Facebook: Where Friendships Go to Never Quite Die

A zombie hand giving the thumbs-up, à la a Facebook "like"

Excerpt from this article:

The site has created an entirely new category of relationship, one that simply couldn’t have existed for most of human history—the vestigial friendship. It’s the one you’ve evolved out of, the one that would normally have faded out of your life, but which, thanks to Facebook, is instead still hanging around. Having access to this diffuse network of people you once knew can be pleasant—a curio cabinet of memories—or annoying; if those good memories get spoiled by an old friend’s new posts; or helpful, if you need to poll a large group for information. But it is, above all, new and unusual.

But users still have an “ambient awareness” of Facebook friends they aren’t communicating with. As one study defines it, this is “awareness of social others, arising from the frequent reception of fragmented personal information, such as status updates and various digital footprints, while browsing social media.” Basically, you probably know if any of your old high-school friends are pregnant right now, whether or not you’ve spoken with or even actively checked up on a given person, as long as you’re both on Facebook. You’re no longer sharing life experiences or creating memories with these weak ties, but as you live your separate lives, you’re forever in each other’s periphery.

How to become friends with someone on twitter

Thanks to Venmo, We Now All Know How Cheap Our Friends Are

Excerpt from this article:

Margaret Pennoyer, an elementary school teacher in Manhattan, had just returned from a bachelorette party in Napa Valley when she received an email that had been sent to all the guests. The two organizers had itemized each woman’s individual expenses, which they had covered, and requested reimbursement through Venmo, an app that transfers money between users who have linked their bank accounts to their phones. Ms. Pennoyer owed $31.98 to one woman and $20.62 to the other.

In a previous time, the organizers likely would have asked everyone to bring enough cash to repay them in person or to mail a check afterward, courteously rounding down to $30 and $20. But the Venmo request, calculated to the penny, struck Ms. Pennoyer, 29, as emblematic of how the app, the most popular among her fellow millennials for everything from entertainment expenses to rent shares, “changes friendships and makes them more transactional,” she said. “It’s nickel-and-diming everything, literally.”

By rendering payments between friends nearly invisible — no cash changes hands, no checks are written — Venmo theoretically should make these relationships less obviously transactional. Yet not only does it encourage pettiness, distilling the messiness of human experience down to a digitally precise data point, but by making it so easy to pay someone back for purchases as trifling as a coffee, the app arguably promotes the libertarian, every-user-for-himself ethos of Silicon Valley.

“It’s making people less generous and chivalrous,” Ms. Pennoyer said. “It used to be you’d go to a restaurant, and you’d put down your credit cards and split it 50-50, even if one person had steak and one had chicken. But now people pay exactly to the cent.”

The Faces Behind Craigslist’s “Strictly Platonic” Personal Ads

seeking-1ab

Excerpt from this article:

It remains an essential paradox of the city—that a place with so many people living so close together can also be so isolating. This is one of the phenomena that the photographer Peter Garritano hoped to explore in “Seeking,” a series of portraits of New Yorkers who have posted advertisements in the Strictly Platonic personals section of Craigslist. The world has acclimated to the fact that people might go online to find a mate, but there are fewer formal avenues through which to find friends, perhaps because friendship is not always acknowledged as something that people have to go out in search of. “We already know everyone’s looking for love,” Garritano told me in an e-mail. “I’m more concerned with our social requirements beyond romance.”

Garritano contacted his subjects through their ads (he got no response to “90 or 95%” of the messages he sent, he told me) then arranged the sittings, where he would come up with the mood for the shots more or less on the spot, based on the subjects’ personalities and his interactions with them. “Seeking” presents each portrait alongside the subject’s Craigslist ad, which, taken together, convey a dizzying range of interests, personalities, desires, projects, anxieties. Many of the people posting are new to town, hoping to get a foothold in New York life. “I’m not sure exactly how to approach the city,” a young man writes, adding that he figures that his chiselled looks could earn him some fast cash working in adult entertainment, if only he had a friend to advise him. Others are veteran New Yorkers in need of a change of pace.

The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

Close up of teenage girl texting on mobile in bedroom

Excerpt from this article (an “oldie but goodie”):

Here are a few of the ways that girls are leveraging Instagram to do much more than just share photos:

To Know What Friends Really Think Of Them

In the spot where adults tag a photo’s location, girls will barter “likes” in exchange for other things peers desperately want: a “TBH” (or “to be honest”). Translation? If you like a girl’s photo, she’ll leave you a TBH comment. For example: “TBH, ILYSM,” meaning, “To be honest I love you so much.” Or, the more ambivalent: “TBH, We don’t hang out that much.

