What’s the frenzy?
Opinion

What’s the frenzy?

Cartoon by Alexander Jenson.
Cartoon by Alexander Jenson.

Usually these articles start with an introduction of the topics at hand, but I question here whether anyone needs an explanation of the recent trend that’s sweeping campus. Is there a corner Friendsy hasn’t reached?

When this website first came to my attention, I was disgusted by how vapid our concerns and desires must be that we would buy into such a superficial mechanism of communication. The general idea seemed predatory, and I became aware that you couldn’t even delete created accounts. But as the topic became virtually inescapable around campus, I softened to the concept.

After all, why should I criticize granting people a means to make connections and improve their love lives? It wasn’t truly hurting anyone. The website encouraged starting relationships that were consensual, making the step some people were afraid to make on their own.

This point of view, however, was not informed by the goal of Friendsy: creating an alternative forum in which to socialize and make connections in a way which required no effort—no conversation, no physical interaction, no confrontation. The Friendsy Facebook page describes the website’s goal as “spreading happiness through a celebration of human connection.” There is no legitimate connection involved. It is merely the encouragement of a virtual agreement that hopes to be brought to fruition in real life but has no real-life foundation to build upon.

Our generation has often been criticized for lacking the communication skills that were necessary before the proliferation of social media and text communication, yet never has this been more true than now. It would appear that we have taken another step down a dangerous road towards the obliteration of conversation. Whereas communication via text and Facebook still relies on using words to convey ideas and establish relationships, now even the essentiality of words seems utterly lost. Not only does this website manage to distill the vast variety of human desires to only three options—making friends, hooking up and dating—it also implies these to be the entirety of human desires.

The barrier protecting this apparatus from criticism is that there is nothing antagonistic about Friendsy—despite the anonymity provided by the website, no negativity, no bullying, no brutal honesty appears to be percolating via its channels. The website only serves to make you feel great about yourself. All of the “murmurs” (anonymous messages posted about people) are overwhelmingly nice—or at least kind-hearted at their core despite being strange.

In talking to friends who use the website, they feel flattered at the requests they receive, and thus this website becomes not only a stand-in for social and romantic interaction, but also for positive, constructive relationships with others. Being bombarded with friend requests and announcements that faceless people find you appealing enough to want to hook up or go on dates with you boosts anyone’s self esteem, but should it? Have we really resorted to anonymous sexual requests to make us feel comfortable in our own skin?

Friendsy is not unlike other social media in its attempt to offer a virtual substitute for human interaction. This virtualization has its own nuances that it would be futile to challenge at this point, since they are so integrated into our daily lives. Yet it is unique in its reduction of human interpersonal relationships to a few simple, shallow pursuits. After all, real life conversations can never differ from virtual ones as much as they differ from the utter absence of conveyed thoughts and the clicks of pre-established buttons.

February 7, 2014

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