Recent advances in technology have enabled expedited and exponential growth of social networking sites. These social sites have grown both in terms of number and popularity, reaching out to people from all walks of life. The fact that social networking sites have been able to rekindle old friendships as well as create new acquaintances has led to their increasing popularity.
However, Deresiewicz does not regard friendships created in social networking sites as authentic. As a renowned author and critic of literary works as well as a former associate professor at Yale Univeristy, Deresiewicz does not apparently give much credit to online friendship in his critical essay “Faux friendship”. In this article, he takes his readership through evolutionary stages of friendship right from ancient to contemporary times.
Deresiewicz’s arguments are directed towards negative effects of social networking sites and how they have eroded the basics of true friendship. The modern culture that relies on technology to move forward has led individuals to regard people as friends while they hardly know them.
Online friendship through social networking sites has taken centre stage in modern age. One of the driving forces towards fast growth in online friendship is the ease with which people can become friends. For instance, little effort is needed to initiate online friendship (Anon., 2011).
This ease of making friends is what poses a great challenge in determining authentic online friends (Valkenburg & Schouten, 2006). This paper offers a succinct summary of the essay alongside exploring aspects of friendship as pointed out by Deresiewicz. Finally, critical analyses of the essay will sum up the review.
Summary of the article
Deresiewicz (2009) argues that modern internet age has eroded family values. He reiterates that common natural friendship is also in great jeopardy bearing in mind that there is less value which is being attached to online friendship. and similarly friendships are headed in a similar direction. Friendship has now developed into a relatively casual affair in modern relationships.
The modern-day relationships have dissolved the meaning of the word friendship; as aromatic lovers refer to each other as friends, parents want their children to think of them as friends, teachers, clergymen and bosses have not been left behind in the wave of insisting that their followers regard them as friends. He supports Robert Brian (an anthropologist) claim that in this age and time, everyone is our friend.
He wonders how friendship has developed especially with the sudden rise of distorted social space. He views the kind of friendship created in social networking sites as just a distraction from the reality of life. He does not see sense in regarding Facebook acquaintances as “friends” since our interaction with them is confined to the limited space of wall posts that limit the content of what can be shared.
He views the kind of friendship created in Facebook, MySpace and Twitter as less meaningful as it only serves as a platform to attenuate what it did not create. The idea of becoming friends with everyone as evident in social networking sites makes us forget how to become friends with anyone since we embrace the phenomena of friendship with little or no understanding of what it means.
In an attempt to give an insightful analysis on the nature of modern friendships, the author traces the idea of friendship as was evident during ancient times. He explores the kind of friendship that existed between Achilles and Patroclus, David and Jonathan and Virgil’s Nisue and Euryalus. He agrees that friendship during that time was ordinary and universal just like today.
However, they were rare and hard to win. Hence, once established they were regarded as precious. The then friendships were established after deep analysis of to be friend character. For example, David and Jonathan’s friendship was deeply rooted and stood the test of time when Saul attempted to take away David’s life.
On the other hand, despite Achilles loyalty to the Greeks he defended his friendship with Patroclus. This is because in the Greek culture as explained in the works of Aristole and Cicero viewed friendship as a dedication to an individual’s pursuit of truth and goodness.
For this reason, the process of establishing a friendship was taxing as one had to evaluate a person’s virtues and character qualities before the friendship bond could be sealed. In addition, sometime the preservation of friendship called self sacrifice like Nisus sacrificed his life to avenge for his friend Euryalus. Deresiewicz provides another historical revelation of how the classical Greeks idea of friendship went beyond marriage, and its value was equated to the value of sexual love.
Deresiewicz claims that the end of this classical idea of friendship came with the rise of Christianity. He claims that Christianity seems to discourage, intense personal bonds among friends, as the heart should be dedicated to God.
However, the death of medieval form of friendship as not permanent as the notion was revived, though for a short time, during the renaissance period. This type of friendship which Deresiewicz views as true survived through the 18th and 19th century to give rise to great friendships like those exemplified by; Goethe and Schiller, Bryon and Shelly and Emerson and Thoreau.
Deresiewicz (2009) claims that the last turning point to the notion of friendship came about as a result of commercialized society. The rise of capitalism is what lowered the bar of personal relationship and gave way for modern friendships to be established.
The pressures of capitalism compelled people to establish private relationships with people whose background they never cared to investigate. The need to maintain economic friendship so as to excel in the modern business world is what has led people to hold business friends in high esteem at the expense of people close to them.
The revolution of friendship accelerated by different historical changes has given birth to the modern form of friendships whose characteristics include individualism, self-expression, believing in choice as well as allowing freedom to start or terminate a friendly relationship.
The social changes observed in modern families have eroded the traditional structures of family institutions. Industrialization has led to the death of extended families, and what we have today are single–parent families due to the numerous divorces evident today. The modern structure of families is not strong enough to exercise parental authority and supervision; hence the children and parents alike are turning to friends for support.
