friendster, noun. An acquaintance, either real or virtual, that you have met through the Friendster network. The term is typically used by network participants to describe each other.

The social networking Web site invented by Jonathan Abrams experienced phenomenal growth in 2003 (The beta site started in March, and by May had 300,000 users. By July, one million users had signed on, leading to daily server outages). With the site inviting disclosure of personal details, including photos, to allow users to find others with common interests (favorite books, music, activities, etc), users may learn enough about one another to be-- well, not friends exactly, but friendsters.

Some users confess to using the network for social due diligence, just as they do with Google.

The brand name most likely derived from combining the words "friend" and Napster.


Side note: It is difficult to locate e2 users on Friendster, unless they have specifically listed "everything2" in their interests. (You also don't get access to the full network of users... only those you are connected to via degrees of separation-- part of the growth is that you invite several of your own friends along when you join, so that you don't show up as a loser with no friends). The site encourages the use of your real name, so it is unlikely that you'll find anyone from e2 by searching on their noder name (Wintersweet, Ereneta, misuba, Truffle and Pseudo Intellectual, for example, all appear on Friendster-- but you have to know their real names to get them to appear in your Friendster network.)


Sources:
Friendster. <http://www.friendster.com>
Leander Kahney, "Making Friendsters in High Places." Wired News. 17 July 2003. <http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,59650,00.html> (31 July 2003)
William O'Shea. "Six Degress of Sexual Frustration." The Village Voice. 4 June 2003. <http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0323/oshea.php> (31 July 2003)
Douglas Wolk. "Six Degrees of Procrastination." Slate. 16 July 2003. <http://slate.msn.com/id/2085714/> (31 July 2003)

Keepin’ it fake on Friendster

What happened was that sometime back in oh-three you got invited to join this friendster thing; and under peer pressure hard enough to form diamonds, you caved; and soon you too knew the pleasures of looking up 7th grade crushes, crackpot theorizing on hipster sociology, and semi-stalking local quasi-celebrities. And you loved how your social whirl saw this big increase in dinners out and plus ones and parties and makeout cab rides, as vague acquaintances emerged as admirers, and you could “casually” spread invites to people whose names you weren’t even sure of just a month ago.

But you found the greatest pleasure in writing your friends arch and clever testimonials half-intended as ads for your own wit and charm, and altering your behavior at social functions to maximize the potential for amusing testimonials being written about you. Why else would you start a game of spin the bottle at your age? Ooh you loved the doting fawning attention of a good drooly testimonialwell that was the best of all, and whenever you and one of the Superstar Elite had a narcissistic little see-and-be-scene chat in loud voices in a prominent spot where everyone in the club could see you, you’d find yourself idly hoping someone would write a testimonial chronicling your victory and then you’d think how bizarre it was to just think that.

Now, most of the strangers who’d email you were unbearably nerdy and unsuitable, and some of them were pathetic characters indeed; they obviously thought friendster was for internet dating (taboo! taboo!) rather than social climbing, and their profiles were embarrassingly detailed and sincere: “5’ 6” and 180 lbs.” “I’d like to meet someone who’s not too judgmental.” The whole premise was that having friends connected to your profile should keep you honest with your self-description, but among your too-cool circle, it worked the opposite way. A card-carrying hipster had to have a minimal, ironic or tongue-in-cheek profile; should log in only now and then, just to read flirty messages and party invites; and must frequently claim disdain for it all.

But YOU, you were into it (secretly), and you logged in every day and told no one how interested you really were. Because recently you’d started really noticing all these rather unconventional people popping up in the gallery, characters whose authenticity was dubious or outright fake, and profiles not for people at all but for inanimate objects, places, historical events, abstract concepts, archetypes, brand names and the like. There was Moon and there was Soap, and they were friends with Satan and Seattle, Goldfish Cracker and WorldTradeCenter, and it was all just dumb and pointless enough to be funny and…well, fascinating.

Goodness! The stink of geekiness was all over this nonsense, so you certainly didn’t start telling your friends about your private habit. But you couldn’t stay away. To avoid being suspected of padding your friend list with non-friends, you set yourself up with your own fake account and started collecting these oddities, and sure, at first “You are about to add New York as your friend” sounded funny, but soon “Continue only if you really are friends with Chairman Mao” or “OK, your request to add Beer Picnic as a friend has been sent to Beer Picnic for approval” hardly merited notice. Then you were virtually partying with such fakester luminaries as Regnim (he had a posse of 1000+, he was the Mahir of the Antarctic), Squalid Toad, P.P. & Kahka, Uncool Onlooker, Majesty Chaltuu, Moroccan Barbie, El Chakacabra, Travel Washlet, The Tonester, QuoterGal, Elrond Hubbard, TheFatMaleModel, Ponch & Jon, Hobo Love, Homo Thug, Lord Daftwager, Faberge Egg, Bubby Nesslebaum, SpoogeMop, Send Money, Vanity Project, Mr. Caligula, Dr. BrainInAJar, and Radtarded. By and by you found it reasonable to ask yourself “Who is this Minger, and why did he email every single one of my fake identities about strawberries?” because you were now using 27 random and varied personae to write messages and testimonials to cartoon characters, household items, decades, and trivial aspects of popular culture. There was this beautiful freedom you felt when your real name wasn’t attached to what you wrote and you could say whatever inappropriate crap you wanted, and ask all manner of folks to be your friends without the slightest taint of the fear of rejection. Who the fuck cared if Tampon String didn’t want to be your fake friend? Of course you were all participating in a weird mockery of socializing, and in your heart you knew the people behind these characters were quite likely the same dreadful nerds whose messages you’d never answer when they emailed the REAL you. But in their fakery they managed to be charming. Enchanting, even.

