Generation Friend

Drawing lines between social generations has become increasingly difficult. Advances in technology, beginning in the early eighties, have created overlapping layers of individuals who fall into multiple cultural generations. These generations are now more likely to be determined by personality traits combined with birth dates, rather than by age alone. I myself am an Eighties Baby (1983, to be exact) and fall on the line between the end of Generation X and the beginning of Generation Y. Additionally, I was part of a new generation of children who saw the full evolution of video games, from Atari and Nintendo (16 bit) to PS3, Xbox 360, and now the long-anticipated Wii U.

The time has come to usher in a new cultural distinction, one that has developed recently and will span many social generations: I call it Generation Friend. Before I go any further, I’d like you to ask yourself the following questions (and welcome you to post your answers in the comments section below):

  • Have you sent a Friend request in the past month?
  • Do you have more than 100 Friends on Facebook?
  • Have you searched for a Friend this month?
  • Have you used the term “Facebook Friend” within the past month?

I answered yes to three out of the four questions (and that’s only because of a Friend cleanup that I recently performed).

Getting back to my main point, I came to this new social distinction recently, after I referred to my brother as a “Friend on Facebook.” This got me thinking: Has Facebook cheapened the meaning of “Friend”? In short, my answer is no. To be fair, Facebook allows users to categorize their friends very precisely. Even though Facebook only recently offered this option in response to Google +, LinkedIn has been letting users categorize their connections from the beginning.

Facebook, just like email, music, and pictures, requires a user to invest time to keep it organized and up to date. We’ve all gone through the Friend-request binges that have led to a bloated list of Friends, but it’s time to roll up the sleeves and cut the loose Friends—err—strings. Maybe Facebook will evolve over time and become intuitive enough to categorize connections by the type of interaction, frequency of interaction, the amount of pictures you’re “tagged” in, and by shared connections. Until then, it’s up to you to de-friend the ex, an old roommate from college, or the person you met in line yesterday at Starbucks.

Author: Michael Hiney

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