A Few Thoughts on Facebook Friends (and some polls)

The average Facebook user today has 130 friends. But how many of them would that average user really call a friend? And by friend, I mean just “friend”. I don’t mean anything like “true friend”, “real friend”, “good friend” or the like. Just someone you’d call a friend.

That would be hard to get a consistent answer since different people have different standards for who they call a friend. For some, only the truest of friends get called a friend. For others, anyone who might have followed them on Twitter, or vice-versa, counts as a friend. What we need is some sort of standard definition for “friend” to move this forward.

Aristotle

Interestingly, a good definition for “friend” can be found over 2300 years ago courtesy of the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC).

According to Aristotle, there are three types of friends, in increasing level of strength and sincerity:

  1. Contacts or those based on usefulness or utility, sometimes known as acquaintance;
  2. Drinking buddies or those based on pleasure (to use the word conservatively); and
  3. Good friends or those based on shared virtues.

If we accept all three of these categories to be friends, as Aristotle called them three types of friends, we then have a pretty broad definition of friend, but one which I would be happy to accept. Question then is if these definitions are still broad enough to cover how most people decide whether or not to add others as friends on Facebook. That would take a lot of resources to not only survey but to also verify. I doubt the folks at Facebook would even be able to do the latter conclusively, though I think they have a pretty good idea along the same lines I do.

From what I have seen and read of people and how they use Facebook, as well as who uses them and how, I would argue that a lot of people’s Facebook friends fall outside of Aristotle’s definition. So one would either need to expand Aristotle’s definition of friends to include these slightest of Facebook friends, or these slightest of Facebook friends aren’t really friends.

At first glance, Aristotle’s contacts category seems broad enough. After all, these slightest of Facebook friends are often people a user would have met only once, if that. They probably serve only as potential usefulness, never mind true utility. That is, they get added cause one never knows when they might be useful, not that they are likely to be useful in some way. Many people have Facebook friends just for the sake of upping their count and feel more people are paying attention to their Facebook activity. Others to avoid some situational awkwardness, like being Facebook friends with someone’s partner just because s/he is the jealous type who wants to keep an eye on their partner’s Facebook activities, when one doesn’t really give a damn if they exist. However, this adding of potentially useful friends can only happen to a point before users would not be able to remember people on their Facebook friends list. That is, if you asked them if so and so were on their Facebook friends list, they wouldn’t be able to tell you with certainty. Or if you asked them the name of certain people who are actually on their Facebook friends list, they wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about them at all, including how they got on that list in the first place.

I don’t know what the approximate average number of Facebook friends one would need to have before they would start forgetting everything about someone on that list, but I can tell you the situation would be true for some Facebook whales . That’s the term Facebook has for Facebook users with over 1,000 friends. Seriously, one thousand people is a lot of people to remember names and something about them. But if you don’t buy that people can remember details about a thousand mostly generic people, perhaps you’d believe the situation of not being able to remember anything about some Facebook friends would be true for those who have reached Facebook’s friends list limit of 5,000. Yes, there are those, too.

Poor Aristotle must be turning over in his grave at what some people constitute as friends today, though I’m sure he wouldn’t expand his definition of friends but rather state those slightest of Facebook friends are truly friends at all.

So after all that, maybe you’d like to weigh in with some opinions with a comments, like how you’d define a friend or why you keep Facebook friends you might not remember anything about, etc. Or maybe you’d just like to take some polls on Facebook friendship below (or see how others responded). The sample from this blog will be skewed because a lot of people come here for Facebook related activities so they tend to be avid Facebook users, but I’m just curious to see.

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Other Facebook user facts:

  1. Canada has the 4th highest Facebook user rate per capita as of June 2010 with 47.9% of Canadians having a profile. This trails only Iceland (59.6%), Norway and Hong Kong, in that order.
  2. Canada has the highest Facebook user rate per capita among nations with 10 million citizens or more.
  3. There are 16 million Facebook users in Canada.
  4. Quit Facebook Day is May 31. A measly 30,000 quit worldwide of about 465 million users. Most “I Hate Facebook” type groups and pages are actually hosted on Facebook.
  5. Canada signed up 912,000 new users in May 2010 alone.

Other Facebook issue posts on my site:

The Prejudices and Privacy Perils of Facebook Quizzes

How to Get Rid of Your Facebook Past

25 Things For Facebook You Can’t Steal My ID With

25 Things You Gave on Facebook to Help Get Your ID Stolen

Una Guía de Netiqueta Práctica para Facebook

 

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Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.6

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2 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on Facebook Friends (and some polls)

  1. A few more ideas:
    1. Without looking at your Facebook, give yourself 10 minutes to list all the friends you know then delete everyone who you didn’t write down.
    2. Delete all who have over 1,000 friends unless you’re really close to them. Otherwise you’re just another one of 1,000+ people in their busy lives
    3. Adding girls’ partners just in case they’re jealous?? Fuck it – delete their girlfriends as well. If you need to contact them, you have their email address or number, dont you???
    4. Don’t let ‘friends of friends’ see anything about you or be able or find you
    5. If you don’t want the embarassment of dealing with friend requests from people you don’t really want to add, you can go to your privacy settings and block people from sending friend requests. If you really have a friend to add, you can send the request yourself.
    6. If someone adds you after you met at a pub/bar you can always say you were drunk and didn’t remember meeting them
    7. don’t add your family/tutors/landlords/employers/exes/etc. My brother wanted to add me and I told him outright, no way!
    8. you can just ignore public event invites and leave the stalker none the wiser, whether you attend or not – that way they won’t know ‘you and X are both attending This_Event’.

    • Those are great ideas, for the most part except #1 cause my memory wouldn’t be good enough to really list everyone I knew, and #7 cause it partly keeps certain people I want updated and keeps me from going totally off the deep end on Facebook. They’re meaningful deterrents, if you will. Thanks a lot for sharing these!

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