To Measure How Much a Friend Likes You

In this case, a girl may trade a “like” — meaning, a friend will like her photo — in exchange for another tidbit of honesty: a 1-10 rating, of how much she likes you, your best physical feature, and a numerical scale that answers the question of “are we friends?” and many others. Girls hope for a “BMS,” or break my scale, the ultimate show of affection.

As a Public Barometer of Popularity

To Show BFF PDA

A Way to Retaliate

Angry at someone? Don’t tag the girl who is obviously in a picture, crop her out of it entirely, refuse to follow back the one who just tried to follow you, or simply post a photo a girl is not in. These are cryptic messages adults miss but which girls hear loud and clear. A girl may post an image of a party a friend wasn’t invited to, an intimate sleepover or night out at a concert. She never even has to mention the absent girl’s name. She knows the other girl saw it. That’s the beauty of Instagram: it’s the homework you know girls always do.

A Personal Branding Machine

A Place For Elaborate Birthday Collages

Your friends are having kids, and you’re lonely. Could a friendship app help?

Woman using smartphone

Excerpt from this article:

Nobody warned me that my early 30s would be ushered in with the crack of an invisible starting gun; that all around me the women I spent years eating, dressing, dancing and making an exhibition of myself with would get busy. Proper jobs, babies, deposits, older parents, relationships, actual hobbies and hour-long commutes were a kick in the nads to our social life. Suddenly, if you wanted to hang out, you had to “pencil it in”, even though none of us have owned pencils since Year 9 maths. Which means, more often than anyone admits, you find yourself all gussied up with no one to see.

Step forward Hey! VINA. Hey VINA! is a new app that, in their own sphincter-crunching words, “empowers women to tap into the power of their extended network to make new connections in the real world”. This, for those of you who don’t speak fluent social media, basically means using your phone to pluck real life friends out of the muddy puddle we call People On The Internet. It would be too easy to sneer at such an idea – to throw our smart claws up in the air in horror at the sheer crassness of it all. But, there but for the grace of circumstance go us all.

 

Let’s Really Be Friends: A Defense of Online Intimacy

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Excerpt from this article:

…Relationships that travel from the Internet to the nondigital world, or navigate a space somewhere in between, have retained that same patina of weirdness. The stigma associated with online friendship, that persistent doubt that “real” intimacy can only be created via physical encounter, has not faded. Even in this, the Age of Social Media, when virtual interaction populates almost every facet of daily existence, online friendships are still viewed with suspicion. But they shouldn’t be. The time has come to obliterate the false distinctions between digital ties and the ones that bind us in the physical world. Our lives on Twitter and Tumblr are today a real part of our real lives. Everyone is an Internet friend.

…The anxiety still lingering around Internet friendship is a legacy of a particular antiquated conception of online life—a sense that “the Net,” like jetpacks and the Segway, was going to be a lot cooler than it has proven to be. The 1980s-era techno-utopian vision of “cyberspace” as a separate, and perhaps even pure, Matrix-style realm of glowing tubes and binary code was a false one. “At no point was there ever a cyberspace,” Jurgenson said. “It was always deeply about this one reality.” The Internet is shopping for knitted caps and sharing coupons for bad meals and enduring comments from sexist strangers. It has always included an element of real life difficulty, and the primordial web denizens knew it. Now, the rest of us do, too. We once fetishized cyberspace as sexy and revolutionary. Today it’s just normal.

Online friendships make it clear—and forgive the debt to Facebook—that the way we friend now has changed. Intimacy now develops in both digital and physical realms, often crossing freely between the two. If we accept the equal value of virtual friendships to their IRL analogues (perhaps even doing away with the pejorative acronym), we open ourselves up to a range of new possibilities for connection.

“The Internet represents a broadening of the spectrum of relationships we can have,” Jenna Wortham, a New York Times Magazine writer known for the prolificacy of her online social life, told me. “I have lots of online-, Gchat-only friendships and I love them. I’m very comfortable with the fact that I don’t know [these people] in real life and I don’t have any plans to.” The merit of these friendships lies in their mutability—in your pocket, on your screen, in your living room. Discarding the distinction between real and virtual friendship does not doom us to a society in which tweets, chat, and e-mail are our only points of contact. It just means that the stranger we meet every day on the other side of our screens will no longer be a stranger, but someone that we know and trust.