Being a classically trained scenester, you sussed out the A-list right away: those captivating fakes that had you checking back every day to see the new testimonials, the bizarre photos, the hilarious bulletins. Not that different from the scene among the “real” profiles, but all the testimonials being swapped here were blatant fabrications building up this weird kind of fictional framework. And people just kept finding new unauthorized uses for the system. You could make a simple friendster profile act like a zine, a club, a shop, a trashy novel or a reality show if you were creative. You could disseminate the login and password to a profile and encourage like-minded fakesters to fuck around with it. You could befriend 200 people as cute, innocent Sissy the speech therapist and then morph into Garbagriha, satanic DNA/RNA premixer who was really into her cunt-penis. But most satisfying was involving crowds of strangers in your fictional comedies and dramas, even creating new profiles based on the fictional characters they mentioned in their fake dramas, just to freak them out a little.

And really—if you were going to participate in the façade of internet socializing, wasn’t it ultimately more honest (not to mention more fun) to do so with admittedly fake personae, rather than the ones that purported to be real? Along the way you’d essentially abandoned the profile that bore your actual photo and real name, checking it cursorily now and then, but no longer feeling any emotional letdown if you had no messages or new testimonials to approve. As far as your friends knew, you had checked out of the friendster system. It horrified you, what they’d say if they knew how many profiles you had, how much time you spent on them.

You gave up television to make time for it, because it wasn’t just the socializing that was more fun on the fake side of things; the flirtations were more exciting too. You could be so much more blatant with the seduction if it was all patently fake; plus, the object of your interest existed essentially in the collective imagination, and was thus way foxxxier than real... So when you realized that one of those cuties had multiple personae of his own, you started bombarding all of his with flirty and explicit notes from all of yours. And he got it; he played along; how yummy to be participating in this crazy orgy directed by the two of you!

But soon you saw how Wilde was right, and how life really does imitate art, because once you had written him enough tongue-in-cheek “oh baby…hhh hhhhhhhh hhh” messages, you started to feel it. And soon you had a delicious non-ironic faux CRUSH and dreamed saucy dreams about him whenever he wrote you of his fake love.

OK. Maybe you let it go a little too far; when a presumably real girl wrote him a drooly testimonial, you were truly jealous, and you had a terrible painful time with the bitter truths that you’d never met, and you weren’t likely to meet, and the living breathing sweating girls in his town who had juicy vaginas for him weren’t basing their hot flashes on his writing style and five photos but on how he moved, how he smelled, how he told a joke, how his body felt when it crushed their bodies under its muscular weight, oh god, it was too much; you emailed him to meet you at the hallway heater in five minutes, and then you snuck into bed and masturbated to thoughts of him.

Luckily, faux crushes evaporated so much more easily than real ones, and soon you found other enchanting fakes to be your fantasyland suitors and could hardly remember what had attracted you to him in the first place. Anyway, there were more narcissistic allures for you, because with one of your fakes you had touched on something that people couldn’t get enough of, and you found yourself fake-famous for a minute or fifteen. It didn’t even matter what the profile’s premise was, and in fact the profile itself was as minimal as they came. The secret was writing every single fake friend a testimonial like no other. You meditated on these strangers’ profiles, stared at their photos, and tried to divine something transcendent to write for themand sometimes you felt like you were writing about yourself, staring into a mirror instead of into their psyches, but the responses were overwhelming. “How could you know that about me?” they wrote you later. “You understand me better than my real friends,” they said, and even, touchingly, “You are important to me.”

But you were getting a dozen or more friend requests every time you logged in, and keeping up with testimonials you owed was getting to be a drag. And then you had so many hundreds of fakester friends that you got deleted by the powers that be, and to tell the truth, you couldn’t even muster a convincing “fuck that” over it.

And then you went on holiday where there was no electricity for two solid weeks, and the withdrawal wasn’t even that bad, and you weren’t all that crabby and anxious about all the fake fun you were missing, it was a blessed relief to let all that fake claptrap wash away as you stared at the ocean and just glazed. And when you got back home you found to no great surprise that it was all over for you, after all, the charm was gone; you never looked at it again


Activities for Extended Learning and Discussion

  1. Visit www.friendster.com or www.myspace.com and go to it.
  2. All the personalities named above, if not already killed off, are real fakesters. Go look at them and laugh. I mean it. Some of them are really fuckin’ funny.
  3. Keep me posted on your hijinx and faux dramas.

Activities for Extended Learning and Discussion (revised)

  1. Turn off that computer THIS MINUTE and stop wasting the beautiful day!

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