Social Studies: The Mediation of Friendship

Online social networks have paradigmatically changed the way we communicate with each other. They serve as a point of contact. They serve as a visual manifestation of self and those we relate to. A public record of our lives, our people, our interactions, they can act as digital playgrounds, a sandbox through which to strengthen the casual bond between acquaintances. They can also play the role of (vicious) town crier, and cause exposition and shame.

Social networking sites capture the ethereality of human connection in material form. A friend has become an object in our digital world.

I am interested in examining the modes through which this mediation of friendship affects the way we relate to each other and perhaps more importantly, the way we feel about these relationships.

What new connotations has Facebook given the word ‘friend’?
Admired stranger? Fan? Potential lover? Some collect ‘friends’ much like digital keepsakes while others choose to abandon the network altogether.

As songs have become mp3s, have our friendships become compressed artifacts relegated to lists of hundreds on a server? Or, more optimistically, has our ability to befriend in the digital age been extended much like the distribution possibilities of digital media?

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