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February 10, 2011

Friday Flashback: The Age of Faux Friendships

Is the concept of friendship dying in our modern culture?


I was thinking of Dan Lentz's recent blog post about Relationship vs. Friendship when I came across an interesting quote from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here it is:

[Concerning] the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that has been lost. We have ceased to believe that a friend's highest purpose is to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support—"therapeutic" friendship, [to quote] Robert N. Bellah's scornful term.

We seem to be terribly fragile now. A friend fulfills her duty, we suppose, by taking our side—validating our feelings, supporting our decisions, helping us to feel good about ourselves. We tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, do what we can to keep the boat steady. We're busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free….

With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook's very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they're not in the same place, or, rather, they're not my friends. They're a superficial likeness or semblance of my friends—little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.

Boom! Tough stuff, huh? The author of that piece is a man named William Deresiewicz, and I'm wondering if you agree with him or not.

Deresiewicz concluded by saying: "Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves."

Does he hit the nail on the head, or is he exaggerating? And what are the implications for small groups based on what he is saying? I would love your thoughts.

posted by Sam O'Neal on February 10, 2011 8:54 PM

Related Tags: Culture, Friendship


I love Deresiewicz's description of friendship as a relationship committed "to virtue and mutual improvement" and it being the purpose of a friend "to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction." However, I don't think that that means a commitment to "unconditional acceptance and support" is categorically bad or opposed to virtue and mutual improvement! Good friendships balance both. God calls us both to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) and to “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). Even though Christ doesn't leave us just as we are, He does love us that way: how indescribably lovely it is to have people who you know love you and will always be there for you no matter how stupid/sinful/selfish you're currently being, and to be that sort of friend to others in return. A friendship like that is ridiculously far away from being "fun and frictionless."

I think the danger of facebook is that it tempts us to be what we are all so prone to be to anyway... selfish and self-absorbed. It sets up a world where we can easily create and maintain images of ourselves; we can put forth the good things about ourselves and hide the bad. It's all about how we look and how we want to present ourselves – not about authentically living out our lives and engaging in real, messy relationships with other individuals just as prone to sin and selfishness as we are! So, in that, I think that Deresiewicz is correct. It's too easy to buy into the hygienic and sanitized versions of ourselves that we put forward and not engage in the real work of loving, accepting and prodding to holiness that friendship is.

Does that mean I'm going to deactivate my facebook account? Hardly. Like anything, it's all in how you use it. If your eyes are open to the dangers, you can be alert to avoid them, and busy yourself with the good points. Facebook does have a lot of potential for good, too. I don't know if it's remarkably deepened any of my friendships, but it has maintained a great deal of them that might have fallen away otherwise. And as I live on the other side of the world from most of my family and friends, that's not something I take lightly.

I have to agree with Katherine's point that "I think the danger of facebook is that it tempts us to be what we are all so prone to be to anyway... selfish and self-absorbed." This happens quite a lot I find. People tend to spend so much of there "freetime", time they could physically be spending with their family, friends and especially their partner, in a solitary world of "cyber-acquaintances". Glued to their computer screens frantically searching to find out the latest gossip about people they don't even really care a jot about. So many "Facebookers" seem to have a desire to collect as many "Friends" as possible, maybe to try and convince themselves they are more popular than they really are, usually accepting people that in their normal lives they either haven't seen since they were at kindergarten or don't speak to when they do see them. The upshot of all this attention seeking online is that they can end up not giving enough attention to their partners, who can tend to feel left out and no longer a valued part of their leisure activity. This can then lead to communication breakdown within the marriage.
Again to quote from Katherine "... its' all in how you use it." Don't completely submerse yourself in online friendships to the detriment of your real friends and partner. Dipping in and out can be real fun, but a face to face conversation or even picking up the phone to chat, can be even more fulfilling.

I do agree the Faux friendship, Faux is the french word for False. It is true that thing tremendously changed and made made thing fake. Friendship became competition in that fast pace and informatics world. Motives changes, but fortunately some real friend stays.

The thing about online social networking is that it's taken faux friendships and normalized that people don't even realize that they don't have deep, healthy friendships, because they believe that those are exactly what Facebook is providing for them.

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