A recent article in USA Today profles a 17-year-old girl who has over 5,000 friends in MySpace.
It's girls like Brittnie who give MySpace a bad rap. She admits she doesn't know about 90% of the people she befriends. She admits she denies friendship status to anyone with fewer than 150 friends because it means that "no one likes them." Actually, "admit" is probably the wrong word to choose here. In the article, it sounds more like bragging.
No one knows what friend collecting does to a teens' self-esteem, understanding or appreciation of true friendship, or ability to form close relationships in the physical world. My hunch is that social networking can benefit all of these things, but taken to this extreme, it could be harmful. How does having thousands of "friends" who you have never met, and never will, encourage forming true bonds with those who really care about you? To me, it smells of a demise of intimacy in our culture that might impact the youth of our generation for years to come. Maybe I am overreacting -- like I said, we have no data on the effects of social networking on friendships -- but I believe that moderation and selectivity are the keys to successful relationships. Not collecting people as though they were stamps.