Do Facebook friendships mean anything at all?

Published: July 11, 2011

No one is as ugly as their CNIC pic, or as good looking as their Facebook profile picture.

OK, let’s accept it. We are all addicted to social networking sites, especially Facebook, in one way or another.

Social networking has not only altered the way we live, it has also changed our relationships and interactions with each other. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, Yahoo 360 and many other social networking sites are the projectors of our self image and define our relationships.

The pages we ‘like’, the groups we join, our activities and interests, the thoughts we choose to share on Facebook – all work to make us a part of a subculture that is still in its infancy, but has widespread effects, and is slowly bringing down the barriers of distance and language.

A new social system

Facebook, in the past few years, has changed the concept of human relationships. Friendship is no longer confined to face-to-face interaction, but is now rooted in the ‘friends list’ of the other person. A simple click on the ‘unfriend’ option can cut ties between childhood friends. The more people in your friends list, the more popular you are perceived to be.

I wonder if being in someone’s friends list is enough to be called a friend or a non-digital environment where one can freely express emotions (without the assistance of emoticons) is still important to cultivate a healthy relationship between two people?

Even in friends, we have the liberty to compartmentalize people into different categories or circles, based on our closeness and level of formality with them. We have ‘family’, ‘best friends’, ‘not-so-close friends’, ‘relatives’ and‘work colleagues’ lists.

Double personalities

It is no longer a shame that most of us live a dual life all thanks to Facebook, which allow us to share our online life with specific friends and limit others to our off line life only. If due to cultural or proximity barriers, you cannot physically ‘poke a friend’, you can still do so in the world of Facebook and this subtle cue is somehow less offending in the virtual world.

Meeting new people

Some friendships also evolve based on your interaction with the other person on Facebook only. Even if you have never met a person in your life before, but since a friend of yours suggested you become friends with him, you add him and start talking and when you get a chance to meet this digital friend of yours in person, you both have already developed enough of a comfort zone to look over all the pleasantries.

Facebook has brought people together and has given new meaning to ‘connection’ and ‘networking’, it has also given hype to our fake digital personalities. As the saying goes:

“No one is as ugly as their NIC pic, or as good looking as their Facebook profile picture.”

Just as an artist carefully paints a portrait before putting it on display to the general public, similarly we brush, trim, update and retouch our online images and persona to find love and friendship. We constantly seek validation from the online community.

Social media may be giving rise to the new taxonomy of friendship, but for thousands like me, just by being on someone’s Facebook with a striking profile picture, is not enough to foster real relationships that will strengthen the bond between two people. I think online buddies can never replace our flesh and blood pals. The true meaning of friendship and true essence of human relations can never get deeper just by scribbling a few lines on each other’s walls once in a blue moon or by liking the same pages.

Real intimacy, the feeling of being touched, heard and seen by someone in reality is more  than just satisfying your competitive spirit by increasing the number of people in your friend list.


QuratulAin Rizvi

An assistant brand manager at a multi-national and sub editor of in-house magazine

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Usman

    i never get it. Whats the Cool thing about having 500+ friends on facebook?
    You like meet a person for the first time just by saying HI. next morning you get his Facebook friend request. FGS i dont even know you. I dont really call it socializing.
    Its not Really Cool to be on facebook 10hrs a Day.
    I’m more of meeting people in person then talking to them on random topics on facebook.Recommend

  • waqqas iftikhar

    facebook is a networking tool…..i don’t think anyone in their right minds categorizes everyone they are ‘connected’ to on facebook as close friends….Recommend

  • Pakistanian.

    This is the second comment for your every intuitive blog! Thanks. how long did it take you to write this?Recommend

  • Maria Afzal

    Finally, people are raising voice against all this “facebook friendship” thing. I totally agree with the writers point of view, but at the point of having a long friend-list may mean that its a fake profile.Facebook is destroying friendship more then bringing people together, but at the same time I found my first ever school friend through fb. People like spending time on facebook because they like interacting with their friends particularly ONLINE FRIENDS, but socail websites and mobile is reason that is driving you away from the people.

