Liquid Love, Facebook and Friendship: a case study
University of Peloponnese
According to Bauman’s Liquid Love (2003 ), the advance in virtual proximity
makes human connections frequent and shallower and simultaneously intense
and shorter. It makes us wonder if “friendships” on social networks are for “the
good, the pleasant or useful” (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII ).
The aim of this study is to investigate three different types of relationships
between young Internet users; exclusive Facebook friend, recently added
Facebook friend and exclusive face-to-face friend with regard to social
attraction, self-disclosure, predictability, trust, gender, length of relationship,
self-esteem and sociability.
A questionnaire was distributed in a private school of Athens to 158 students
with active accounts on Facebook (case study ). The findings show that students
with the largest number of friends in real life, also have a larger number of
friends on Facebook. There is moderate negative correlation between self-esteem
and hours spent on Facebook and moderate positive correlation between
sociality and the number of friends on Facebook. The values of friendship
(social attraction, self-disclosure, predictability and trust ) within the Facebook
“environment” are always more intense than in that outside Facebook. It was
also found that boys have higher levels of self-esteem and sociability, but the
differences are more pronounced in the former than in the latter.
Teenagers use technology, specifically social networks, to meet their needs.
This use must be understood and analyzed according to their circumstance and
not according to the expectations of adults. Technology is fully integrated into
the their daily routines (Livingstone, 2008: 395 ), thereby reshaping the
environment in which they live, by negotiating their identities and interacting
mostly with peers they know (boyd, 2014: 9-10 ). The search for self and identity
is associated within the context of sociability and friendship. A social network
like Facebook is the frame of reference.
“O my friends, there is no friend ”
J. Derrida, The Politics of Friendship
The above quotation, attributed to Aristotle by Derrida1, and the ensuing
debate on friendship (Foucault2, Agamben3 ) are quite indicative of the
ways in which the notion of friendship bisects the social, psychological and
In recent years, the phenomenal growth of social networks —partic -
ularly Facebook— contributed to make it clear that social networking
constitutes the most prominent choice for developing interpersonal
relationships between adolescents, consequently impelling social scientists
to produce relevant studies.
Bauman in his book Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds (2003)
criticizes the relationships in our liquid modern world. The notion of
“liquid love” describes connections as virtual relationships. Those who
were born after 1980 have been nicknamed “Digital Natives” (Prensky,
2001 ) or the “NET Generation” (Tapscott, 1998 ). Their lives are intensely
connected with technology and revolve around the use of computers, video
games, digital devices that can reproduce music, mobile phones and all the
other tools of the digital era (Prensky, 2001 ). Technology is fully incor po -
rated in their daily routines (Livingstone, 2008:395 ). In the liquid modern
setting of life, relationships are perhaps the most common, acute, deeply
felt and troublesome incarnations of ambivalence. He maintains that the
circulation of instant messages between Internet “friends” is actually of
greater value than the messages themselves. Bauman’s approach reminds
us of Anderson (1991 ), who coined the term “imagined community”
to describe the mystery of one’s tendency to identify within a broad circle
of total strangers, with whom he or she feels that the things they share
in common are important enough to make them a member of such a
community. According to Bauman, the advances in virtual proximity make
human connections more frequent and shallower, whilst simultaneously
being shorter and more intense. It makes us wonder whether Internet
“friendship” lean towards “the good, the pleasant or the useful” (Aristotle,
Nicomachean Ethics, VIII, 3 ).
This study aims to investigate whether certain psychological traits of
adolescent Internet users could provide similar behavioral patterns within
the context of their Internet friendships. It focuses on the differences
between three types of relationships between adolescent Internet users
(Facebook-exclusive friend, recent Facebook friend and non-Facebook
friend ), in particular among students of a private high school in Athens
(case study ) considering social attraction, self-disclosure, predictability,
trust, gender, duration of the relationship, self-esteem and sociability.
1 To define friendship is to define an absolute sense of mourning. In the presence of
the friend we mourn subjective autonomy and come to the realization of its inherent
impossibility (Derrida, 1996 ).
2 “… a relationship that is still formless, which is friendship: the sum of everything
through which they can give each other pleasure” (Foucault, 1997:135 ).
3 The friend lies at the very heart of philosophy; ‘philos’ (Greek ) meaning ‘friend’
(Agamben, 2009:25 ). “…to recognize someone as a friend means not being able to
recognize him as ‘something’ “(Agamben, 2009:31 ).