Intimacy and Friendship on Facebook

by Alex Lambert

A Critical Review by Valerie Robin


Generic female Facebook user picture

According to the Pew Research Foundation, half of all adult American users have 200+ friends on Facebook.














Intimacy and Friendship on Facebook book cover Lambert's Frameworks

Alex Lambert explains the history behind Facebook’s existence and follows by claiming that modern social structures are much more intense than they were before social networking sites, or SNSs. Lambert (2013) described our friendships via SNSs as “bureaucratized while the labour of intimacy is intensified” (p. 14, emphasis in original). He emphasized the shift from maintaining contact with a circle of people with which we regularly communicate to maintaining contact with varying tiers of people to whom we normally would not otherwise stay connected. These aspects correlate with ideas and theories familiar in our field. Lambert covered concepts such as the Facebook user’s willingness to participate in a virtual panopticon, derived from Michel Foucault’s (1977) Discipline and Punish, to Erving Goffman’s (1959) ideas of front and back spaces of social life in which we divide our rhetorical attentions.

Lambert's review of scholarship is interdisciplinary and sectioned so that any scholar might approach Intimacy and Friendship on Facebook from several angles. For example, he began his frameworks chapter by stating that "privacy is a fuzzy concept" (2013, p. 29). He backed this claim with grounding from scholars such as social psychologist Irwin Altman and media, culture, and communication scholar Helen Nissenbaum. Next, Lambert moved through concepts such as agency and social privacy, which he defined as "the way in which known ties can take possession of personal information" (p. 34). Again, he relies on interdisciplinary scholarship, citing individuals such as Microsoft social media researcher danah boyd and interactive programs researcher and game designer Kate Raynes-Goldie. To wrap up the section, Lambert (2013) covered Goffman's performance theories, which "are concerned with dialogical spaces" (p. 44), and explained computer-mediation communication scholar Nicole Ellison, Charles Stanfield, and Cliff Lampe's (2011) research on "different tie strengths and social capital" (Lambert, 2013, p. 46), which refers to the strong and weak ties we form and maintain between one another, both online and off.

Lambert's frameworks can certainly serve as a jumping off point for any researcher interested in social media, though those interested in the study of writing may have to dig a little deeper to get at the implications social media has in the area of rhetoric and composition. Either way, Lambert's study has potential for anyone looking to break into social media studies theoretically or pedagogically. Next Page