Covering a show about internet friends, Kyle Chayka examines the territory:
To use the term "friend" on the Internet is to confront a meaning of the word that has vastly expanded over the past decade. Now, there are all different kinds of friends — in addition to the real-life kind (including 'best friends' and 'frenemies') there are now defunct Myspace friends, Facebook friends whom users may or may not know in person, Gchat buddies who only exist to carry on the odd conversation, anonymous Tumblr followers, and those people whose intimate personal lives we follow on Twitter just because we can.
Pre-internet, as described by mystery writer John D. McDonald, friends were people with whom you fell into a kind of easy camaraderie without always knowing why and acquaintances were people you always felt awkward or guarded around.
The net knocks this duality into a cocked hat. You can be relaxed online with someone you might be very uncomfortable with in real life. People can diss you and then change screen names and be nice to you. Separating friends from frienemies gets harder when there are so many forums for random trash talking. But does the enforced single identity of the new AOLs threaten a return to the Organization Man conformity of the '50s?
In the exhibit Chayka describes, apparently everyone in the show is a friend of everyone else, or they might actually hate each other, but have united behind the common cause of making fun of MySpace. Some of the work sounds intriguing, but let's let Chayka talk about it, in the interest of preserving, uh, friendships.