Friday, September 26, 2008

What defines a friendship today?

We are friends on Facebook.

You follow me on Twitter.

I subscribe to your blog.

As digital media accelerates our interactions, the definitions of traditional friendships are redefined. Our constant hyper connectivity removes the barriers of distance and unfamiliarity. Instantly, we're able to instantly capture, post and share content.

Are digital interactions valuable?
In Ectasy of Communication, Jean Baudrillard insists "the content of communication is completely without meaning: the only thing that is communicated is communication itself." Baudrillard argues that digital media and online interactions diminish the value of communication.

Should we agree with Baudrillard?

Is real life interaction the only form of communication that matters?

No. In an era of short attention spans, it's extremely difficult to quickly articulate yourself. Digital media establish the framework to connect and engage at our own convenience and comfort.

What defines a friendship today?
Prior to social media, friendships were developed with real life interactions. You met, connected and engaged in the real world. Friendships were enhanced with traditional communication tools, such as telephone calls or written notes.

Today, friendships are defined by regular physical and digital interaction. Simply because you regularly see a celebrity on Perez Hilton or view a Flickr photo album, doesn't mean that you are friends with that person. The interaction needs to be reciprocated.

Although Baudrillard argued that digital media diminishes the value of communication, constant text messaging, tweeting, instant messaging, poking and private messaging create 24/7 availability and erode barriers of distance.

We have the power. It's up to us to decide how to use the tools.


Karen said...

Sean, great post!
I absolutely think that the social media world that we live in has completely transformed the meaning of friendship. I for one think that its great - the conversation has already started...even before you meet someone. In particular, I have found that it provides great conversation starters at events when I meet someone that I have only met before "online." Thanks for the info!

Christopher Reinhard said...

It's an interesting subject. I have a lot of trouble grappling with the differences between social media interaction and tangible interaction, and whether a case can be made that the two are no longer mutually exclusive. My individual take has to fall in line with the thinking that they aren't, because--although only recently--I've cultivated initially-online relationships into physically tangible ones without really thinking about it in the process.

Well written post...I'd love to hear more from you about it.