Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites

My new paper on friending practices in social network sites is officially live at First Monday. Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites

“Are you my friend? Yes or no?” This question, while fundamentally odd, is a key component of social network sites. Participants must select who on the system they deem to be ‘Friends.’ Their choice is publicly displayed for all to see and becomes the backbone for networked participation. By examining what different participants groups do on social network sites, this paper investigates what Friendship means and how Friendship affects the culture of the sites. I will argue that Friendship helps people write community into being in social network sites. Through these imagined egocentric communities, participants are able to express who they are and locate themselves culturally. In turn, this provides individuals with a contextual frame through which they can properly socialize with other participants. Friending is deeply affected by both social processes and technological affordances. I will argue that the established Friending norms evolved out of a need to resolve the social tensions that emerged due to technological limitations. At the same time, I will argue that Friending supports pre-existing social norms yet because the architecture of social network sites is fundamentally different than the architecture of unmediated social spaces, these sites introduce an environment that is quite unlike that with which we are accustomed.

I very much enjoyed writing this paper and i hope you enjoy reading it! Please feel free to share your thoughts here.

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7 thoughts on “Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites

  1. mort

    Hi Danah, I’m currently using flickr to comment on the different ways in which social networks deal with ‘friendships’, contacts and the like. I’ve just got started with it and it’s a much more humble effort than your paper, which I look forward to read carefully and surely enjoy. An example of the set at flickr

  2. Steve

    Hi Danah,

    I just went and read your paper, and most of it corresponds with what I’ve seen as a participant on MySpace (I don’t have experience on Friendster). But I was surprised you left out one practice which fits right in with the question you are exploring.

    Some people tell you right on their profile what their personal norms are for being added.

    Common ones are as follows:

    Only add me if we actually know each other

    Only add me if we have interests in common

    If you add me just to hit on me sexually you will be deleted

    This profile is for my friends and family – if you don’t know me add me at my fan site

    This is my kink profile – if you are interested in my valilla interests add my other profile

    Don’t add me with out sending an introduction

    Don’t add me unless we have talked

    Now all of these together would appear to be only a minority of users, but I thought the fact people were doing this was an interesting feature of the friending process.

    And, then as another sidelight, there is the really extreme “whore” culture. You allude to this, but don’t mention the sites that feature software specifically designed to facilitate “whore trains”, etc.

    But these are just picky points, not really criticism. Overall, the article was really good.

    Keep writing!


  3. Kevin


    I really enjoyed the article. There is so much there to think about. I’ve focused in on the “top 8” feature. Where I understand the dynamics of friending does not indicate whether a person is or is not an acquaintance, does the top 8 accurately indicate a person’s inner circle? If you were to do something like a GSS how close would it approximate a person’s top 8? What’s your gut feeling?


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  5. Dorothy Smith

    Hi Danah,
    I really enjoyed reading your article.Here i also admire the same responsibilities for us the same to join any social networking sites than a mere way to do the friendship.Henceforth its us that drives the friendly appearence towards the society and makes good friends to share ourthoughts and feelings……Anyway i really enjoy the social network sites specially Orkut community as if where we can discuss a lot of things through our discussions.

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