Monday, September 27, 2010

Friendship in an Age of Friending

In the era of the Facebook phenomenon, have we forgotten friendship for the sake of friending? Recently, students, faculty, and alumni gathered on campus to discuss this question in an event sponsored by the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF), Gordon’s great books honors program. “The rewards for a site like Facebook are obvious,” commented Dr. Tal Howard, JAF director, in his introduction to the event, “but might there be some ironic downfalls?”

The discussion centered around responses from a panel of four recent JAF program alumni to William Deresiewicz’s article “Faux Friendship.” Each panelist offered a unique and impassioned take on the issue, ranging from total Facebook abstinence to frustrated disagreement with the writer’s portrayal of their generation as shallow and lacking meaningful relationships. “This is our future? Deresiewicz is so flippantly condemning,” commented senior David Denison, an international affairs and philosophy double major from Windsor, Colorado.

It seems only natural that such a discussion would take place at Gordon College, where Professors Sybil Coleman and Bryan Auday (social work and psychology, respectively) conducted research for their scholarly article on the popular social networking site, and where students are encouraged to examine their own use of websites like Facebook through a technology fast. “The students really have their hearts behind this issue,” explained Ryan Groff, JAF program coordinator. Through events like these, the JAF honors program strives “to be a contributor to the intellectual and spiritual environment on campus.”

Photo: Dr. Tal Howard, associate professor of history and JAF director, gives an introduction to the panel discussion; panelists Joel Noelette, David Denison, Sarah Grimes and Ryan Stadt seated to his left.

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