Where Have All My Real Friends Gone? Gone on Facebook Every One

Check out this post on Tom Crampton’s blog that reports on an MTV study on youth and social networking in Asia. Young Thais are the friendliest, the survey concludes, while China is the only country in the region where young people have more friends online than they do offline. How do you keep up with your 107 nearest and dearest?


6 Responses to “Where Have All My Real Friends Gone? Gone on Facebook Every One”

  1. 1 Thomas Crampton 25/10/2009 at 8:47 am

    According to the anthropologist Dunbar, we can all keep up to 150 close relations. I wonder why Thai children are so close to the limit – or perhaps it is a question of the definition of “friend”.

  2. 2 Lau Wai Lun William 27/10/2009 at 3:42 pm

    Regarding the above statement I could only make out two very sad definitions. First, that the person’s friends have all devoted their time to facebook, and are reluctant to spend time with their everyday friends with direct contact. Second, that the person’s friends only belong to facebook, and they are restricted to this medium only. this is a very sad phenomenon, and it brings out the fact that the internet is making people gradually isolated with greater internet use.

    From the passage written by Scott Sleek “Isolation increases with internet use.” It was found that although technology may allow distant families to keep closer in touch, find information quickly, develop friendships with people around the world, etc. Do we find the flaw behind this medium? Do we find that people are relying more and more on the monitor and the keyboard for friends, and for communication? From the article, a study revealed by American Psychologist reported that greater usage of internet leads to shrinking social support and happiness, and increase in depression and loneliness. It was stated that it was surprising for them to find out that a social technology could have such an antisocial effect on the society.

    If the person’s friends were all moving to facebook, we can see how detrimental it is by looking at the effects of facebook.
    First, facebook will cause one to gradually lose the ability communicate. Human beings are emotional animals, and emotions are most easily communicated through the use of intonation, body language, and etc, which are unable to be expressed other than using exclamation marks, or smiley faces. Gradually, the people will not know how to really communicate with each other as these people rely so much on this medium.
    You may see many people devoting alot of time to facebook meeting new friends, because this medium does not require one to actually face the person, which is one of the funnest and most basic of human interaction.

    Regarding the the implication that the persons friends were all formed on facebook. It is a sad projection of his state of social isolation that he is unable to find friends in the real world. And that he may only bury his face behind the monitor to make friends, a dilapidation of human beings.

  3. 3 Kei Kit Lung 27/10/2009 at 6:34 pm

    Although the survey reveals that Chinese youngsters have more online friends than those offline, I do not think it reflects the social interaction problems among them. Statistically, if you look at the numbers of friends among youths from other countries (e.g. Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia etc), they have fewer offline and online friends. The total number of friends of a Chinese is also relatively high among all the studied countries/cities.

    And in my opinion, making friends online is not necessarily bad. Internet can facilitate friendship, as it enables us to make closed contact with our friends, for example, facebook allows us to reconnect some of our kindergarten and primary school friends. But I agree with William that adductive use of Internet is detrimental to social interaction.

    Another point I would like to make – I think what matter most is not the number of friends one have, but the number of closed friends and how can you maintain a close relationship with your existing friends. What interested me is that although the Dunbar’s number of “friends that human are supposed to be able to keep a close relationship” is 150, the average number for an Asian youth is 107. I wonder if it is related to the definition of friends. What do Dunbar means by “closed friends”? If Asian and western looks at it from different perspectives, the survey cannot reflect the true picture. And I think living style, the settlement pattern and the penetration of internet usage may also have a role to play in the discrepancy.

  4. 4 anushri alva 28/10/2009 at 12:58 pm

    William, I sort of agree with your comment about how these social networking tools have resulted in isolation as some people spend less time with their actual friends and more with their virtual friends, but at the same time I do feel that these websites enable you to interact with like minded people whom you cannot have actual contact with due to reasons such as distance. eg – political activism for burma on facebook.

    What I found particularly interesting (and even amusing to a certain extent) about the stats on Chinese people having more offline friends was that China has one of the highest levels of Internet censorship. I was wondering whether the very fact that a lot of websites are banned and even strictly monitored, creates a stronger urge amongst the people to explore these fora and use them to reach out to others.

    When I was in China this summer, the Urumqi riots broke out and facebook, gmail and bbc became inaccessible, however the locals seemed to find ways to circumvent the system.

  5. 5 Chen Chuen Tien Nadine 28/10/2009 at 3:21 pm

    While I agree that the time spent on the Internet takes time away from the time one could’ve spent interacting with people face to face, I don’t see how this is necessarily a problem. Those who find it a problem seem to base their criticisms on the assumption that offline friends are “better” than online friends. But is that really so? Perhaps I am an exception, but one of the few people in this world that understands me the most is an “online friend”- someone I’ve gotten to know through a mutual friend but had never met in person. And why do we assume that virtual communication is worse than face-to-face conversation? I’ve actually grown closer to my family after I left them to come here to study. Some people, alike myself, express themselves better in writing, and typing on a cyber platform makes writing much more convenient and reaches your target readers much faster. Communication via online messages can also be more effective for people who are bad listeners. Moreover, I am on closer terms with my friends abroad than I have before the advent of socializing websites because of the convenience and cost-free services it affords. That is not to say however, that physical interaction can or should be replaced by virtual interaction. My point is that, taking into account the different people and circumstances, virtual interaction should not be deemed necessarily inferior.

  6. 6 Taylor Rens 29/10/2009 at 4:48 pm

    I have to agree with Mr. Crampton when says that that an issue with this study might be that people have different perceptions of what the term “friend” means. Personally, I do not have any friendships that have exclusively developed online, and I think that I would have a hard time considering someone my friend without spending a substantial amount of time with that person in the real world. I do not agree with the assertion that Facebook is detracting from or replacing people’s ability to communicate and express emotions in person. Instead, I see Facebook as a useful supplement to these traditional friendship-forming activities.

    According to my Facebook page, I have 440 “friends”. This list includes a wide variety of my acquaintances; from my best friends to people I have only met a couple of times. In many cases, Facebook has helped progress my relationships with people from mere acquaintances to “friends”. It seems to me that Facebook is an invaluable tool for improving relationships that exist in the real world.

    The two specific times in my life come to mind when I think about developing friendships through online interaction are my first semester at college and this semester in Hong Kong as an exchange student. In both cases, I had moved into totally new environments and was meeting people at a remarkable rate. Meeting so many people in such a short amount of time makes it difficult to remember names and let alone find enough time for face to face interaction to develop a “friendly relationship”. With the help of Facebook though, it is possible to begin “friendly relationships” with most acquaintances, and this is the first step in forming any real friendships. Considering how much an average Facebook page reveals about a person, simply allowing another person to access one’s Facebook page creates a certain connection on a very personal level. This allows people to attach more than just a name to a face, and fosters a positive feeling of friendliness. As I mentioned above, in my life, many of these friendly relationships have develop into true friendship, while others never make it past the initial stage. I suspect that in many cases, I would not have had the opportunity for future real life engagement with certain people without access them on Facebook.

    However effective Facebook is in developing friendships, it is even more effective for enhancing existing friendships. During this semester abroad, Facebook has allowed me to stay up to date on what my friends back home are doing in ways that would not be possible through email or telephone calls alone. As I sift through the news feed on my Facebook homepage everyday, I am exposed to pictures, comments, and conversations between my friends. My ability to join in these conversations or post a comment on a photo allows me to have a personal connection to people thousands of miles away.

    In conclusion, Facebook is a sophisticated tool that, if used correctly, enhances real friendships in ways was never before possible.

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