How Many Friends Is Too Many?

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How Many Friends Is Too Many?

Post  giselle on Sat Jul 05, 2008 4:38 pm

One MySpace exec has even surprised himself by friending a potato. This particular russet has 2,965 friends.

May 26, 2008 Issue

The songwriter Buzzy Linhart once said, "you've got to have friends." indisputable. But 5,000 friends? Questionable. The seeming excessiveness of that concept is part of the reason the social-networking site Facebook caps the number of friends any person can gather at that lofty figure. Yet when the popular Silicon Valley blog TechCrunch posted recently that Facebook was about to end the limit, the item garnered a lot of attention, and even some excitement. The report turned out to be a false alarm—Facebook still maintains a 5,000-friend ceiling, a company spokesperson told me, and has no plans to raise the limit in the immediate future. But the episode evoked a lot of questions about the nature of "friendship" when it comes to sites like Facebook and MySpace. How many friends is too many? And how friendly do you have to be with someone to become an online friend?

While Facebook doesn't want to dictate rules of friending behavior to its users, the company is explicit in stating that the purpose of maintaining a list is not to see whose friend belt has the most notches. The point is to keep in closer contact with those who are already in one's social circle. The average Facebook user has about 105 mutually accepted friends, and fewer than a thousand people are bumping against the company-imposed limit. But some of those who have reached that number insist that it's too meager. Jeff Pulver, an entrepreneur and technology consultant who often spends 12 hours a day on Facebook for work and play, despises the restriction. When someone asks to be added to Pulver's cohort, he or she gets a message reading, "Jeff has too many friends," a phrase that doesn't compute with Pulver. "Who am I to say no to friendship?" Pulver asks. He has a waiting list of 500 would-be friends. Worse, when someone he wants as a Facebook friend asks in, he must kick someone else out to make room.

In contrast, MySpace users don't ever have to say no; the philosophy is different there. "At MySpace, the term 'friend' goes beyond 'people I know in the world'," says Steve Pearman, the company's senior vice president for product strategy. In addition to people they actually know—you know, the kind of buddies you'd accompany to a rock concert—MySpacers routinely add actual rock stars and other celebrities to their friend lists. (Facebook allows well-known people to gather large communities by establishing a separate profile where people can sign up to be fans. But saying that you're a fan of Barack Obama or Amy Winehouse isn't the same as including them among your friends.) Comedian Dane Cook had 2,372,807 MySpace friends as of last week, and would have a more successful film career if his friends actually turned out to see his movies. Pearman says that MySpace has no problem with profiles that aren't even human. The MySpace exec has even surprised himself by friending a potato. Let me repeat: a potato. This particular russet, by the way, has 2,965 friends.

Maybe by now you're getting the idea that a friend at Facebook or MySpace is not necessarily the same as a real friend, the kind who brings you chicken soup when you're sick and posts multiple favorable reviews about your book on Amazon. In addition to 20 or 30 genuine BFFs, you might have someone you met at a conference, the kid sitting behind you in Spanish class, someone who wants access to you as a customer or a guitar player in a local band with whom you will never exchange a word. "Instead of 'friend,' it might be better to say, 'I'm linked to you'," says Clay Shirky, author of "Here Comes Everybody," a book about social networking.

But such online linking does have deep social implications, and as one's friend list grows, so do some problems. People judge each other by whom they list as friends. Inevitably, human noise finds its way into a collection of friends, because people tend to cave in and agree to friendship when asked by someone they barely know, or in some cases don't know at all. In real life, we are spared the explicitness of a bald request to be a friend, but there's no such luck online—even ignoring someone's friend request doesn't gloss over the fact that you're rejecting him or her. "It's socially awkward, and very hard to draw the line," says Danah Boyd, a researcher at the UC Berkeley School of Information.

But if you don't draw that line, your list will fill up with semi-strangers and you'll be less likely to share personal information you want your real friends to see. (Facebook offers a way to classify your friend list to let certain clusters see different sorts of things, but it's a pain to go through your list and categorize people.) And making those distinctions is easier said than done. "You know what it's like when you're figuring out who to invite to your wedding—the one day of your life that people will remember, and you have to pick who's in or out?" says Shirky. "Facebook is like that every day."

