Technology and Modern Friendship

Richard Hughes Gibson in The Hedgehog Review:

Complaints about the decline of friendship have become a staple of conversation in our digital times. But before we dismiss them as simply byproducts of generational turnover, consider the evidence that something more substantial is going on. The very language of friendship, for instance, is changing right before our eyes. Facebook has convinced us that “friend” can be a verb, often deployed in the imperative mood (“Friend me on…”). Apps have elevated the number of friends above the quality of friendship, displaying the tallies for onlookers to admire, one’s (envious) friends especially. As more than one observer has noted, “Friends used to be counted on; now they are counted up.” The digital age has even spawned a new species of friend, its title still evolving: Online friend? Internet friend? E-friend? These are friends whose acquaintances we make, and whose company we almost exclusively keep, in digital domains, and advice columns warn of the challenges of meeting such friends “IRL”—that is, in real life.

Concerns about technology’s impact on friendship have been issuing from the academy as well.

More here.