Friending: Adds, Removes, and Awkward Friend Groups.

23 Apr

‘Friending’, the mutual agreement between two Social Networking Site users’ to acknowledge each other as a ‘Friend’ and display their online relationship to the public. Friending is one of the core components of most social networking services, such as,, and of course Facebook. While originally designed by sites like MySpace and Friendster in order for users to search and add their own “real life friends“.  Users Friended people for a myriad of reasons, from ‘Collecting’ friends to seem popular and integrated to Friending someone because their profile is cool or because its easier and less awkward than saying no. Users were content to Friend just about anyone and anything as it meant, at least early on in the SNS days of Friendster and MySpace, greater access to a bigger network of profiles and users. However, the more ‘Friends’ a user adds, the more likely it is that a user will eventually create a virtual Friendship with someone whom they have a relationship with awkward power dynamics, creating tension and dissonance within a users Friend network.

Thanks to MySpace’s private profiles and Friendster’s ‘four degrees of friendship’, people engaged with early social networking services actually had to work laboriously to become “social” network users. These barriers to ‘Friendship’ meant that obtaining rare and cool ‘Friends’ was just as important as adding true friends and real life acquaintances. These barriers also created a narrow ‘field’ of Friends in that commonalities between Friends were often the driving force behind friendship. The fact that everyone has the flat status of Friend, and that there was no nuances to explain the relationship between Friends created awkward online moments, especially when having to decide whether or not to accept a Friend who exercises unique control or power over the user. This posed a unique problem to users in that surely one profile/page would prove insufficient to attract both real-life friend users as well as more elusive and desirable ‘cool’  virtual friends. As expert Danah Boyd claims in her article, entitled “Friends, Friendsters, & MySpace Top 8″:

The users of social network sites are faced with the same conundrum, particularly those who must simultaneously interact with their peers and those who hold power over them. Teenagers, for example, have no way of being simultaneously cool to their friends and cool to their parents. Thus, they often choose to represent themselves as they want to beseen by their friends, even when this presentation outrages their parents (Boyd, 15)

While having to add your parents as Friends is painful, and having to remove your boss thanks to your page’s content more painful still, a unique affordance of SNS ‘Friending’ offers a third avenue of awkwardness; the pending friendship. Due to the limited method of user identity (i.e., one MySpace page per user) it was a generally difficult task to achieve a balance between having the profile you wanted and simultaneously attracting virtual and real-life friends (would you really want your Professor to see your ‘420: Blaze It Erryday’ flashing GIF banner?). The faux pa of mixing business (known authority-friends) and pleasure (virtual anonymous-friends) was a more prevalent issue in the Friendster & MySpace era, resulting in the Friend request being placed under an effective stasis known as ‘Pending’.

Virtual ‘Friend’ Limbo: The pending status

A pending request systems disallow the initiating user to resubmit a second Friend request; the user on the other end must either approve or decline the Friend request in order to alleviate the user from virtual limbo. The awkwardness comes from the fact that it is “generally known that the pending list is the first thing you see when you login, it is considered rude to login and not respond to a request” (Boyd, 9). Thus, in order to avoid rejecting or ignoring someone, users went against site original site design and often simply accepted most Friend requests from whomever.

The politics and nuances behind ‘Friending’ within the context of the more classic Social Networking Sites such as Friendster and MySpace may have given rise to many of the rituals and habits observed in modern SNS sites like Facebook. In fact, the processes of requesting, denying, and pending Friendships almosts translates verbatim today, with many of the determining factors (such as profile content and direction) remaining just as integral when it comes to deciding who to be Friends with nowadays.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

New Media

A great site

New Media

This is for an intro to new media course second, and my blog where I can do my thang first! Except reversed order.

Fan Labor in the Modern Age

A history of fanfiction and vidding.


I'm hungry


new media in a new world


Discovering the Truths of New Media


The Media That Brings Us Together And Keeps Us Apart

The Future Belongs to Those Who Read

An Avid Reader's Look at the Future of the Book

Old (Media) Dog, New (Media) Tricks

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto

%d bloggers like this: