• Tamarah Webb

Commentary: E-friendships

The essence of a friendship does dwindle if face to face contact is not maintained. Not to say friendships cannot remain genuine if you don’t see someone regularly, but a complete understanding of who they are and who they are growing to become cannot be fully acquired. Reading a person, such as their expressions, body language, and even the way they speak plays into knowing them. You can’t have a friendship with someone you don’t know.

Hence, how do we justify the fact that we still feel so close to someone we haven’t seen since high school? Simple, we remember the times we shared with them. We remember how much fun we had or even the things that took place, and we begin to build an e-friendship. These people, we consider long-term friends. They have made profound imprints in our lives that distance will not destroy. You don’t have to speak with them every day or even every month, the friendship has roots and therefore the internet doesn’t pose a sense of imitation. Maintaining good friendships are important because they are becoming less common. 

Having a way to connect with people we don’t really speak with can have the benefit of allowing them to know we still think/remember them. Facebook has a getaway page called “News Feeds.” You tab over and the webpage opens to numerous posts from those of your friends. Lots of times you may see a post from someone from your third-grade class who moved to New Jersey 10 years ago. On the other hand, you may see a video post of your old neighbor graduating from college. Thanks to Facebook, you can reconnect and give them the benefit of knowing you care about what they are doing.    

During my eighth grade year of Middle School, I met a girl named Mariela Gonzalez. At the time I lived in Kansas and she was a new student from Mexico. We quickly became friends and grew very close within five months. However, Mariela moved back to Mexico once our eighth-grade year ended. To this day, Mariela and I still speak and miss each other. We stay connected through Facebook. We have continuously spoken about our plan to meet up one day, but until then, we like posts and write comments on each other’s wall. We have been e-friends longer that we were physical friends. In many instances such as this, Facebook allows people to stay on good terms with, and remember, those from their past.

In some instances, however, false impressions of true friendships are created by e-friendships. The combination of current friends, past friends, acquaintances, and family members are some of the main groups created when accepting a friend request. With a simple click of the mouse, we claim to be a friend to someone and want to put the relationship on public display. Tackling issues regarding the legitimacy of e-friendships can only be done by examining these different groups.

There are numerous reasons why people send and accept friend requests via social networks. Sometimes we just meet someone and enjoy a good conversation; we get home, discover they have a Facebook, and send them a friend request. However, do we know this person after just one conversation? Are we able to truly say we want to be their friend after one enjoyed meeting? For the accepter of the request, why are we claiming this person as a friend? What influences us to trust them to be a part of our social circle after just a single chat? This is an instance discribing—one too many times—how people on Facebook are connected. We may not really know half of the people who we add as friends. Other times, we grow apart and those we were friends with are now sitting in a world of the socially forgotten.

The average Facebook user now has about 338 friends. For most of us, 338 Facebook friends will sound like way too few. But, according to Robin Dunbar, an Oxford University anthropologist who studies social networks, any grouping larger than 150 starts to strain the cognitive capacity of the human brain. In addition, the idea of e-friendships can give off the idea of false popularity. We can unintentionally compare ourselves to those who have more friends. This may, in turn, influence us to acquire the need to gain more "friends" so that we are just as popular as everyone else is. We conceive a longing to fit into the cookie-cutter status of societies. In these instances, cyber-relations and social networks resemble superficiality.