The kind of friendships being established today are done in a hasty manner; thus, it is rare to find true soul mates. What is evident today is an individual who claim to have many friends from all backgrounds but none can stand for him/her during hardships.
For this reason, it is not hard to see two people considered to be best friends fall out after a very short period of time. The reason being the erotic intensity that was a characteristic of friendships during ancient times is long lost. The modern-day human has decided to shin any expression of intense affection to his/her friends. It is for this same reason that elites like Oprah have been viewed with suspicion because of their relations with friends of the same gender. This is because society today expects individuals to grow out of intense relationships with their peers of the same sex as they age.
Deresiewicz further claims that classical friendships were essential, as they were committed to moral improvement of one another. Unlike today, in ancient times a friend could reprimand another without fear of bruising the friendship. Advice on morality was openly appreciated and so was criticism.
However, today’s friendship is supposed to be nonjudgmental because we want our relationships to be free and fun. A friend who tells the truth will be quickly replaced for one who tells white lies. Today, friends are expected to take one’s side regardless of whether the individual is wrong or not, to make them feel good. This is why it is not difficult hard to find a person making a lame excuse on behalf of their friends whenever they do something wrong.
It is against this new dimension of modern day friendship that social-networking sites have come in and accelerated further decay of the role of friendship in an individual life. The network has expanded the limit of the number of friends one can have.
However, the kinds of friends created within the social media circles are what Deresiewicz refers to as ‘Faux friendships’. He views them as just a mere illusion where a person claims to have friends in the same place, but in a real sense, they are just images that one cannot turn to in time of need. He asserts that the circle of friends created in the social sites should be equated to geometrical points that can never meet in the real sense.
The whole idea of conducting conversations on wall pages is a make belief, but can never be. It only gives one an illusion that the assembled list of friends is like a real group of peers. Friendship in this new world is no longer a relationship but a feeling, and as people reach out to their friends through social networking sites, they cling to a connection that is not real.
Social media has also hindered individualism of friendship. Before it was invention of social networking sites, one could only share his/her thoughts with one person at a time. However, things are different today as people are free to posts their thoughts for everyone to see through wall posts and status updates (Rosen, 2007).
Friends are also conducting their private lives in public as they exchange information on the public walls of their pages. It is like people are trying to prove to the whole world that they are friends.
In surrender, Deresiewicz says he cannot understand why people feel compelled to exercise the kind of exhibitionism evident in social networking sites. Whatever happened to privacy in friendship seems to be his one million dollar question.
It is important to note at this j point that Deresiewicz does not disregard the ability of social networking sites to reconnect long-lost friends as well as bring friends who are far apart from each other. However, he laments that he does not enjoy reading happenings in their lives since it leaves him empty and full of unpleasant feeling.
This is due to what is expressed is pure impersonation, and the represented person is no where closer to the real person (Livingstone, 2008). This is where the main query should be directed at, because how can one know whether the friend from whom you have accepted will turn out to be similar to what they claim.
He is not alone in this quagmire of myriad of questions as his view is supported by Rosen (2007). In his article, Rosen explores how the internet has contributed to the new virtual friendship born and bred in the social networking sites. Rosen (2007) postulates that the virtual dimension of friendship has evolved from self-portrait to digital graphics expressed in social networking sites.
People create the modern digital self-portraits to attract, create and find friends as in the name of the connection. The consequences of the embracing social networking sites promise of connectivity can greatly felt on friendship. This is because, despite the perceived connection over the internet, the ties of such friendships are very weak and cannot be regarded as representative of true friendship (Rosen, 2007).
In addition, if such friendship is to be maintained it foundation is on untrustworthy grounds, because what people highlight in their profiles is more of what they would like to be but not what they really are (Valkenburg & Schouten).
Deresiewicz is also worried on how social networking sites have elevated friendship from a private affair to a public affair. All over a sudden, people feel compelled to exchange their friendship secrets online regardless of whether everyone else is following on their conversation (Deresiewizc, 2009).
As explained by Livingstone (2008) this is not the case with physical friendships, which enforce the etiquette of privacy and respect. Deresiewicz essay could have benefitted with Livingstone (2008) explanation of how the social networking sites have eroded the general etiquette of friendship as exercised in physical connections. In this era, people claiming to be friends will post an inappropriate comment on one’s wall, or further still post a picture that are embarrassing.
The big question Livingstone (2008) poses is how an individual to supposed to deal with such people without ruining the perceived friendship status. he also raises another serous issues of what happens when two of your social media friends fall out, do you follow suit and befriend their ex (Livingstone, 2008).
This serious concern on the steadiness of online friendships is in agreement with Deresiewicz assertion that friendship today exercises free will and choice, is hastily made and easily broken. As exemplified above, online friendships are quickly created and do not achieve soul mate status, which makes it easy to terminate (Deresiewicz, 2009).
