Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Be friended" query

Doonesbury has a Facebook thing going now, and yesterday's had this sentence:
I thought I'd be friended exponentially by now if I just had a hotter picture.
I don't actually know much about Facebook and other SNSs (save for this),* but figure this must be specifically about adding 'friends', right? Any sense of spread in meaning? I've been wondering if stuff like this would make the jump into general usage.

*The only person associated with this blog who's on Facebook long and proudly joked about opening his profile to see "X has no friends at Wisconsin" or something.


Danny said...

I think you're on to something. I'd frankly be surprised if it didn't spread beyond these websites among the younger generation that grew up on them. I'd be willing to bet that in 30 years, colleges will have mixers to allow freshman to friend each other, rather than to make new friends.

Erin said...

Except the reason we have this term, "to friend someone", when we add someone as a friend on Facebook/MySpace/Livejournal/etc is because it's different from making friends. When you friend someone on an SNS, you don't ever have to have met them. It means you might want to meet them and become friends with them in the usual way, or you might not. Facebook seems like it strongly encourages you to only add as friends people you have actually met, but MySpace is all about finding random people, friending them, and then spamming them with messages about your band.

Mr. Verb said...

Oh, I guess I was assuming some semantic adjustment, along the lines that Danny seems to suggest, more like to make someone's acquaintance rather than to become friends in a more substantial sense.

pc said...

For an interesting paper by danah boyd on the nature of "friendship" on social networking sites, though there is much more research on this topic happening all the time, I would go here.

On a more terminological note, yes, "to friend" (in my usage, anyway) means either "to request to add someone as a friend" or "to approve a request to be added as someone's friend." I am not sure about spreading to offline contexts - I actually get the sense that "friending" might remain the way to refer to this specific act of adding someone/accepting someone as a contact on an SNS (loosely defined), whereas "befriending" will continue to denote what lots of people would consider ACTUAL friendship-making (whether offline or online).

What Erin said is interesting: I've long had this beef with people assuming that SNSs are used *primarily* for meeting people who you don't know in a bodily context - because it depends on the user and the user's goals, the user's community, and so forth. Some people are very adamant about NOT friending anyone who they don't know in person, while others will friend just about anyone or thing. Facebook may have seemed to originally encourage people to only friend "real" friends, but I'm guessing that's because it was not anonymous (you had to access it with a school email), and it wasn't about publicity (since MySpace carries so much of its traffic for the music scene, publicity [and the concomitant band/fan dynamic of anonymous fans with "known" bands] is inevitable). But with Facebook going totally public and starting to advertise - that may change.

[BTW, I have a hunch that the Doonesbury creators are going with the stereotypical idea that SNSs are full of people friending other people who are strangers, who they don't necessarily know in an offline context (or, rather, who they don't know anything about at all other than what their SNS profile says - I have "friends" on Facebook who I would consider our association not to be random or simply fostered by Facebook, but the way that I "know" them is actually via the internet in other means...I read their blog or they read mine, for instance). Hence the 2000 friends crack. Also, FWIW, Facebook (as opposed to Myspace and Friendster) offers a few more options for delineating what type/level of friendship you have with people - so to what extent the "friending" acts as a reflection of an offline friendship, a projection of a desired friendship, a "friendship" that's strictly professional, etc., is optionally indicated.]

Danny said...

While I agree with Erin's comment about how the term is used today, I think the transitive verb usage of "friend" will spread off-line.

What I'm really suggesting is that it will influence people young enough that they've never lived in a world without these sites, and will shape the way that they make friends. I'm not really interested in the sociological side of things, but I have no doubt that it will spill into the language. I also don't think it will take very long, which is why I'm proposing a bet for thirty years out.

(Of course, by then, we'll be old enough to grumble, "Kids these days! Friends is a noun. You don't friend someone -- you become friends with them! What's wrong with this world? Grumble grumble grumble!")

alex said...

Kids being kids, my hunch is that 'defriending' will spread offline sooner and faster than the positive 'friending'. But maybe I'm turning into a cranky old cynic?

Rebecca said...

On LiveJournal we say someone has 'defriended' you if they, well, delete you. Brits, Americans and Aussies all use that word.

Ollock said...

@ Rebbecca: I was about to say something along similar lines. Of course, I can easily see "to delete" spreading to an offline context of disassociating with someone before "to friend" took an offline context. I've seen one person on deviantART use deleting someone's number from their phone as a metaphor for breaking up with them.

BTW, I'm really confused as to why Firefox's spellchecker doesn't like "offline"