Intimacy and Friendship on Facebook

by Alex Lambert

A Critical Review by Valerie Robin


Generic male Facebook user picture

Facebook has recently released findings that our choice in friends, and not Facebook’s algorithms, may limit our exposure to diverse political views. For more information, visit Facebook’s Exposure to Diverse Information on Facebook (Bakshy, Messing, & Adamic, 2015).















Intimacy and Friendship on Facebook book cover Conclusions

Alex Lambert does not claim to be a rhetorician, and at first read, it may seem difficult to situate Intimacy and Friendship on Facebook in our field. It is certainly more of a starting place from which to explore social media than it is a contribution to scholarship about writing and the teaching of writing. Even so, the writing we do on Facebook still employs rhetorical elements each time we hit "Post." The choices we make in whether or not to like a comment or comment on a post are all digital ways of communicating and writing. All of these actions require various forms of agency and a working knowledge of kairos in social situations. Each crafted post, no matter how banal or insightful, conveys more about the author than we might first acknowledge. It's worth asking whether or not studying social media behavior might give us some insight into how people today are developing rhetorical skills.

Lambert does have several limitations in his study. He only examines Facebook and general Facebook interactions without any comparison to other social media platforms. Further, he leaves out all mention of the Event and Chat functions—two features I highly value as a regular user of the site. Despite these missing elements, Lambert successfully provides scholars of social media with insight into the ways in which the many performances of friendship on Facebook might contribute to rhetoric and composition research concerning social media networking sites.

Lambert leaves us with useful terms like intensive intimacy and performance object from which we can build more involved and larger studies within a rhetoric and composition viewpoint. In his final chapter, Lambert gave suggestions to continue the conversation he has started here and asks insightful questions like, "Will the 'web of things' further complicate the object relations of cyber-intimacy?" (p. 184). Whether or not readers plan to approach this text from a social frame of reference or not, its scope is general enough that readers are likely to find something useful within its pages.