How Social Networking Changes Friendships

Couple on couch with laptopsIn an increasingly connected world, most people have an account on at least one social networking platform, and many people use social networking as their primary means of communication with friends and family. Most of us are aware that social networking poses some dicey questions in romantic relationships—whether to “friend” exes, whether to share private conversations with partners, what constitutes flirting, how much information about a relationship is acceptable to share online, and so on—but social networking is primarily an avenue for connecting with nonromantic friends.

Is social networking changing friendship as we know it? Research hints that the answer is yes.

Reduced Investment

Facebook provides bountiful opportunities for “friending”—a term we owe to social networking—and many people have hundreds or even thousands of online friends. Historically, people have had 150 to 200 people in their circle of acquaintances, on average, and only a few close friends. But Facebook, for example, allows people to “friend” others without making much investment. This could change the way people approach friendship. Where friendship previously required time, effort, and a lot of conversation, it now seemingly requires only a click of a button. This has the potential to broaden the number of people a person may consider his or her friends, while significantly reducing the number who fit the more traditional traits associated with close friendship.

Changed Boundaries

Although some social networking sites offer options that allow people to limit the viewers on certain posts, people tend to post things to everyone on their friends list. This serves to alter the boundaries of traditional acquaintance relationships. Your boss might read about your difficult pregnancy, and an old college professor might hear about your difficulties in your marriage. Conversely, when people use only social networks to communicate with their close friends, they limit the intimacy and detail of their conversations because—despite the compromised boundaries brought about by social networking—there are still some things that most people won’t post online, even if they’d share these things with close friends.

Social networks also make it much easier to share controversial opinions with friends and acquaintances. Many of us have friends with whom we would never discuss politics or religion. But the endless political jockeying on Facebook and Twitter makes it much more likely that people will engage with their political foes. Depending on how these conversations are handled, they can increase conflict or even destroy friendships, or they can promote understanding and mutual respect.

Reaching Out

Starting a new friendship can be challenging, particularly for adults who are no longer in school or who don’t have a large pool of co-workers. For shy people and those seeking new friends, social networking provides an easy way to make the first overture of friendship. By simply clicking the “add friend” button, people can convey that they’re interested in getting to know someone, reducing a traditional barrier to friendship.

Changing Face Time

In-person communication with friends has always been an important part of friendship. Social networking might reduce the frequency of face-to-face contact. One study found that 10% of social networking friends ranked as “close” had never actually met in person. Social networking also changes how people spend face time with friends; they may spend time together perusing others’ social network profiles or discussing what they’ve seen online rather than catching up on one another’s lives.


  1. Novotney, A. (n.d.). R U friends 4 real? American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
  2. Is social networking changing the face of friendship? (2007, September 14). ScienceDaily. Retrieved from


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  • Pam gower

    November 23rd, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Facebook will never take the place of the time that I put into my friendships- but I do have to say that sometimes it does make things a little easier.

    I mean, why leave a message on an answering machine that the friend might not get for hours when you can communicate with them via facebook and get an answer immediately?

    I admit, I am an instant gratification kind of gal in many ways and social sites have only made this easier for me. That’s not a bad thing in my view.

  • shayne

    November 23rd, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    although I go log into my account at least 4-5 times a week, I make it a point to not ‘friend’ unknown people or friends of friends unnecessarily.there is not much to gain from my own experience and my friends’ but there is so much that you could let out to people that may not be a good thing in the rule is-if I don’t have anything to do with them IRL then there is no reason for me to ‘friend’ them except for special reasons, such as an online association for work or something else.

  • Flying Ninja

    November 23rd, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    I have gained a lot of friends, yes but that real friendship of the good old days is gone now. There isn’t too many genuine people and its all about who got the most likes or who threw the biggest party.

    Really,sometimes I feel like time took a leap because just a decade ago things were so different,friendships were so different.And now we have a thousand meaningless friends.I much prefer the few good friends I had back in the day.

  • mara

    November 24th, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    Kind of funny how we will say things online that we would never say to someone’s face. That right there can be a huge problem for any friendship.

  • Geoffrey.H

    November 24th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    There is just so much information about even those we do not really know well.I think this creates a I-know-too-much-about-you world,which is not necessarily a great thing.

    Yes,I have benefited from exactly this,being able to identify friends of friends who would be interested in going to the same concerts and such but on the whole it is something I do not like and the lesser people have so much information about me the better it is according to me.

  • darcy g

    November 25th, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    If you are only relying on facebook to catch up with your friends. . . then I think that you will actually find yourself friendless after a while.
    good friendships need to be cultivated like a garden, and simply conversing online is not enough for most of us to be fulfilled and satisfied.
    i think that you will always need that one on one face to face time with your good friends, no matter what technology brings our way. I think that I for one would miss that time together if my friends did not feel the same way that I do.

  • marisa

    November 25th, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    let me tell you social networking can definitely change relationship.while there are positives such as meeting long lost friends and staying connecting to the newer ones,there are many many negatives too.

    for young people and especially for girls,like my teenage daughter and her friends,facebook is nothing but a platform to show off.who went where or bought what,they are literally rushing to shoot pictures of anything good they happen to encounter and post it on has made sure everybody chases vanity like never before.and that is never a good thing in any can quickly increase the differences and bring in cracks where there are none.I think social networking requires a careful treading and not too many of us have learnt the art of that yet.

  • Roxanne

    November 25th, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    Well its got both good and bad sides to it.But it comes down to what you choose to do with it.As they say,never blame your tools,they only do what you make of them.

  • KIRK

    November 26th, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Question:What has social media done to relationships?

    Answer:It has increased the quantity but reduced the quality n most cases.

    I refuse to sign up on any such sites,simply because I do not seek friendship with a thousand people I will never meet and I stay in touch with my real friends on phone and email anyway.They need not know every little detail of my life.

  • Ernest

    November 26th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    Facebook and such have always felt so faux to me. It’s like, I wasn’t friends with you in high school or college, so why say that we are friends now on this site, even though we will most likely never meet face to face again?

  • W Hall

    November 26th, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    It gets on my nerves to see how much of personal information people put up on these sites.Yes I want to stay connected with a lot of people through such a site because its a nice way to,but please don’t crowd my page with all your stupid updates, people! Nice medium but people haven’t gotten around to using it like adults.

  • Penelope

    November 26th, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Witness all of the petty arguments that you see on facebook and twitter on a daily basis. How could we ever think that this kind of behavior could be something that will prove to make friendships stronger?

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