Facebook and Friendships


In the last few years, something has changed about my understanding of friendships. Before Facebook, I had sort of assumed what a friend was, what friendship meant, and how I myself interacted with friends.

But in a strange way, contrary to a simple idea that Facebook makes me realize the difference between “true” and “false” friends, people I actually know in “real” life vs. people I have barely met or not met at all, my notion of the idea of friendship itself has changed.

For one thing, I have been surprised by how some people I had known a long time came across as very different people on Facebook. I may have been hanging  out with them a long time but had never known how they thought, what went on in their heads . When I saw them getting involved in serious discussions that I could actually read, my respect for their ideas increased. In real life, they could have been too extroverted to have had time to talk at length about any one topic, or too shy to talk much at all.

Some people came across as super narcissistic, always posting close-up pictures of themselves in pretty or handsome poses. I may have always suspected that they needed more compliments than others, but their narcissism was never so evident as with those innumerable posts. Some people came across as more shallow than I’d known them in “real” life!

And then there was the jubilation of finding a very old friend after years of separation on Facebook. At first, it seemed like a reunion. But after looking through pictures, infos, the exchange of a few words, these people remained stuck on the walls of our social networking lives, their periodic posts as distant as headlines in a newspaper. The distance created through the gulf of years, of different lifestyles, and aspirations were not to be bridged.

I have wondered sometimes if it was better that we had been left with the fond memories of childhood without our recollections being tarnished by the lack of interest, of the present, from both sides.

On the contrary, people that you’ve only known on a social networking site may seem very real. But they aren’t real because they may appear and disappear at will and there may be whole sections of their lives that you may know nothing about. And yet, because you know how they think about some matters and their interactions with you, they may be more real than even an aunt or a classmate that you only talk about mundane stuff with daily.

Are out notions of reality changing too?

Many people who have moved around the globe are able to take their past friendships along with them in a way it wasn’t possible before. You may have gone to middle-school in Malaysia but may have moved anywhere–the UK, USA, Singapore–but you carry your old classmates with you and have virtual coffee with them.

But are these real friends?

In the last 2-3 years, we have seen a new kind of friendship arise in the world of human relationships. This social networking friendship is different from other kinds of friendships that we have historically seen before–acquaintances, pen friends, neighbours, classmates–what have you. You could only have known a pen friend through what he or she wrote to you himself or herself in their letters. But in the social networking world, there is a social context within which this friendship is sustained or broken, more real than the real world in some ways and yet not real. Am I making sense?

And yet, all these changes that have happened to the idea of friendship are very real. We’ve had to change the concept in our heads and it’s still changing. We are having to deal with it every day.

I wonder if people felt the same way when the postal service came about or people started using the telephone in a large way and distances between friends started getting bridged faster than before. Perhaps we will also settle down soon as a culture to these new and changing ideas of friendships.

What do you think?


5 thoughts on “Facebook and Friendships”

  1. I actually thought the blue text emphasized the importance of the writers’ thoughts. It didn’t throw me off. But I really think that friendships or relationships are what you and the other person make it out to be, whether it be online or in real life. I like interacting with people in real life because I get to be myself. I can’t hide behind the screen of my computer. Although there are times where I do share a bit more online because I’m actually quite self-conscious in real life and do have a few of those posed pictures that you say I do… lol. Ultimately, we all interact with each other differently under different environments. I know that for me, sometimes intellectual topics can find its way out of my mind and I become either reserved or quite silly in real life. Or, I’m just not in the right environment – my friend E and I used to go for coffee a lot, and we’d somehow end up conversations such as this and support each other in our lives. Though we’d be a bit silly too.

    We’re all only people and to quote a very wise man, we see things the way we are instead of the way they just are. We all have perspectives and interpret things differently. There are things we may be unbiased about, but looking at our own lives (complete with all of its thoughts, feelings, and actions) objectively is extremely difficult and probably impossible to do 100% of the time. Believe me. I’ve tried.

    Actually, I went to the trouble of looking up the meaning of “friendship” or “friend” on dictionary.com and there are a few definitions that struck my interest:


    2. a friendly relation or intimacy.

    1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
    2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
    3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
    4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.

    To me, a friend could be any one of these meanings. The friends who are closer to me are people I can have fun with and share my life with. We give back to each other somehow, and although it may not always be equal… we know that we try to do so in ways that we can. 🙂 Lately, I haven’t been in the mood to go out, so I’ve been doing some connecting on facebook… lol. As best as I can, anyways. I believe as long as both people work at it in little ways and try the best that they can to connect with each other, their friendship should be okay. But it should always be based on quality instead of quantity. 🙂

    But that’s just my personal rose-coloured belief. Awesome topic!


  2. You’ve raised some good points here. I too am struck by how much I did not know about some of the people I hung out with. The context within which we recognize someone as a friend has changed for sure.

    I do have a small issue with this post – the blue text was a little jarring and seemed to break the flow of my thoughts as I read. Sorry!


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