The XX Factor

Friends Vs. Friend-Like Entities

Over on the  New Yorker blog Susan Orlean disseminates what  The Social Network chose to overlook in favor of an IP drama: what Facebook and social networks actually mean for offline humans. Orleans writes: “Human relationships used to be easy: You had friends, boy- or girlfriends, parents, children, and landlords. Now, thanks to social media, it’s all gone sideways.” In  her loose “Social Media Bestiary,” Orleans identifies four different types of friendship for this brave new world, including, well,  friends , those people you actually share air with on a regular occasion, and “friend-like entities,” the virtual representations of people you’ve met online whether through MySpace or Goodreads, “or because some algorithm on Facebook “suggested” that you should be friends.” And according to some of the commenters on the post, friend-like entities seem even more precious-and prevalent-than friends. Good? Weird? Scary? All of the above?

Photograph of Susan Orlean by Joe Kohan for Getty Images.