Your Future Will Be Filled with Promiscuous Friends

Reality television, consumed with liberal doses of MySpace and Facebook, will make friendships of the future far more promiscuous. So says a newly-released study about people who invest a lot of time in creating profiles of themselves online (which is increasingly all of us). The authors of the study have discovered an intriguing trend in the way people are re-define "friendship" after hanging out a lot online. The good news is that current trends all point to more casual sex for people who "friend" each other online.

While plenty of studies have already shown that friendships have become much more casual in an era of "friending" random people on MySpace, this new study takes that idea further. Its authors describe how reality TV and social networking sites feed into each other, creating a world where many people think of themselves and their friends less as real people and more like iconic celebrities. The researchers call this a shift toward having "mediated" selves, as if all social interactions take place via the media.

According to PhysOrg:

These heavy [reality TV] viewers also produced a significantly larger number of mediated selves and had a greater intimacy toward, and urge to interact with, the mediated social images of others.

All of these, say the researchers, are commonly considered celebrity behaviors . . .

"Promiscuous frienders may be reproducing the fame-seeking behavior that is modeled by reality TV characters," [researcher Michael] Stefanone says, adding that these behaviors are believed to reflect the systematic processing of messages and behaviors modeled within the [reality TV] genre.

In the terms of the study, promiscuous frienders are not literally sleeping around — they are just willing to call people friends even when they aren't necessarily intimate.

But if you regard this study as picking up on an early stage in a greater social change regarding friendship, it's easy to see how the good kind of real-life promiscuity might be involved too. If we all begin to see ourselves as mediated people, as celebrities, we're less likely to need intimacy before taking the plunge into the sack. We'll imagine that we "know" somebody already because we've seen them online and so we don't need all those "take me out to coffee" preliminaries before getting busy.

We're All Stars Now [via PhysOrg]

Also, you can check out a PDF of the study.