Superficial “Friendship” on Facebook

One of the most disturbing elements in Facebook is vocubulary, and that it names your connections as “friends”. On the web, the definition of friend is different from that in real life. Not only can you befriend someone you don’t know, but you can also be a “friend” without actually taking any responsibility of a friend or carrying out actions that are “friendly.” In fact, friending on Facebook has become so easy– merely two clicks– that people are gauging a person’s offline popularity based on the number of friends on Facebook.

Not being able to categorize “friends” makes it difficult to use Facebook on the intimate level it could be used. Fortunately, Facebook’s most recent update (as I’ve mentioned before) has included more detailed privacy settings, but it still doesn’t allow you to group your friends into different groups. It becomes more difficult to be honest when Facebook is used for professional networking in addition to personal ones. For instance, I wrote this morning in my status: Y discovered that super-intelligent geeks can be extremely sexy. Less than a minute after I wrote that, I erased it because what if my co-workers saw it? Or what kind of impression would that make on someone who is a Facebook friend but doesn’t really know me? And for me, not being able to be truthful about my feelings makes me feel almost as bad as hiding them.

Another problem about friends in Facebook is not the technical, but emotional. As the word “friend” implies, I tend to develop friendly feelings for my Facebook friends, and get disappointed when that online status does not relate to offline (or even online) friendship. With some people, I would like to get to know them better in real life, but I don’t know if my online Facebook friendship status is enough to send a message and start a conversation without being misunderstood for having weird intentions.

You see, if Facebook hadn’t used the term “friend” but coined another term that has more of the connotation of “acquaintence,” I wouldn’t be puzzling over these issues.


  1. Dave

    July 21, 2009 @ 5:32 am


    Great points Yvette. This is one of the many reasons I’m not on Facebook. The whole concept of ‘Facebook friends’ is so superficial and meaningless. Why not call them ‘contacts’. Yes it’s a bit more impersonal, but in many cases that’s what people on the ‘Friend’ lists are. And I completely agree with the point about not being able to categorise Friends too. Then there’s the whole issue of Friend lists becoming popularity contests. I’ve had people who I barely know asking to sign up for Facebook – presumably to boost their ego by inflating the number of Friends they have. Facebook is supposed to be aimed at adults but it encourags so many of the people on it to behave like high school teenagers.

  2. Deborah

    January 19, 2010 @ 4:32 pm


    Facebook is a very clever concept and those who created it will be laughing all the way to the bank. Now that the mass population seems to be hooked a monthly fee is to be introduced! Unfortunately very few seem to be able to see Facebook for what it really is or has become. In my view it is certainly superficial nonsense that plays on our most deepest insecurities and neediness. The need to be seen has popular and living a ‘oh so wonderful life’ seems to govern many online interactions. Many people today are incredibility image conscious, living their lives constantly concerned about what others may think of them. Facebook provides the perfect stage for this show-boating. I am sorry to be such a pessimist but I feel it is ultimately destroying and damaging our social life and skills rather than enhancing them. It provides a false sense of connecting with individuals and groups, we often believe we are having a great social life because of our Facebook activity. But, I feel we are not connecting we are getting further and further away from it. To me, sitting alone in your home or office behind closed doors tapping into a computer is not a social interaction. I do not come away feeling invigorated, empowered, and happy, with a warm sense of togetherness as I do when I meet with a Real friend for a drink and a chat. Humans are social animals, we need to have real face-to-face social interactions with others in order to lead a fulfilling healthy existence. It seems to me gatherings with friends have become fewer and less frequent since engaging on Facebook. I wonder why? Could it be because everyone’s to busy compiling lists of “friends’ on Facebook??

  3. Mary

    March 12, 2010 @ 10:42 am


    Perfectly stated Yvette, Dave and Deborah. I signed up for Facebook in May of 2009 but I just took down my account. I find it highly superficial. I was beginning to see how much of a waste of time it was, and more than that, it is pretty much impossible to believe that some of these so called “friends” are anything other than people out there looking for validation by how extensive their “Friends” lists are. Let’s be serious. For example, no one that I do know personally and in real time physically, actually “knows” 300 people personally. I’ve discovered it’s pretty much a farce. I had a shock yesterday, and without going into any great detail, one of the people who I considered a “real” friend as well, posted one of the most narcissitic, condescending things I’ve ever read posted on FB. Without repeating it all here. He ended the post with “let’s see how many people on my Friends list actually pay attention”. WHAT?! It just did not set well with me and I’m starting to think that all of the seemingly great, positive pictures people paint of themselves with all the great photos and little gifts they send each other is a joke. It is not a substitute for real human interaction. Just my opinion.

  4. Sara

    May 8, 2011 @ 3:34 pm


    It’s not facebooks fault that the word friend is impersonalized. It’s the facebook users obviously. If people worried more adding simply friends than worrying about having the most possible, things would be different.

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