Is Facebook Destroying Friendships?

There was an interesting article in Saturday’s NY Times called Anti-Social Networking?which raised the question whether Facebook was actually impeding kids’ ability to form real world friendships.

On the positive side, it was cited that kids tend to keep in touch and communicate more often and with more people through Facebook then they did in previous generations when you’d have to pick up the phone or actually get together in person.

It was also noted as an important means for shy kids to engage socially when they alternative is often no contact at all.

However, on the negative side, communicating through social networks can be more fleeting and superficial than in person (or even on the phone) contact and can’t really replicate the kind of bonds that are formed from spending a whole day shooting the breeze with one good friend.

From my perspective as a parent of a Tween, I found myself agreeing with many of the positive and negative points in the article.

But it also made me wonder whether Facebook was good or bad for adult relationships.

On the plus side, I’ve reconnected with many childhood, camp, and college friends through Facebook that I am sure I wouldn’t have had the time or the means to find without it.

And in many cases, this contact has become a regular and important part of my life.

I don’t find that keeping up with my friends on Facebook has replaced a desire to see them in person.

I may not get together with them as often as I’d like, but I don’t think that’s because I’m “seeing” them on Facebook.

I chalk it up to the constraints of our busy lives.

When I do get to see friends in person, I feel like Facebook allows me to start the conversation in the middle instead of the beginning. In a way, I know what they’ve been up to from posts and pictures and I can jump right in with questions and observations.

However, when I step back and think about it…maybe I am able to continue these friendships on Facebook because they were formed in the real world.

From hours spent studying, playing, summering, and sometimes working together…in person.

So Facebook becomes an additional layer to a friendship…but not the primary one on which all interaction is based and built.

For me it highlights the importance of making sure my kids are spending real quality time in person with their friends.

Then they can post all the pictures and “post-game” commentary they want.

Probably good advice for grown-ups too.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Do you think Facebook is good or bad for friendships?

7 thoughts on “Is Facebook Destroying Friendships?

  1. really interesting post. Particularly about facebook being an additional layer to a friendship. At the moment I’m on a Virgin flight from Boston back home to LA from a HS reunion I never would have gone to were it not for facebook, Just moments ago I was writing a post on the same topic for our agency’s not yet open to the public creative department blog. Here it is:

    Home is where the ex-felons are.

    This is a post about online social media facilitating real world contact. The setting: the High School Reunion in suburban Massachusetts that I’m flying back from right now.

    The highlight for me, and I think, for a lot of people, was catching up with the quarterback of our school’s football team. He looked nothing like the lean, intense star athlete we all remembered. At about 280, with the kind of beard you typically see at ZZ Top concerts or white supremacist rallies, he looked nothing like the lean, intense football and lacrosse star we all remembered.

    “Well, Phil,” he started, “For a few years, I ran a chain of topless clubs down in Florida. But then I got heavily involved in a motorcycle gang. Then I had to go away for a while.” “Going away” I later found out, was his way of saying four years of prison for murder (Bar fight gone wrong, which probably explains the light sentence). Turns out now he’s the buyer for a liquor store in our hometown. We had a nice chat about Argentinian Malbecs. He was lovely. Really.

    There were other highlights. Like finding out that the creep who made my life so incredibly miserable in high school that I wanted nothing more than to cold-cock him as soon as I saw him, was actually now a Navy Seal. Also great was when the most despised and nebbishy guy in our class turned up with a wife fifteen years younger than him, named Olga, who I’m pretty sure was a Russian Mail Order bride.

    I have facebook to thank for all of this. I’d never had any desire to go to previous reunions, and I did figure this would be the last one before people started to die off. But the real reason I went was what that for the last year or so, I’d been keeping up with three or four of my high school friends on facebook. One makes sports documentaries–he spent three summers in Alaska making a film about minor league baseball in the land of the midnight sun. The other is a journalist in NYC for Fox, and he spits out sarcastic posts like he’s on deadline three times a day.

    So next time someone tells you they don’t get facebook, tell them there’s a lot more to it than the ubiquitous little blue “f.”

    1. Hi Phil. Thanks for the “plane posting” on Virgn America. Great comment and great story. If you have time before you land, you should start working on a screenplay. I think this would make a great reality TV Show espisode. I think there is one about HS re-unions. But I love the details here. I wonder if the ex-Lacrosse captain learned about wine in prison.

      Thanks for sharing.


  2. I’ll get right on it. If only this were a longer flight. Thanks much. Always enjoy your insights on brands and SM.

  3. OMG. This is a great summary of the best and worst of FB. On the one hand, it’s connected me to so many friends from my past. And I can check in on our friends and family all over the world. So now that I know what they’re doing, I don’t have to call or see them as often. FB IS both a blessing and a curse — but don’t take it away from me.

    1. Debra, thanks for the comment. Don’t worry, I don’t think its going away any time soon…

  4. I think Facebook has been a wonderfully positive force in my life over the past 2 years. Like Julie, I too, have rediscovered grade-school friends, revived long-dormat camp relationships as well as rekindled old college classmates. It has allowed me to share my life with not just my “primary” batch of friends, but to my “secondary” friends, and even my “tertiary” friends as well. Come on, admit it, we ALL have tertiary friends! 😉

    Anyway, I think Julie is completely right in one aspect: FB allows you to pick-up a relationship with a FB-friend “in the middle of the conversation” because you have most likely been reading each others posts on a daily or semi-daily basis. And in this day-and-age of run-run-run-run, that is a nice piece to be able to pass over to “get to the good stuff!!”

    That is nothing short of remarkable to be able to bring that many more people into our lives because we all now have a central place to go to get our information.

    Having a Block Party/Reunion for your street you grew up on 20 years ago–> send out a blast Event Invite. Planning your 20th Year High School Reunion–> do it over Facebook. Want to see some camp friends you haven’t seen in 20 years–> get it done over Facebook.

    I am involved in now or have been involved in all of those events over the 12 months ALL b.c of FB.

    If there are relationships in my life that have any merit whatsoever, FB allows me to “comment” on it, “like” it, “poke” it, and just generally let my other friends know that I am there. That, to me, is priceless.

    Having said that, a teenager might disagree on some levels. There is peer pressure & the public spector of your life in high school where privacy is not an option. You fall asleep in Math class & the teacher throws an eraser at you, the whole school will now know about it. Your girlfriend dumps you in your car on Friday night, chances are the whole school will know about it by Monday morning.

    So, while there some negatives (more for the teenager crowd), I feel the positives far outweigh the negatives (for us middle-aged parents looking to recapture some of our youth). Tho, I wonder how I will feel in 5+ years when I find out my daughter’s heart has been broken by the boy who just broke-up with her and now it’s all over school via his FB-page…

    1. Gregg,
      Great comment. What were you doing with all your time before Facebook? Seems like it’s really filled your dance card.

      Thanks for sharing, and here’s hoping its not my son that breaks your daughter’s heart when they are in HS and writing about it on FB.

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