Another day, another New York Observer trend piece, which like most journalism, has basically been reduced to a long diary entry. (Full disclosure: We used to work there!) This week Gawker alum Doree tackles Facebook's new "People You May Know" feature, in which the social networking site mines your friend list and then matches people up with other friends on your list. It's the cyber equivalent of being at a party and the host awkwardly pushing you over to someone and saying, "Have you met Donna?!"
Of these forced Venn diagram friendships, Doree writes:
"My preppy tennis partner (if I had one) is not likely to get along with my co-worker who lives in Williamsburg and goes to indie rock shows every night, just because they're friends with me. What this feature does so clumsily is that it takes a kind of wild, random shot in the dark that the things that make you friends with one person will necessarily make you friends with their friends, even though that is almost always not the case."
But here's the thing: there's a huge difference between your real "friends" and your Facebook "friends," anyway. 80% of your facebook "friends" are not friends in any sense of the word. Sometimes they're people who want to sleep with you and you don't want to sleep with them — and both of you know it — so being Facebook "friends" is a good nonsexual compromise. Or they're people who you feel so thoroughly indifferent about that they're relegated to this perpetually impersonal cyber relationship so they can't ruin your life with their aggressive mediocrity in person. So the people that Facebook is suggesting that you meet probably have a tenuous connection to your friend at best.
In a way this feature is the logical conclusion of computers. Computers were conceived of and designed by people with no friends, so it makes sense that computers are now programmed to get you friends. It's kind of like the ultimate nerd victory. But not really, because in the end they still have no real friends.
(Status: Noelle Hancock....is just making it up as she goes along)