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.