The term friend has the connotation that there is a significant connection between people that maintains a kind of relationship. In order to maintain this friendship, people have to care about each other and to be aware of what is going on in each other’s lives through direct conversation.
Our biological programming gives us the belief that trust is based upon a sharing of personal information, including talking about family, thoughts, desires etc. Friendships are based upon the mutual knowledge of each other’s lives.
However Social media in general and Facebook in particular have managed to completely redefine the concept of online friendship, whereby being Facebook “friends” with someone just means that there is a consensual connection between two users. The connection does not need to be meaningful; it could even just be that both users are aware of each other’s basic existence. There is no sense of meaningful bond between users. Facebook provides ritualised ways of joining and opportunities for ritualised consumption of its content, but it also redefines the notion of friendship and provides a peculiar safety net for falling out of touch with friends.
This concept of digital friendship is based upon the realisation that users personal information is being broadcast to everyone who has consented to knowing them. Facebook has made the blatant assumption that all Facebook friends are real friends, which is most definitely not the case. The term “Friend” has completely been bastardised, and has become a primary concern for how users share their personal information with others.
Most users keep being Facebook friends with people, not because they have any sort of significant connection, but rather having that connection may come in handy down the road. Therefore, this implies that we aren’t Facebook friends with our friends, but rather we are Facebook friends with people we might be able to use or who could help us. This idea is detrimental to having a real relationship with another user.
It is not only friendship that is being redefined, it is the whole notion of privacy.
Online technology looks at privacy as black or white, either users are public or they are private. Data is either exposed or not. Facebook’s aim is not for pre-existing friends to be connected, it is just to openly share personal information with anyone and everyone. Therefore totally altering the definition of friendship, making it extremely superficial. Having mutual friends with someone does not make you friends; Facebook encourages superficial friendship and excessive openness for their own personal gain.