Tanja Hollander: “Are you really my friend?”

Would you say that a friendship over the Internet is different than one in real life?

I met Tanja Hollander yesterday, September 13th! If you do not know her, she is a truly visionary artist with her concept of what it means to be a friend on Facebook and in real life. She has traveled throughout the United States in the attempt to visit all of her 626 Facebook friends in person for her Facebook Portrait Project: Are you really my friend?

A picture of Tanja Hollander from Facebook.

This effort is rather impressive on its own, but Hollander has added a crucial key component to her undertaking that has turned her mission from an ambitious social experiment into a true work of art!

She has documented every place that she has gone with pictures and geo-mapping as well as blogged many of her experiences along the way! She has visited close and distant friends (geographically), and even friends that one might not really consider “real life” friends. She has relied mostly on fundraising and the hospitality of her Facebook friends throughout her entire aspiring project!

She has already visited 252 of her friends and plans to visit the rest within the next few years. She hopes to begin visiting more of her friends that do not live in the United States very soon!

So what happens during her visits?

Hollander usually catches up with the friends she has not seen for long periods of time and has even solidified friendships with those who she did not really think of as “real life” friends before her visit! In addition, Hollander says that a friend is someone who you can have a meal with in their home (paraphrased) and she has accordingly eaten with the friends she has visited. She has eaten all types of meals from small to multi-course seafood dinners, all which she has photographed and posted.

One of the main goals of her project is to keep a living record of her journey. She believes that historians have sometimes chosen to leave out the parts of history which they have not liked, but with social media records like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog, she has a constant visual and geographical record of where she has been, what she has seen, and who she has met! This information has been shared through social media and is now a permanent record of her project that could someday be an important piece of history regarding culture and social media decades from now.

She uses every form of social media that you can imagine!

Before I end the post, I would really like to thank Tanja Hollander so much for visiting the University of Maryland, having dinner with us DCC members, and giving such a great presentation on such an innovative project!


2 responses

  1. I thought this was such a great idea. I’ve always thought the concept of Facebook friending was much less of an actual friendship, and more of just being a contact (like an address book). So I think this is actually a fantastic way to make something more out of Facebook. I love that she’s taking the Internet, which is criticized daily for its psychological effects on society, and making it more wholesome. I wonder, though, if she actually is close with all of her 626 friends on Facebook… I know that many of mine are people I only met once or twice.
    Really good post, wish I had attended this!

  2. I think if I were to visit all of my Facebook “friends”, there would end up being a lot of awkward meetings with people I hardly ever socialized with… Most of them are people I saw in high school but didn’t talk with. I agree with Leo that the way people use Facebook, “friends” should really be renamed to “contacts”, though Facebook’s usage of the term “friend” is too well established at this point. I’ll probably go through my list of friends at some point and clear out the ones I wouldn’t go out of my way to talk to. But that’s impressive that Hollander has been able to meet so many Facebook friends and actually form relationships where they didn’t exist before.

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