    Some other points:-

    these websites are to be blamed for
    the wide-spread of vulgarity; I
    recently went through a page on fb on
    which the admin posts pictures of
    different girls with a description
    “BHABHI OF THE DAY” below that a
    number of boys will pass rude and
    shameless comments and to my surprise
    girls also liked the post and I also
    read some statuses which were nothing
    more then vulgarity.
    Miss use of pictures and videos.
    No privacy left.
    Its becoming more like a dating site then social networking site. (which is totally against Islam).

    At the same time, fb can be used in a beneficial way. It’s not just the waste of time their are some pages which are providing a plenty of informative stuff. Recommend

  • The Forbidden Fruit

    “Do articles on Facebook mean anything at all?” C’mon, it’s a tool. Use it wisely!Recommend

  • Phatty

    @QuratulAin Rizvi,
    I personally see nothing wrong with fb. Those people who have actually stopped living “off-line” due to fb, yeah, don’t know why anyone would do that. But I feel that fb has given me a chance to connect with so many of my friends from all over the world, who I may not have been able to stay in touch with otherwise. I mean, c’mon, we all have good friends, and we all like to keep up with what’s happening in their lives but at times we’re just too lazy to write up a long e-mail, or maybe do not have enough “credit” to call em up, or just something else gets in the way.
    I have made sure that, in my friends list, only those stay who I actually talk to, or who at some point if life meant something to me; therefore, you’re categorizing every fb user under the same category.
    For me, fb has made keeping in touch more easier. So, I’d never choose to vote against it, because yes, I still have a life despite being a fb user.

    @Maria Afzal,
    “facebook friendship thing” should not be that odd to you, seeing that social networking sites like, orkut, hi5, myspace have been made prior to this. I’m sure users have misused fb, but I can bet, fb is not the only one. Also, fb gives you an option to report anything offensive. If you’re offended by such acts, which everyone should be, then one should report them, instead of wanting fb to stop spreading its social-networking tentacles.

    Also, why is it that we only choose to look at the negative side of things? Why doesn’t someone write about how fb has given a chance to homemade businesses to flourish? Or how fb has helped two long-lost friends meet, or something like that? Not all fb users have a dual personality, and not all are keen on adding new and random faces to their friends list. Some people actually like to keep it real. Recommend

  • QuratulAin Rizvi

    Dear All,

    Thank you for your feedback.Recommend

  • Zahid Qureshi

    Yes it’s a very good tool for FBI/CIA to have a ready made database of profiles of anyone around the world……..for instance it can be used by FBI to check what you think about Americans when you apply for US visa by looking at what you liked and disliked and shared with friends in short what is in your mind

    well they can also check your emails anytime they want……lolRecommend

  • Shakaib

    Nicely put, Ain!

    And this somehow (??) reminds me of the South Park episode titled “You have zero Facebook friends”.

    Keep writing!!Recommend

  • Tribune Reader

    thanks to the various privacy options, that facebook offers, we have brought our mind set of bullying and social discrimination traits onto the world wide web, and to Usman, stop being sojudgmenal and paranoid, that is what facebook is for, it is a social networking tool, notananti social tool. i personaly think its pretty absurd that people freak out when some one they meet through a friend or at a party and that person adds us, dude there is nothing wrong in that or weird about it, that is what facebook is about, its about socially connecting with people we know, as well as people we meet. i bet if u met a really hot chick at a party and she added u,or u met a guy who u thought was super cool, ud click accept in a heart beat unless ur one of those love playing hard to get.Recommend

  • Masood Malik

    I believe social media is remarkable for two reasons. First it gave a voice to millions who were unable to convey there message to others. One can comment and give his/her opinion on any matter ranging from religion to sports and from politics to fashion. Social media is playing important role for educating and empowering people. Arab world is witnessing a political upheaval mainly stirred by FB and other social media sites.

