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Are you really my friend?

According to Boyd's article, a friendship, in typical terms, must involve "some degree of mutual love or admiration." In other words, most people would consider friends to be at least somewhat intimate with each other. This is an interesting definition for Boyd to bring up in an article about internet communities. How many of us can say that we're intimate with our computers, or with the profile of some random person we've never met on Myspace? Still, I think community and friendship can be two totally different things. When I think of community, the first thing that usually comes to mind is just the people who come together in a specific place to make civilization possible for everyone. Maybe I'm closer to the people I live with than I am to some of my professors or the people who sell me food at the restaurants around campus, but everyone still comes together to make the campus one big community. Online communities are pretty much the same, only instead of making civilized life possible, they make a social network or discussion group. After all, you can't have either of those things without people.

But anyway, back to the concept of friendship online. I'm proud to say I don't have a Myspace profile, but I've still been sucked into Facebook being a college student and everything, so I'll use it as my first example. Many of the people on my friends list on Facebook are people I see and interact with everyday, people I'd list among my friends here at school if you happened to ask me. Others are people I don't see that often, but I still see and talk to them occasionally when I happen to be in town at home. You could call them friends of mine too. Still others are people I was basically familiar with in high school, but even back then I didn't talk to them much. Sure, I'd recognize and say hi to these people if I happened to run into them again, but are they really friends in the sense that the people I talk to every day are? Also, consider the friends I have whom I've never even met from the message boards. I do enjoy talking to them, and I know I probably would be friends with them if I ever met them face to face because of our common interests, but there's still a level of intimacy that just isn't there with them. In that case, it almost seems like the meaning of friendship, at least colloquially, is totally changed online. It seems to be less of a question of how well you know a person than it is if you know a person. But even so, the idea of there being online communities is still a sound one. Baym's example of a soap opera community is actually pretty similar to the adultswim.com forums. In fact, much of the anime I discuss there is often compared to soap operas because of its serial nature. And just like the soap opera community, there are abbreviations to refer to specific shows (i.e. FMA = Full Metal Alchemist, CB = Cowboy Bebop, and comedy too, ATHF = Aqua Teen Hunger Force etc.), people who lurk, occasional trivia threads, pretty much everything there only relating to a totally different genre of TV.