site. But I digress.
She starts off by writing about what is the motivation that people have behind the act of “friending”. She found out that people had various reasons. These reasons ranged from being someone’s actual friend in real-life, saying yes is easier then saying no, and to the concept of collecting friends in order to look cooler or in order to expand the range of people’s profiles they can view (friending someone you don’t know and using them as “gateway” friends in order to meet new people.)
I believe that this article needs some updating. Friendster and MySpace, although being social networking sites, are kind of “old news” and are not really what people use today (yes I know MySpace is trying to revamp their image and reinvent themselves, but let’s face it, who are they kidding.) A better platform to explore is the obvious choice— Facebook. This goes for a few reasons: 1) the amount of people that are on Facebook is enormous 2) the collection of cultures that are on Facebook is extremely varied 3) people’s social networking behaviors have changed over the years. Just the sheer amount of users that are on Facebook will probably generate new and diverse answers to the question of why do people friend each other. Moreover, by looking at a social network site today, and especially outside the scope of the U.S, which is a thing that boyd didn’t do, one could assume that reasons for friending would be different from previous years and from previous platforms.
If we take a look at the article Careful Who You Friend: Taliban Posing as ‘Attractive Women’ Online, we can see that in addition to the reasons listed so far for friending, some people/organizations have found a “creative” reason for it. According to the Australian government the Taliban is posing as attractive women on Facebook and friending Australian soldiers. This is done in order to somehow fooling them into spilling out military secrets. In 2007 the same thing happened to U.S soldiers in Iraq who after approving friends on Facebook gave away GPS data in the form of photos, an incident which led to an attack that destroyed four apache helicopters. Another example of how the agenda behind friending has developed can be seen in the USA Today article Should parents ‘friend’ their child’s teacher? This article talks about how parents are now friending their children’s teachers in order to get an understanding of what is going on in the classroom.
However, danah boyd‘s article is still relevant for us today. The reasons for friending that she writes about are all still applicable, and are probably the most common ones. Furthermore, as a person living in today’s world which is deeply immersed the culture of social networking sites, and especially as a social media student, it is always important to go back to the “origin,” in this case Friendster and MySpace, and through those form a better understanding of the reasons for friending today. Another example for the relevance of the article is the fact that she writes about the “Top 8” feature that was on MySpace— a feature that lets the user compile a list of his best friends (people, brands, bands, etc’) on the site. Although slightly different, Facebook users can construct a list of their preferred personal ties. This one includes family members, significant others, and basically whoever you wish to out on it. The difference is that on MySpace you just drag friends onto the list, and on Facebook a mutual approval needs to be made in order for someone to appear on your list.
After reading these articles, I tried to take a step back and think of the reasons I friended people on Facebook. In the year 2006 when Facebook was new and exciting and I was avid to join the extravaganza, I friended everything that moved. After a while one of my friends came up to me and told me about the “wave/keep – ignore/delete” rule. The rule was simple, if you see someone of your Facebook friends in the real world and they at least wave to you, then you have the right to keep them on your friends list. If they ignore you, they must be deleted. After three weeks of abiding by this rule, my friends list shrunk to about half. Lesson learned.