To add or not to add, that is the question – the politics of friendships on Facebook

Columns & Opinion, Web 2.0

katsmile.jpg Katherine Hannaford writes…

Love it or loathe it, Facebook is the new MySpace…oh, and the new Twitter, the new Flickr and pretty much every other work-shirker time-waster known to man, thanks to opening themselves up to third-party developers.

But how much is too much? Is there such a thing as being too involved in the social-networking service? And just how many friends is acceptable – is there a stigma attached to Facebook in the same manner as with MySpace, where those with fewer than 10 friends are deemed social pariahs? Will we soon be seeing those god-awful ‘Popular On MySpace’ t-shirts redesigned as ‘Popular On Facebook’?

Just how much is too much?

A friend recently told me how he’d had lunch with a lady-friend, and she’d spent the whole time bragging over having close to 400 friends on Facebook. When quizzed whether she’d actually met most of them in person, she had to pause and admit that no, they could be the opposite of sex, missing vital limbs or be on the complete other side of the age-spectrum to what she thinks they are.

It got me to thinking about the myriad of differences between Facebook and the former creme du jour, MySpace. I’ll brave the possible defamatory comments this column may attract, and use myself as an example. On Facebook, I have 41 friends, 29 I actually know well in real life, 11 that I know only online (mostly work contacts I’ve never met), and one person who added me randomly from a group I belong to on the site.

MySpace however projects an entirely different view on my popularity – according to Rupert Murdoch’s pet project, I have 148 friends. Running through the list of people however, shows I’ve only ever met 39 of them in reality. The majority of the other ‘friends’ are bands I follow…although I wouldn’t mind being friends with Morrissey and The Cure in real life, I doubt I’ll ever find Robert Smith knocking on my front door for a cup of Tetley’s.

Curiosity got the better of me (let’s hope it doesn’t ever literally ‘kill the Kat‘), and I peeked at my Facebook friends’ list of contacts. Of the 41 friends I have on there, the average amount of friends for them to have is 73. Obviously I have some catching up to do!

The lowest number of friends someone on my list has is two (my high-school art teacher needs to pull his finger out and get busy with the social-interacting), and the highest amount someone has is 322 (my housemate, who admittedly just left uni last year, explaining the vast number of people she knows, considering Facebook’s original purposes).

As my new-favourite YouTube star, JohnnyOnline sings in his song ‘Love-two-point-oh’, “don’t wanna be be your MySpace friend, already got a million and one of them, but maybe I could be your friend on Facebook?”, it’s fairly evident that to be someone’s friend on MySpace is nothing special, but to be included on someone’s Facebook friends list? Yep, you’ve got a special place in that person’s heart. Just don’t give your heart away to too many people on there, as I told my friend to tell his lady-friend with the 400 pals on Facebook.


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Katherine Hannaford
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