From the essay, it is evident that Deresiewicz does not see the possibility of forming true friendship online. His reservations, however, are far-fetched as Thieme (2010) in her article cites researches by two independent authors, which concluded that the social networking sites are a hindrance to the formation of true friendships.
According to (Thieme, 2010) Heidbrink in his study concluded that friendship should be two-way and long term. This means the social network friendships that are at the mercy of the delete or befriend button cannot be regarded as true friendships. He further adds that the actual activity of adding friends in a social network cannot be considered as real, as the lists are just like electronic address books that store businesses and other associates contacts (Thieme, 2010).
He seems to agree with Deresiewicz claim that the intensity of friendship experienced during the ancient times seems to be lost in the modern day online friendships. In the same study, Heidbrink asserts that it is difficult to establish intimate friendships with online friends.
Most of the people that use social networking sites have more than 50 ‘friends’, which makes one to be friends with everyone, but a friend to no one. Deresiewicz further expounds on the notion why intimacy is nonexistent and impossible in the new era.
He claims that social networking sites have eroded the true meaning of intimacy as the users are lost in the quagmire of confusion on the real meaning of intimacy. Most of the users of these social networking sites do not understand themselves, and most of them are in denial of their being (Deresiewicz, 2009). It is against this reason that intimacy is hindered among online friends as most people’s profiles cannot pass the authenticity test.
However, Kim and Lee (2011) offer some contrasting opinion that even though it is difficult to create and maintain genuine online friendships, the possibility is still present. They cite previous studies that identified people who had met and went ahead to form marriage institutions founded on online friendships.
However, we cannot entirely conclude that Deresiewicz completely disregards that people who met via online social sites are incapable of forming lasting friendship bonds. His essay could have been more insightful if he explored the above possibility (Valkenburg & Schouten, 2006).
The problem with Deresiewicz is his firm belief in the physical connection among friends. He claims that the information age has done away with the experience we get when we directly relate with our friends. In addition, when we relate with our friends face to face we get to interact with their character and emotional.
He claims that, in social networking sites, there is no opportunity to analyze an individual character based on what their speech and actions. Judgment of one’s online friends is based the sieved information they decided to share which most of the times is not fully factual (Deresiewicz, 2009).
His claim of the diminishing quality of friendships is supported by British Association for the Advancement of Science (2007) article which asserts that online friendships focus on quantity rather than quality.
Most of the people are concerned by how popular their pages are, and this can only be enhanced if one adds as many friends as possible. All one needs is a simple request for friendship and they click the confirm icon without a second thought on the value the added friend brings to their lives (British Association for the Advancement of Science, 2007).
On the contrary, Anon (2011) noted that internet relationships should not be disregarded entirely as they add some value to a person’s life under special circumstances. He asserts that with globalization, it has become cumbersome to always be near those we regard as our friends.
The social networking sites thus provide a good platform for old friends to keep in touch. In addition, people in the modern world have become very busy, and they have no time for physical social activates that traditionally acted as a platform for meeting new friends and life time partners (Kim & Lee, 2011).
We should not condemn social sites are they open good avenues for meeting new friends. Though such opportunities should be explored with caution, the stories of successful relationships founded online should be an encouragement to those wishing to explore the opportunities provided by social networking sites.
The notion that social networking sites have changed perspective of friendship cannot be overemphasized. Arguments posed by Deresiewicz are very insightful in comparing the role and dimension of ancient time’s friendship.
In addition, historical information on how friendship has evolved is essential since it makes the reader appreciate the role of technology in society. Although he does not appreciate the role played by internet as far as friendship is concerned, it may be equally debatable for the author to disregard it completely.
It is definite that change is inevitable. On the same note, changes that are being witnessed in contemporary friendships are part and parcel of transformations taking place in society and which cannot be totally refuted. We should, therefore, embrace though with caution, the role social networking sites play in bringing people together, who under normal circumstances would not have met.
Anon. (2011). Social Networking Sites and Complex Technology Assessment International Journal of E-Politics, 1(3): 22-28.
British Association for The Advancement of Science (2007). Is Social Networking Changing The Face Of Friendship? Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2007/09/070912161147.htm Deresiewicz, W. (2009). Faux friendship. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Faux-Friendship/49308/
Kim, J. & Lee, R. (2011). The Facebook Paths to Happiness: Effects of the Number of Facebook Friends and Self-Presentation on Subjective Well-Being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(6): 359-364.
Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: teenagers’ use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self- expression. New media & society, 10 (3): 393-411.
Rosen, C. (2007). Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism. The New Atlantis, 17(1): 15-31.
Thieme, A. (2010). Social networking separates friends from true friends. Retrieved from http://www.monstersandcritics.com/tech/features/article_1562843.php/Social- networking-separates-friends-from-true-friends
Valkenburg, F.H. & Schouten, A.P. (2006). Friend Networking Sites and Their Relationship to Adolescents’ Well-Being and Social Self-Esteem. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(5): 584-590.