friend or Friend? Capitalization!

In a comment to a previous post here regarding the required capitalization of the F in Facebook, the question arose whether to also capitalize the F in friends. Is it appropriate? Stylistically speaking, of course.

When referring to the classic sitcom of the 1980s, Friends, the f is capitalized; because Friends is the title of the tv program. If you’re talking about the people with whom you have social affiliations, you need not capitalize the f in friends.

Friends, with a capital F, are folks with whom your computer permits communications through Facebook. Capital F friends are cyberfriends. The use of the capital letter signifies they are special and important.

More years ago than I care to admit, I participated in lively debates with very high intellectual stakes and zero financial outcome. As a doctoral candidate in The Committee on Human Development at The University of Chicago (notice even the The is capitalized to mark it as the one and only), the faculty and students argued over whether it should be human development or Human Development. The matter was deeper than copyediting style.

Perhaps the question of the capital F in friends can best be answered by personal reflection rather than in the rules of grammar and copyediting style. According to the University of Chicago Style manual, friends does not require a capital. That doesn’t mean you can’t customize your own style rules. The rule of rules is to do it consistently.

To answer the question for yourself,  think about your position on capitalizing your friendships.  Social networking media maps onto real life face to face friendships. Those people whom you have as Friends agree to an unspoken agreement to engage in electronic discussions.

You aren’t really a Friend if all you do is talk about yourself or plug your own business. Capital F Friends are those good souls who know a good plumber when you need one, share photos of good times together, alert you to upcoming events you care about, forward youtube links, etc. These Friends are best when the relationships exist in face to face reality; not creations in the anonymous sphere of the internet.

Social capital is a term coined in the 1980s to capture the kind of resources available in community and personal relations outside the marketplace to grow and develop economies. For example, the good will of a company towards its employees is a big chunk of social capital in a community. Another example is when your cousin is opening up a new restaurant or putting their house on the market, you capitalize on your relationships to find connections between between people you know and trust.

Let me provide a concrete example of what I’m talking about…. I have a close group of friends who have been close for 30 years. We share a love of books and films and when one of them makes a recommendation to me, it is what I act upon. Our friendship has quite a bit of equity and I know it’s a pretty sure bet that if I read that book or see that film, the equity in my friendship goes up and my enjoyment of books/movies increases. I share my picks with them. Our discussions span far afield from just books and movies and the word of mouth recommendations are the most powerful way to get me as a consumer to close the sales deal on any item. Traditional advertising and marketing just doesn’t work the same way anymore. The model of  messages sent from one to many ended with the Cold War. So who do you trust in the cyberuniverse? Friends.

Be mine?


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