The More We Get Together

Feature by Alex Cole | 22 Jul 2010
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Go to your Facebook page (don’t pretend you don’t have one). Check out your friends list. How many do you have there? Now actually go through the list and count how many you’d really invite to a party. Are the rest really your friends, or just people whose lives you’ve bumped only for a moment, and now you’re awkwardly hanging on like that old jar of salsa in the fridge you can’t bear to throw out.

The Edinburgh Book Festival this month is hosting Are Friends Electric? hosted by the Genomics Forum, a panel discussion tackling whether the friends we have online truly count as friends, and how our social lives have changed now that we have a window into people’s lives who we’ve barely met. The line between an emotional connection with another human being and raw information is quickly being blurred.

Facebook averages 130 friends per person, but biologists maintain that we can only manage a set number of close friendships in our social lives. Twitter sees over 50 million tweets every day, but is there any relationship between the so-called friends we have online and the people we meet up with at the pub? Even if they are the same person, do they talk and sound the same from the digital to the real? And is stalking old school mates online as illegal as it is in real life?

The panel features Jason Bradbury, Gadget Show host and one of the world’s most influential Twitterati, and Mariann Hardey, social media researcher and blogger extraordinaire, as well as more guests to be announced. Come ready with your own questions on who you know online, and if you really know them at all.


Are Friends Electric?, 15 Aug, 6pm at the RBS Corner Theatre in the Edinburgh Book Festival. £10(£8)