Sunday, November 2, 2014

How Many Friends Does A Friend-Whore Make?

by Dr. Suzana E. Flores

“Friending” wasn’t a verb before social networks like MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook existed. As if our daily social interactions weren’t already complicated enough, Facebook has created a space where we’re forced to redefine social terms that previously felt very stable. Before social media, most of us met our friends through shared common interests or through introductions made by mutual friends. The depth of our connections rested on what information we shared and how often we shared it. While most of our casual acquaintances knew some things about us, access into the most private aspects of our lives was typically reserved for our best friends. But has the friending concept present in most forms of social media radically altered our views on friendship? In a digitial world, how do you handle friendship and friending?



Think about the three common groups of friends on Facebook: people whom we actually know, business or organizational friends, and complete strangers. Adding as many people to one’s friendlist, without regard to whether we actually know them, is known as “hyper-friending” or “friend-whoring.” Do you think you might be a hyper-friender? How many friends does a friend-whore make? 

Inviting people we hardly know to be our “friends” is admittedly a bit odd. Typically, we don’t invite complete strangers into our real-life world, so why are so many of us willing to share our most intimate thoughts and feelings with people we hardly know? Perhaps we feel safer interacting with people through a computer screen? Perhaps we’re all looking for something more than friendship? Maybe many of us are lonelier than we think.


As humans we have a strong need to interact with each other. This need is what drives many of us to seek friends and followers on Facebook. Those of us who add as many friends as we can, do so because we want to feel important. We need followers—people who will look at our life and provide support or flattery. Initially, friending many people may make sense.

Although our online interactions can be wonderful, they should not be our main interactions. Studies show that because of increased social-media communication, we are spending less and less time with our friends in person. Unless there is a specific reason why we are limited in our real-life interactions, we should make efforts to spend more time with our friends in social situations. Additionally, Facebook conversations are too easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. Such misunderstandings will inevitably affect our real relationships. 

Facebook friends provide us with laughs, entertainment, a nice distraction from our daily pressures and, most important, connectedness and a feeling that we belong. They can give us much-needed support and validation when we may lack these things in real life. However, our real-life friendships offer us moments and experiences that simply cannot be replicated online, like watching your friend’s face as she laughs at one of your jokes or the profound compassion you feel when your friend discusses a stressful experience with you. 

Friends on Facebook are different than our regular friends; they’re our audience. If we have something to say, we no longer pick up the phone or text a friend with news, we proclaim it to our personal fan base. The problem isn’t when we seek support from actual friends—that’s normal. But when we turn to people who serve no other purpose but to provide us with unquestioning praise, our sense of self and friendships become distorted. This imbalance causes our “real” interactions to become affected. Inevitably, as your list of friends grows to include your acquaintances, coworkers, the deli guy, and the “friend-of-the-friend-of-the-friend,” the concept of friendship becomes somewhat cheapened and possibly lost.



Dr. Suzana E. Flores is the resident clinical psychologist to Prose & Cons and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affectsour Emotions, Relationships, and Lives through Reputation Books.

Dr. Flores frequently presents at universities and organizations, and was recently quoted in ABC.com, CBS.com. Esquire.com, WCIU- “The U,” Mashable.com, Everyday Health Magazine, Dame Magazine, The Nation, SheKnows.com, New Parent Magazine, Newlyweds, Upwayve.com and Moms.me.

She can be reached at drsuzanaflores@gmail.com or through her literary agent, Liz Kracht at liz@kimberelycameron.com.

www.drsuzanaflores.com

      

1 comment :

Sue Coletta said...

Yes, but unfortunately in this business "friends" often translate to a readership. Agents look upon Facebook and other social media sites as potential book buyers. If you don't have many "friends" you decrease your chances of getting an agent. And that also decreases a debut novelist from getting published, especially with non-fiction. You are so right in everything you said. I totally agree. Sadly, this is what authors must do in today's world, become friend whores. I guess size really does matter. :-)