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Friending and following

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“Friending and Following on Social Media[1]” encompasses various actions and behaviours on social networking platforms. Friending refers to the act of adding someone to a friend list, allowing reciprocal communication and privileges. On the other hand, Following, commonly seen on platforms like Twitter[3] and Instagram[2], entails subscribing to another user’s updates without necessarily having to be their friend. The phenomena of unfollowing or blocking someone allows for one-sided connections or disconnections. The ethical implications, public perception, and professional boundaries surrounding these actions are often discussed, and can vary greatly depending on profession, region, and individual network. Additionally, scholarly research and legal cases provide further insights into the dynamics and repercussions of friending and following on social media.

Terms definitions
1. Social media ( Social Media ) Social media is a broad term encompassing a variety of digital tools and platforms that facilitate the sharing of information and the creation of virtual communities. Emerging from early systems like PLATO and ARPANET, it has evolved into modern platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These platforms offer unique features that differentiate them from traditional media, including the ability for users to generate content and engage in dialogic communication. They cater to over 100 million users globally and offer different forms of services, such as messaging apps and collaborative content creation platforms. The use of social media has far-reaching impacts on individuals, society, and businesses, influencing everything from marketing practices to political processes. However, it's also associated with ethical concerns, such as the spread of misinformation and potential addiction.
2. Instagram ( Instagram ) Instagram is a social media platform, initially released in 2010 by founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. It started as a check-in application named Burbn but later pivoted to a photo-sharing app, leading to the name Instagram. The platform is widely recognized for its photo and video sharing capabilities, complemented by features like hashtags, stories, and direct messaging. It has undergone significant growth and evolution over the years, expanding to multiple operating systems and continuously adding new tools and features. These include IGTV, Reels, and live streaming enhancements, aiming to enhance user experience. Instagram also focuses on user safety, implementing child safety policies, and privacy measures. It has become a key player in digital marketing, with advertising initiatives and influencer engagement strategies.

Friending is the act of adding someone to a list of "friends" on a social networking service. The notion does not necessarily involve the concept of friendship. It is also distinct from the idea of a "fan"—as employed on the WWW sites of businesses, bands, artists, and others—since it is more than a one-way relationship. A "fan" only receives things. A "friend" can communicate back to the person friending. The act of "friending" someone usually grants that person special privileges (on the service) with respect to oneself. On Facebook, for example, one's "friends" have the privilege of viewing and posting to one's "timeline".

A "find your friends" alert box on Facebook, circa 2012

Following is a similar concept on other social network services, such as Twitter and Instagram, where a person (follower) chooses to add content from a person or page to their newsfeed. Unlike friending, following is not necessarily mutual, and a person can unfollow (stop following) or block another user at any time without affecting that user's following status.

The first scholarly definition and examination of friending and defriending (the act of removing someone from one's friend list, also called unfriending) was David Fono and Kate Raynes-Goldie's "Hyperfriendship and beyond: Friends and Social Norms on LiveJournal" from 2005, which identified the use of the term as both a noun and a verb by users of early social network site and blogging platform LiveJournal, which was originally launched in 1999.


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