608: Friends IRL

A Thousand Things to Talk About
608: Friends IRL

Do you “friend” people you don’t know offline?

Full episode script

In my dayjob, I work at a financial institution, and in social media. Combine those two things and it’s not unusual to see a case of someone sending their new quote-unquote friends online way too much money, or their online banking login information. It’s not a new scam, but it’s one that is gaining new legs with the increased trust that we all have in the people we meet and interact with online.


The idea of “friending” online has a variety of levels, depending on where you are and how you’re working the interaction. There’s making friends online and there’s agreeing to let someone into your more private online life.


At the very base, it’s an interesting question of what kind of technological labels we put on our relationships… and how we show those social connections to the world. LinkedIn, for example, assumes that connections are essentially miniature endorsements of the individuals you are connected with.


Either way, our relationship with online friendships is changing. As The New Republic said in 2015, quote:

John Suler, in his 2000 book The Psychology of Cyberspace, wrote that people “tend to separate their online lives from their offline lives.” But this is far less true today. With the launch of Friendster (2002); MySpace (2003); and, in 2004, the global behemoth Facebook, distinctions between friendship online and off grew more ambiguous. People had to decide which of their friends and acquaintances—many of whom they had not been motivated to see in years—they should befriend digitally. Facebook in particular, with its early reliance on college e-mail accounts for membership, has tied digital identity more firmly to the IRL iteration. The perception that online relationships are somehow less real than their physical counterparts exemplifies what Nathan Jurgenson, a New York-based sociologist and researcher for the messaging platform Snapchat, calls “digital dualism.” Contemporary identities and relationships are no more or less authentic in either space. “We’re coming to terms with there being just one reality and digital is part of it, not any less real or true,” Jurgenson said. “What you do online and what you do face-to-face are completely interwoven.”

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.