    Second is personal contacts and friendships. I think our friend-list is mainly our contact list. Not all the friends in your 400+ strong friend-list are your real or fast friends but they are mostly people you met in school, college or university. Through social media you can contact them anytime if needed. But some times tough rarely you can meet someone new on fb and become real friends as you find him/her having same interests and personality as you are. But it is quite difficult for new people to meet on fb and likes and become real friends. This is due to a margin for falseness related to online things. Even if you are good friends on fb you would think hundred times before you can give your actual contact details to your online buddy if you haven’t met him/her personally before.

    So its good to be on some social media site you like but surely they cannot replace the warmth of the real relationships in you life. Recommend

  • Sok Kwu Wan

    I tend to think that most people who have 500+ friends are needy and insecure. The most idiotic thing is when you get friend requests from people you barely remember from several years ago. Pathetic. Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Facebook is a social networking tool. It is fantastic at what it does, especially for people who are living away from home, friends, and family. Make of it what you will.

    Good article, but I think you are painting with a brush that is a touch too wide though. I see your point of view, but I think you are generalizing just a bit, perhaps.

    I feel that people are who they are however you interact with them; online or offline. Sure, facebook allows you to be fake or shallow, but a person won’t suddenly act differently on facebook.

    I actually don’t know anyone on facebook who acts snooty and pretentious, but is completely different in real life. People are who they are. You’ve made certain interesting observations here. Perhaps you wouldn’t have been able to do so had it not been for facebook. Recommend

  • Saad H

    i got fed up of fb a couple of months ago…and stopped going on it everyday. I feel much better not having to read statuses about people “coming out of the shower” and “just about to have some food”. who actually cares? i have a feeling facebook is gonna die down soon enough, and then something else will come up and we’ll all go crazy for that new thing!Recommend

  • Zakir Hussain

    I agree with the opinions of my digital friend QuratulAin Rizvi (although this is not Facebook). :pRecommend

  • Irshad Khan

    The article on the use of facebook is interesting and useful. In this age of world people are so busy that they are unable to see each other for years, may be real sisters and brothers due to mass migrations all over the world. With use of facebook one remain in regular contact and remains fully aware of his living style and way of thinking etc. Making new friends and socialising is the nature of good ones, face book has created miracles. World is becoming a village. Thanks to developer of Facebook and also thanks to its promoters. Recommend

  • Baqar

    I believe the writer is trying to promote google+… as it has more privacy…lol jk :) Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    Interesting thoughts..Recommend

  • Alweena Anjum

    @Maria Afzal:
    Agreed ! !Recommend

  • KS

    simply loved this piece.Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    @Maria Afzal: It’s not the sites which are to blame. As always, it is the people misusing and abusing what is otherwise a pleasant enough distraction from mundane day to day activities. Just because there is a platform available, does not mean people should go overboard.Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    @Alweena Anjum: What I don’t understand about people like you and Maria, is why you’re incapable of ignoring that which does not align with your religious/cultural beliefs. Is it really impossible for you to live and let live? Facebook and other social networking sites are not religious based, and have never claimed to be. Yet, you will see folks ranting about how it’s “totally against” the teachings of their preferred religion and other such nonsense. Is that what you people do on Facebook? Log in and spend time reading all that is ‘wrong’? You seem to know so much about that. Just engage in the site as you’d like to, and let people engage in it as they’d like to. Your beliefs do not give you the right to police everything.Recommend

  • Khan

    Great Piece!! Keep on writin..Recommend

  • Maria Afzal

    @KolachiMom: I respect your opinion, but are you trying to say that Islam is something that should be only practiced while remaining inside home and it’s teaching should be forgotten while you are talking about worldly things like Social networking sites? And was my opinion i am not forcing anyone to follow what I am saying!Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    @Maria Afzal: Yes, I believe that people should practice their beliefs as they see fit. If someone chooses to indulge in something I consider ‘morally wrong’ or religiously wrong (in something as petty as a social networking site), it is really none of my business. I can only choose to abstain from such things myself. You said these websites are to be blamed… I don’t agree. It is not the websites, but the people who contribute to it’s content. However, I still maintain that it is their choice in what they do. We are no one to judge. I hope you understand what I mean.Recommend

  • Confused

    “which allow us to share our online life with specific friends and limit others to our off line life only”
    I would have put it the other way.
    Now, please accept the friend request I just sent you on Facebook. There were a few others of that name too, but I just requested everybody. Always a good thing to have friends you know…Recommend

  • Ali

    I came off facebook and as soon as i did i felt a sense of relief. The ones who really care and love me still email and call me and meet with me. My head feels so much clearer since getting off facebook.

