For most teens, friendship-driven and interest-
driven practices play a more central role in structuring
new media participation than interest-driven practices.
MySpace and Facebook are common tools for friendship-driven practices
These sites are emblematic of the genre of
friendship-driven participation and support the kind of
social relations that center on popularity, romantic
relationships, and status
“If you’re not on MySpace you don’t exist”
Teens use social networking sites (SNSs) to keep in touch
with their friends, classmates, and peers when getting
together is not possible.
For many contemporary teenagers, losing access to
social media is tantamount to losing their social world
Teen practices when using social media mirror those
that scholars have documented in other places where
teens gather with peers
Teens gather in networked public spaces just as they do in public places
like parking lots or shopping malls for a variety of reasons: including to
negotiate identity, gossip, support one another, jockey for status,
collaborate, share information, joke, etc.
Social media allow teens to extend their interactions
beyond physical boundaries
Technology plays a huge role in establishing, reinforcing,
complicating, and damaging friendship-driven social bonds.
This chapter examines how social media intersects with
four types of everyday peer negotiations:
Articulating friendship hierarchies
Navigating issues of status, attention, and drama
“1950’s have been identified as a pivotal period
that saw the emergence of many of the dynamics
that define contemporary youth peer culture and
adult attitudes toward youth. This period saw a
broadening of the base of teens who attend high
school, a growth in youth popular and
commercial cultures, and the emergence of an
age-segregated peer culture that dominated
youth’s everyday negotiations over status and
As more and more youth attended high school they were becoming more
independent as a culture from their parents. They were starting to make
their own decisions, which were influenced heavily by others because of their
constant contact with others their age. I think that all the contact this
generation had with others their age increased the influence status and
identity had in their everyday lives. This period started the migration of
youth from public forms of friendship and gathering to, eventually, SNSs.
“The peer relations of children and teens are structured by a developmental
logic supported by educational institutions organized by rigid age boundaries.
We share a cultural consensus that the ability to socialize with peers and
make friendships is a key component of growing up as a competent social
being, and that young people need to be immersed in peer cultures from an
early age.” (83)
As a culture we put a great amount of value into having lasting relationships and
socializing with others from an early age. When we have children we plan
play dates as soon as they are able to recognize the presence of other
people. The social media world acted as almost a new culture for people to
be immersed in and foster relationships through. The relations and social
dynamics that play out in school extend into the spaces created through
social media. The places that teens would normally socialize in have been
created in the virtual world that allows them to socialize with those they
may not see on a daily basis.
“Social media theoretically allow teens to move beyond geographic
restrictions and connect with new people. Presumably, this means that
participants could develop relations with people who are quite different from
Although one would think that SNSs allow teens to connect with new people
from different walks of life, this is typically not what happens. Like earlier
discussed, SNSs are used by teens as virtual “hang-out spots” where they are
unrestricted and typically uncensored. As Sabrina from the text describes, I
just find my friends and hang out.” (89)
“This is not to say that teens to not leverage social media to develop
friendships. Tees frequently use social media as additional channels of
communication to get to know classmates and turn acquaintances into
SNSs can be useful tools to learning more about acquaintances and classmates.
Teens often use social media to make new friends of develop new
friendships, but they usually do so with acquaintances they have met already
or friends of friends.
Some teens, especially marginalized or ostracized ones,
use the opportunity that SNSs give them to meet new
people from different areas.
Teens who are driven by specific interests that may not by
supported by their schools, such as gaming, can build
relations with others online.
This is exactly the kind of SNS usage that caused schools to
implement the same sort of “stranger danger” education about
people met in the real world to those met online.
Mainstream media, law enforcement, teachers, and parents
reinforce the message that interacting with strangers online is
“One of the ways in which social media alter friendship practices is
through the forced- and often public- articulation of social
This serves three purposes
Lists (such as friends list of buddy lists) act as an address book allowing
participants to keep a record of all the people they know
They allow participants to leverage privacy settings to control who
accesses their content
The public display of connections that takes place in social network sites
can represent an individual’s social identity and status
This is one way that teens are able to monitor and shape their status
online. The amount of Facebook friends or followers on Twitter they
have represent a sort of popularity or status in the real world.
The idea of the “friend request” adds another layer of
social processing to the process of performing
friendships through SNSs.
“Friending” has become a ritual that can permit or
prompt direct interaction when teens involved see one
another in school or at a group function; it lays the
groundwork for building a friendship and gives a reason
to single the other out from the group and initiate
Features on social media sites like Top Friends on
MySpace creates a hierarchy among online
friendships. This allowed users to rank their
friends based on relational closeness.
“Reciprocity plays a central role in the negotiation
of Top Friends. Many teens expect that if they list
someone as a Top Friend, that person should list
them in return. Teens worry about not being listed
and about failing to list those who list them.” (101)
Examples from the text, such as a fifteen year old
named Jordan stating “Oh, it’s so stressful
because if you’re in someone else’s Top Friends
then you feel bad if they’re not in yours,”
highlight the power of this feature in shaping
how teens interact with SNSs. The main problem
with online rankings like Top Friends is that it
created hierarchies that are not present offline,
forcing a new set of social status negotiations.
Status, Attention, and Drama
“While teen dramas are only one component of friendship, they often
are made extremely visible by social media. The persistent and
networked qualities of social media alter the ways that these dramas
play out in teen life.” (104)
Even though I am older than the group described in the text, I see this
exact thing happen on a daily basis. Drama is either created online
between two people or groups of people, or happens in real life and
is continued on SNSs. For this reason it is important to pay attention
to the role that social media play in the negotiation of teen status.
“Gossip and rumors have played a role
in teen struggles for status and
attention since well before social
media entered the scene.” (105)
I am a strong advocate for SNSs and use
them daily personally and for work.
They have a lot of great qualities for
maintaining friendships. However,
many teens have not learned how to
manage and maintain friendships in
real life when they begin to use
SNSs. This causes the gossip and
rumors that serve as a catalyst for