How deep is a Facebook friendship?

My most popular post to date is the one where I asked “Can Patients be Facebook friends with doctors?”. I got varied comments. To summarize a few, I was asked why I was making such a fuss about it when everyone knows a Facebook friendship is not a real friendship so you can be trigger-happy with making FB friends. I was also asked if doctors can be friends with med reps – I’ll attempt to answer that in a future post. All these comments made me think about the depth of Facebook friendships – are you really my friend if you are my FB friend? Is having more FB friends better?

As of today, I have 626 FB friends and gulp, 82 friend requests. Most of my FB friends are from PGH or UP, some are my grade school/high school classmates, a few are my students (mostly sorority sisters) and a handful are from the pharma industry. I like that on FB I am reminded to greet even that grade school classmate I haven’t seen in decades, a happy birthday. I like how I am able to catch up with friends who are abroad. But how deep are these friendships exactly if we don’t meet up offline?

Blogger Linzee was also confused about FB friendships when she wrote on the Etsy blog

Did these folks really fit my definition of “friend”? Why would they want to read my day-to-day prattle? How did I know them and why should we stay in touch?

How can we define friendship? Watch this short YouTube video by Notebook Babies entitled “What is a Friend?

The video defines a friend thus –

  1. A friend is someone who will compliment you.
  2. A friend will cheer you up when you’re sad.
  3. A friend will let you win sometimes.
  4. A friend will remember your birthday.
  5. A friend is fun to be with.
  6. And a friend will make you smile.

I think you can do all of these on Facebook, except No. 5. How important is no. 5? Does online chatting count as “being with”?

In the same post, Linzee talks about a photographer named Tanja Hollander who has embarked on “Are You Really My Friend? The Facebook Portrait Project.” Tanja has set out to meet up with all her 626 FB friends and take their photos “in intimate settings – gathered around kitchen tables and lounging on living room sofas.” I suppose this is her way to make the friendship real! Tanya’s work will be on exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art in 2012 – that should be interesting.

Finally in this article, “Friendship, Facebook-style,” Aditya Chakrabortty recounts how on Christmas Day, a certain Simone Back posted what was essentially a suicide note on her Facebook wall – “Took all my pills be dead soon so bye bye every one.” Sadly, not one of her 1,048 FB friends checked up on her. How can that be real friendship? Very disturbing indeed. Something to think about with Christmas only a few days away.

1 thought on “How deep is a Facebook friendship?”

  1. I thought long and hard before I joined FB, and decided from the beginning that I wanted my friends on FB to be real life friends/family who accept me unconditionally, have known me for a very long time and whom I see, meet or work with regularly. I have ONLY 70+ friends and each I can claim to know fairly well and they mean a lot to me. The point of FB will be wasted if I feel inhibited from posting and having to worry in the back of my head about how my post will be construed. That’s why I’m sitting on nearly 100 friend requests. Not because I don’t know or like them, just not ENOUGH for them to be in my inner circle. That might seem snobbish or arrogant, but that’s how it is. If you don’t define what you want FB to be for you and your friends, then you’ll end up a LURKER and not a USER. Thanks for these thoughts. Eager to hear about pharma and doctor relationships. Its an I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine relationship for the most part, but there are definitely exceptions.

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