Not surprisingly, hand-wringing about dealing with all these online friends is the province of a generation that grew up in the physical world. People under 25 seem to have painlessly adapted to these new rules, however unwritten. "Kids have gotten over this," says Boyd. "As a teenager, you can't reject your friends at school, but you won't wind up having 5,000 friends either." Even on the no-limits MySpace, the average number is 180 or so. And that includes potatoes.

© 2008

This article shows how the people in the world is connected with one another, maybe even with someone you have never met before.
The advancement in technology in today's world have directly or indirectly contributed to the way how people make friends. People in today's society also have a different meaning of a friend. This also shows how people have changed from one generation to another, with the effects of improvement in science and technology.
Websites such as facebook and myspace provide evidence on how people have been depending on them for work and maintaining their social circle(Jeff Pulver, an entrepreneur and technology consultant who often spends 12 hours a day on Facebook for work and play). This shows how much time a person can spend on computer a day which suggests the reliance of people on the technology for work and leisure.

i'm not sure why facebook imposes a restriction on the number of friend a person can have. can anybody enlighten me? It's like if they have more friends means more people are using their website doesn't this improves their business? if they impose restrictions people might switch users since there are other popular websites with equally large social circle right?

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Re: How Many Friends Is Too Many?

Post  hafizuddin on Sun Jul 06, 2008 10:54 pm

u can mention how social-networking creates an alien environment, when personal mutual behavior and sensitivity is limited in the picture. social networking has undermine the actual meaning of friendship and intimacy, in which it is no longer necessary to value the bond(s) between parties.

important to restrict?-maybe so as the system doesnt overload per person, maintaining privacy of one's profile...

cannot blame technology entirely as it depends on how the user practise it to good use, meanwhile recognising the social implications in foresight. important to have companies of such websites to overlook the matter and control actions of their fellow users.

good article giselle-

yes ah, first to reply-puttin tech to good use!


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Re: How Many Friends Is Too Many?

Post  Naim Le Victoria on Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:59 pm

Hmm... an article that relates to most, if not, all of us.
Its good to see how you link this with the present generation where online social networking is the new fad.
You also did a good job in relating parts of the article in your review, which is commendable.
Hmm... i guess they needed to put a cap on the friend limit to protect people from possible dangers such as psychologically distorted stalkers lurking in the internet and also maybe to make people realise that theres no way you can befriend thousands of people in real life. I may be wrong though but these are my deductions.
Naim Le Victoria

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Anabelle's Reply

Post  Ana on Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:47 pm

Good choice of article. It talks about the difference between 2 online network system. MySpace allows one to have unlimited friends whereas Facebook does not have. This shows that competition between companies is so tense that they can forgo the safety of web users. The creation of such social network also shows that our 'social circle' has been commercialized. In addition, one can have many names on his friendlist but this doesn't prove that he is that sociable. People could be competing among themselves to see who gets the longest friendlist and this is bad as friends are no longer so genuine as before. Thus, this could be used to show the negative impact of technology on the society.
[color=blue]Overall, interesting and meaningful article that is worth pondering over!/color]

Cold Jokes Queen

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Re: How Many Friends Is Too Many?

Post  Vishaal on Sun Jul 13, 2008 12:43 am

This article is indeed an apt example of what moderntechnolgy has caused unto us. It also shows the polarization of the IT savvy is only to those below 25 years or so and can be used to show the effect of technology on the younger generation.
A good commentry on the article with proper examples lifted.
I think this article is a only limited as an example to people's dependency on technology to a small extent.
But, it can be used as an ideal point on the effect technology has on the society.


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Post  WANJING on Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:13 pm

Well.. "QUITE" an interesting article you have GS! So interesting that i don't know what to comment!!!!

An article like this is suitable for essay questions related to technology, social and economical issues. Well.. in the field of technology, this example can help explain that it improves communication between people. People are not really isolated today because they can make friends online. On the otherhand, problems may arise due to this technology. Eg. loss of identity, murder and maybe rape cases. Very Happy For social-related essays, u can use this example for qns regarding lonliness, searching mates online and maybe social crimes?? Last of all, u can say how these friend-making online businesses improve throughout these years and what will happen in the future/impact/consequences.

OKAY! this is the end of my report! ^^

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