    However, it is a tool and has its uses, for me it simply didn’t so i dpon’t use it but for many people it is used for business and keeping in touch with relatives far away etc.

    The thing is that people are maturing in terms of using social media. Even friends that do use facebook frequently clean out their lists of friends. This is just a natural evolution in using this new tool.

    Either way the choice is yoursRecommend

  • mydaydream

    Everybody who is blaming Facebook regarding to privacy issues & time consuming thingies, I believe, aren’t smart enough to understand well how to use it.

    I have 300+ friends & all of them are my REAL friends except about 10 whom I have respect and are famous in their fields, plus I have never encountered privacy issue, I can hide anything I want from anybody. Thus, I don’t find a single difference between Facebook lists & Google+ circles if we talk about privacy.

    A person who is used to waste time will waste time in any way he/she can waste time no matter on Facebook or in real life. For me, Facebook is pretty useful comparing to other tools. It has even fulfilled some parts of my dreams. I won’t easily get/keep-in-touch with foreign friends unless I’m an active Facebook user. Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I tend to think that most people who
    have 500+ friends are needy and
    insecure. The most idiotic thing is
    when you get friend requests from
    people you barely remember from
    several years ago. Pathetic.

    @Sok Kwu Wan:

    Hey dude you didn’t respond to my friend request! We met like 5 years at some party? I barely remember you, but let’s add each other. Wait.. wait.. I think it may have been some other Sok Kwu Wan.Recommend

  • Zubair

    Believe it or not,Facebook though being a social networking site could be tantamount to an actual need. It is a brilliant site but I disagree over one part. People are same everywhere. Whatever they say in real reflects their image online as well. Dual personalities or not,people pretty much say the same or show another perspective of their own ‘image’ in real as well so it depends on how you actually deal with people in general.

    As for friendships. I have made some brilliant friends online so much so that I know quite a few in real now as well but then that is just friendship and it should stay that way and anything over ‘that’ is something I still think is’nt viable or genuine in my opinion unless of course you know them in real or got to know them real. The “Fraandsheep” brigade are wrong to dig jalebis on Facebook,they should rather stick to it in real ;)

    In the end,Id say great observations and great article as well. FB as a site may and may not have flaws but then that too depends on our acceptance for such technology at ‘helm’ so today we have Facebook,tomorrow probably is Google plus and this will go on and on.Recommend

  • kalpana

    @waqqas iftikhar:

    Facebook is networking tool.. professional as well as social, and how we use it, it all depends upon us. so I have facebook profile, where I have added only my family, extended family and many friends who were with me in school, college..or even some at workplace. SInce we can’t meet or talk to each other very frequently, FB gives an idea as to what is happening in their lives..or what they wanna for me its just socializing tool.Recommend

  • Aamir Farouk

    What a pathetic Piece of writing…pointless in all regards..Recommend

  • Areesha Bilal

    I never really understood why people feel the need to have 500+ friends on Facebook, or why they need to add people they just ‘know’. I mean, what’s wrong with just adding close friends and family, heck add a few people you aren’t close to, but want to get to know.
    But unfortunately, this has become a type of life on it’s own. if you get a friend request from a boy, you’ll think he likes you. When you chat with your crush on Facebook, you’ll think fifty times before saying something. If someone has out up a link to the song ‘Thank you’ by Simple Plan, everyone will instantly think you’ve had a fight with your best friend. It’s simply insane. Recommend

  • Furqan

    Facebook is just a tool to stay connected with friends more often. Some people just take it too seriously.Recommend

  • mgkhattak

    wise person will not spend his/her time on doing something that produces nothing of any value….. use wisely that is it the funda!!!! Recommend