Friendship In A Mediated World

Friendship In A Mediated World

Literary critic William Deresiewicz has written an interesting article which traces the history of friendship, and examines how it's being changed by social software such as Facebook and the like.

Dan Gould
  • 14 december 2009

What is friendship? Literary critic William Deresiewicz has written an interesting article which traces the history of friendship, and examines how it’s being changed by social software such as Facebook and the like. It’s a lengthy but worthwhile read that raises questions about the strength of digital relationships.

Deresiewicz writes:

Yet what, in our brave new mediated world, is friendship becoming? The Facebook phenomenon, so sudden and forceful a distortion of social space, needs little elaboration. Having been relegated to our screens, are our friendships now anything more than a form of distraction? When they’ve shrunk to the size of a wall post, do they retain any content? If we have 768 “friends,” in what sense do we have any? Facebook isn’t the whole of contemporary friendship, but it sure looks a lot like its future. Yet Facebook—and MySpace, and Twitter, and whatever we’re stampeding for next—are just the latest stages of a long attenuation. They’ve accelerated the fragmentation of consciousness, but they didn’t initiate it. They have reified the idea of universal friendship, but they didn’t invent it. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that once we decided to become friends with everyone, we would forget how to be friends with anyone. We may pride ourselves today on our aptitude for friendship—friends, after all, are the only people we have left—but it’s not clear that we still even know what it means.

The Chronicle Review: “Faux Friendship”

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