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2014 Winter Issue 5 (February 14, 2014)

Friendsies with Benefits?

February 16, 2014
By Katie Koza

“Friends Made Easy.” That’s the tagline for Friendsy, the newest social networking site to hit Carleton College, but whether it will live up to its tempting claim remains to be seen. Created by Princeton undergraduates in 2013, this website, which allows students to anonymously express romantic, sexual, or platonic interest in other students, has spread to other institutions such as Harvard, Dartmouth, and Macalaster.

Since the site was launched at Carleton a few weeks ago, scores of Carls have created Friendsy accounts, but the ways in which the site will change—or fail to change—Carleton’s social interactions remain to be seen.

The website itself allows each user to create a profile customized with a photograph, gender, class year, interests, and other information. The user can then “browse” the other profiles and click on any (or all) of three buttons for the various profiles. One button signifies interest in a friendship, the next signifies interest in a hookup, and the final button signifies interest in a date. The person of interest will then be notified that someone sent him or her a request, but the person who received the request will not know who sent the request unless the feeling is mutual, as demonstrated by a matching request.

In some respects, Friendsy could be a shy person’s dream, since the site allows users to ask out other users without fear of rejection. There isn’t a whole lot to lose: if the feeling is mutual, the user will get a date with her crush, and if not, the user will not have revealed her feelings. This secretive setup could embolden many Carls who, if the unflattering stereotype is to be believed, are too awkward to ask a crush out in the traditional sense.

However, Friendsy could also be a shy person’s nightmare, especially if said shy person is on the receiving end of a request. For example, in order to discover the identity of an admirer, the user would have to play what I like to call, “romantic pin the tail on the donkey.” In other words, the user, who is blind to the suitor’s identity, would have to lob date invitations at anyone she thinks might be interested in order to ascertain who sent the request.

The hookup button, perhaps, is where Friendsy’s complexities could multiply. Imagine a situation where Jane sends a hookup request to John, and John sends a hookup request to Jane. Is this a contract of sorts? Does it imply consent, and if so, to what kinds of sexual behaviors?

The obvious response may be that a mutual request does not equal consent, but now imagine that Jane and John are in the classic tricky sexual assault court case where one party says that the interaction was consensual, and the other says that it was not. Since the interaction took place in a closed room, to solve the puzzle of “he said, she said,” could the courts turn to the Friendsy mutual hookup request as evidence? The site is new enough that there are no precedent court cases on this topic, but the question still begs consideration.

It’s possible that Friendsy is just a passing fad that won’t be taken seriously. Since its founding, some students have discounted or ridiculed it, according to an article in the Daily Princetonian. The response here at Carleton, from what I can gather, appears to be mixed. “I’ve heard that it has led to a few successful dates but I doubt it’s going to play a major role in what has never been a strong dating scene at Carleton,” said Robbie Emmet ’16, adding, “I think it could lead to some more friendships that might not otherwise happen.”

Ian MacEneany ’17 critiqued the site in last week’s edition of the CLAP, saying that what relationships boil down to is “talking to the people you’re attracted to, expressing your feelings and hoping those feelings are mutual instead of hiding behind a middle-man.”

Bailey Ulbricht ’15 was even more succinct in her feelings about Friendsy. Although she mentioned that some of her friends had found romance through the site, she also invoked an alternate word for cow manure.

Regardless of the future of Friendsy itself, online dating is booming, and the social and legal implications of such online connections are complex. People are multifaceted and strange, and I must admit that although I find Friendsy alluring, I’m skeptical of anything that purports to turn complex human interactions into a series of button pushes. Perhaps, online or off, “Friends Made Easy” is too much to ask for.

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