MySpace vs. Facebook: Is friendship real?

Are MySpace's commoditization of friendship and Facebook's codification of friendship opposing social networking philosophies and operating principles?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

UPDATE:paper by Danah Boyd also explores the "friendship: issue at social networking 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."

October 17, 2006: Rupert Murdoch’s MySpace is as friendly as it was from day one: Tom Anderson is STILL everyone’s friend, even though some of the 100 million MySpacers are venturing to declare “Tom is not my friend.” Facebook, on the other hand, hopes it is on the high ground by requiring claims of friendship be confirmed and validated among its 10 million Facebookers.

Are MySpace’s commoditization of friendship and Facebook’s codification of friendship opposing social networking philosophies and operating principles? 

I recently spoke with Ross Levinsohn, President Fox Interactive Media, owner of MySpace, and Melanie Deitch, Director of Marketing, Facebook, about “friendship” at their online properties. 

I cite Deitch in “Facebook talks ‘The Real Deal’ in exclusive interview”:

MySpace and Facebook have two fundamentally different approaches to social networking…Facebook is an authenticated network where people interact with their real friends, based on real relationships and the real world around them.

By authenticating people, it enhances real world relationships.

In “Facebook vs. MySpace: open doors, but not so friendly” I cite the Facebook blog on  the site’s friendship is a “privacy setting,” stance:

Emily Dickinson’s take on friendship: kind of obscure to me. Facebook’s definition: less so. I just wanted to open with a poem.

Since my last post, I have received and rejected over eighty friend requests from people I don’t know. It’s not because I’m a terrible person, and it’s not because I think all of my would-be friends were sketchy people; it’s because I wasn’t comfortable with people I didn’t know seeing my information…

Friendship on Facebook is, in and of itself, a privacy setting.

In “FIM Ross Levinsohn on MySpace in ‘Real Deal’ exclusive interview” I cite Levinsohn on MySpace founders’ open friendship founding principles: 

When we acquired MySpace, we told the founders there would be no restrictions that would slow down the growth and we have tripled since then.

The MySpace tag line is “a place for friends”: 

MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends.
Create a private community on MySpace and you can share photos, journals and interests with your growing network of mutual friends! 

How big does MySpace hope its friendly networks grow to?

Invite your Friends to join Your Personal Network…
View the Connections you Create between Your Friend and Their Friends. Some people have 1,000s of people in their extended network!

MySpace is encouraging its friends to be even more friendly:

Promote Your MySpace I.D.!
Want to explode your MySpace Friends List? Replace the "http://www.myspace.com" link with your personal invite code. Anyone who signs up from your link will be automatically added to your list.

Levinsohn began his recent Advertising Week keynote by quoting William Shakespeare,” “The golden age is before us, not behind us.”

What does The Bard muse about friendship?

Keep thy friend, Under thy own life's key

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel

I count myself in nothing else so happy, As in a soul remembering my good friends

Thy friendship makes us fresh

Do thousands of “friends' friends” make us fresh? Can friendship be determined by a “privacy setting”?

In “Facebook on campus: Does it make the grade?” I cite a West Virginia University student and sometimes Facebooker on the social down side of social networking at Facebook:

Can someone please explain to me the newsworthiness of someone deciding to confirm a friend request and becoming "friends" with someone? Most often, these people barely know each other and just want yet another superficial Internet connection to make them feel special. That's all it is.

That's another thing. I recently started going through my "friends" list and deleting all the people that I don't know or only added me because we happened to go to the same high school. If I didn't talk to you in high school, odds are, I'm not going to sit here one night and go, "Hmm, wonder what's going on in their world? Think I'll message them.

How about enhancing friendships with those lucky “friends” that escape the social networking delete button? Do social networking sites foster greater communication by breaking down barriers of time and place, or do they engender empty, anonymous communication via “superficial Internet connections”?

The proliferation of automated scripts for friend requests, messages, comments, bulletins, event invites, group invites, and automated friend accepting does not bring to mind the old school, personal one-off entreaty: “Will you be my best friend?’

ALSO SEE: MySpace, Facebook, NBC: Brands rule, not users

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