This chapter documents how social media is
incorporated into teen friendship practices in the
context of their everyday peer groups.
It concentrates on the role technology plays in
establishing, reinforcing, complicating, and
damaging friendship-driven social bonds (p.80-
Social media intersects with four types of everyday peer
Articulating friendship hierarchies
Peers and Friendship
The peer relations of children and teens are
structured by a developmental logic supported by
educational institutions organized by rigid age
boundaries (p. 83).
We share a cultural consensus that the ability to
socialize with peers and make friendships is a
key component of growing up.
Children are taught at an early age to learn how to
develop friendships with peers.
The “personal communities” that children develop
help them negotiate identity and intimacy (p.83).
Milner argues that teens hanging out, dating and
mobilizing tokens of popular culture all play a central
role in the development and maintenance of peer
Mediated teen social worlds began with the
telephone and continue to today’s popular social
Teens use all types of media available to display
their social identities and interact with their peers.
Most common form of social media amongst
teens is instant messaging, cell phones, and
social network sites.
When teens are involved in
online and offline are not
They are just considered
different settings where one
can still interact with friends
Social media mirror, magnify,
and extend everyday social
Teens use social media to continue what they
have always been doing:
Socialize with friends
Negotiate peer groups
Teens may select their friends, but their choice is
configured by the social, cultural and economic
conditions around them (p.88).
Most friendships among American teens are of
approximately the same age.
This is due to age-stratified school systems and
other cultural forces segregating youth by age.
Most people connect to others who share
their interests and identity. This is how
people choose their friends.
The teens interviewed in this chapter tended
toward building friendships with others of
similar age who shared their interests and
Social media makes it possible for teens to move
beyond geographic restrictions and connect with
While this could be beneficial to many research
shows that developing friendships online is not a
A survey of U.S. teens indicate that most teens
use social media to socialize with people they
already know or would like to know better(p.89).
They use social media as additional channels of
communication to interact with classmates and
turn acquaintances into friendships.
Social networking sites like Facebook can be
helpful in getting to know classmates better.
“Facebook makes it easier to talk to people at
school that you may not see a lot or know very
well.” –Melanie 15-year old from Kansas
Most social network sites require confirmation for
people to list one another and requires a “Friend
request” where the recipient is required to accept
or reject the request.
Teens must determine their own boundaries
concerning whom to accept and whom to reject.
Teens have different strategies for choosing
whom to mark as friends.
Some teens accept strangers
just so they can have a large
Or they will accept
classmates they don’t interact
with just so they don’t offend
or hurt anyone’s feelings.
While others only use
Myspace or Facebook to
communicate with close
friends and family.
It is socially unacceptable to delete a Friend one knows.
This only happens after a fight or breakup.
Now it is ok to move from an open profile to a closed one
and delete strangers.
By facing decisions about how to circumscribe
their Friends lists, teens are forced to consider
their relationships, the dynamics of their peer
group, and the ways in which their decisions may
affect others (p.100).
It forces teens to navigate their social lives in
Displaying friendship hierarchies online are
controversial and more fraught than the simple
articulation of Friend connections (p.100).
MySpace had a feature called “Top Friends” or
“Top 8” which forced teens to indicate whom they
were closest to among their friends.
This only created social drama because many
teens would get upset over who should make the
list and be in the first position.
Many teens expect that if they list
someone as a Top Friend, that person
should list them in return.
Teens see the Top Friends feature as a
litmus test of their relations and this
prompts anxieties in teens about where
they stand (p.101).
The give-and-take over these forms of social
ranking is an example of how social norms
are being negotiated in tandem with the
adoption of new technologies and how peers
give ongoing feedback to one another as part
of these struggles to develop new cultural
Status, Attention, and
Teens use social media to develop and maintain
friendships but at the same time use it to seek
attention and create drama.
Often the motivation is to relieve insecurities
about popularity and friendship.
New communication channels including mobile
phones, IM, and social network sites have all
been used to gossip.
Some teens believe that the new media tend to
replace the older media as a tool for gossip.
“The Internet has taken the place of phones… it
spreads all rumors and gossip” (p.105).
The Internet makes it easier for rumors and
gossip to spread faster and further making
social media a channel in teen drama.
It creates a new level of bullying.
A lot of drama that takes place in teens lives
involve crushes, jealousy and significant
Gossip, drama, bullying and posing are
unavoidable side effects of teens everyday
negotiations over friendship and peer status
It has been going on long before the Internet but
certain features of social media reinforce these
The public, persistent, searchable and
spreadable nature of mediated information
affects the way rumors flow and how dramas
play out (p.112).
While there is a dark side to what takes place,
teens still enjoy the friendship opportunities
social media provides.
Social media and social networking sites allow teens to
be more connected to the lives of their friends and peers.
It is part of the process of building, performing,
articulating and developing friendships and statuses.