Here’s my Guardian column this week, a much shorter and more cogent version of this post about changes in friendship brought on by the social web.

  • Jeff, I see the same problem with your argument: it seems to ignore what it takes to keep actual friendships and what is a feasible number of such friendships and goes along with the social networks’ self-interested presentation of mere contacts as friends. D.

  • Gordon W.S. Lane

    You link to the stat about teens and tweens in your BuzzMachine Post, but not in the Guardian column, and you miss a very important nuance.

    “While 96% of online tweens and teens have used social networking technologies…”

    Keyword: ONLINE.

    According to a report available here about the UK’s digital divide, 11% of people aged 16-24 are not connected to the Internet and do not use the Internet. The stat you cited is 96% of ONLINE teens and tweens, but you wrote it as 96% of ALL teens and tweens.

    So while it is still a high number, in truth the percentage of teens and tweens who have used social networks is in the 80s, not 96.

    Additionally, the 96% stat is “have used.” In fact, only 71% of those approximately 89% of kids online use a social network at least once a week.

    I recognize the age differences in the two reports and your column, but don’t have better data. Nonetheless, your point about socnets being “universal” is not as valid as you make it out to be…

  • Gordon’s point is well-argued. Yet I am not persuaded because the direction of movement thus far does appear to be toward heavier use of social networks.
    Even thought I agree with those who say that raw user numbers present an inflated view of usage because an undetermined large number of accounts are abandoned, the direction of movement is still the same.
    Arguments to the contrary thus far impress me as similar to those made a decade ago regarding the adoption of email as a preferred means of communication, the eviscerating competition some of use foresaw for newspaper classified advertising and the eventual but somewhat more delayed transition away from ordinary broadcast radio and television.
    Social networks can provide extraordinary communication advantages for those not reluctant to use them.
    Neither tweens nor teens are reluctant to use them.
    Certainly the statistical nature of the change is worthy of debate and intense further examination, but for my part I am primarily concerned about the underlying quality of network-cebtruc relationships.
    If for example they are comparatively fragile and fail to provide appropriate social support in times of crisis, like the death of a parent or sibling, that fragility will echo destructively through the lives of our children and through the societies they inherit from us.

  • Eve

    Hello everyone.Now that I read what Delia said regarding what it takes to keep and maintain an actual friendship, I have something to run by you. It’s a dilemma. And, I’m sorry if you find this meaningless, however I need some advice.

    I’m stuck in a sticky situation. I am 25 years old and my very good friend is 61. We used to work together. She has always been pretty odd and I sometimes never understood her behavior, however I loved her (still love her) and wanted to do everything to keep her in my life. I was ALWAYS the one making the phone calls, sending the emails, inviting her to dinner, etc. Her input, however, was pretty limited. She made up for it with material things for me, telling me she “adored me” and “couldn’t imagine life without me.” One day, back in 2007, we were supposed to meet up, however she said that something came up, and I flipped out, because this was so typical of her! After realizing that I hurt her feelings and said not-so-nice things, I called her back and tried to apologize. She did not pick up. I went over to her house with coffee and flowers…but she didn’t open her door to me. Finally, a few months later, I received an email from her telling me that she no longer wanted to communicate with me. I flipped out! I was a mess! She meant everything to me and I didn’t want us to end our friendship like this. So, I was in such pain and agony that I sent a very nasty email to her…I couldn’t stop…the pain she caused me was so hard. After a few days of communication over email, she agreed to meet with me to talk about our friendship and possibly resurrect it. My hopes were high! However, after we met, months went by with no contact from her, but lots of contact from me. Cards, emails, etc…Finally, this past December I got another email from her telling me that our friendship was over. How can someone who used to call me her “other daughter” not forgive me? Of everything I did for her…she just couldn’t forgive me. I miss her terribly and think about her everyday. What should I do? Her bday is coming up and I want to send her a card. Thanks, everyone.