Korean Teenagers Go Online to Find Random ‘Ghost Friends’


From dongA.com

More Teenagers Looking for Random Friends Online

44-year-old Ms. Kwon got rid of her daughter’s mobile phone recently as she found something weird when she looked into her daughter’s Kakao Story, a mobile phone based social network service. That is because her daughter goes to school in Seoul, but she has several male friends on her friend list, and most of them live outside of Seoul. Kwon thought that was really strange. When Kwon asked her daughter how she met those friends, her daughter said that they are just ‘Ghost friends,’ which means people she added on her friend list just to increase the number of friends on her social network service without any personnel interaction.

○ Add more friends on social network service

‘Ghost friend’ is a new term popular with teenagers these days. Young people are not reluctant to add random people on their friend list of social network service, but they do not want to interact with those people. These random people are called, ‘Ghost friends.’ Teenagers are eager to add ‘Ghost friends’ because they think having a small number of friends on their social network service makes them look like an outsider. A middle school teacher surnamed Koo said, ‘Once my students made fun of me having less than 100 friends on my friend list at Kakao Story. It seems like teenagers see having small number of friends a bad thing.’

It is easy to see people who are looking for ‘Ghost friends’ at teenagers’ online community websites. Those websites are providing teenagers with the place where they can find these superficial relationships easily.

Lee Yoon-jo, a manager of Seoul Metropolitan Counseling & Resource Center For Youth, pointed out that teenagers can be emotionally hurt by a superficial relationships. Especially, when they face malicious comments by their random friends, that makes them afraid of forming sound relationship with people.

Lee said, “Teenagers are interested in what other people might think themselves, and that makes them want to add more random ‘Ghost friends’, which could help them look like they are popular.


Some adults are also eager to add random friends on their online friend list. One Internet user said, “I tried almost everything to make friends online.” He sent friend requests on Facebook to random people, and he even signed up to an Internet community which is designed for helping people make random online friends. One of the Facebook pages is always busy with people’s posts looking for random friends to add to their friend list.

○ Don’t want to be alone, but still like the idea of individualism

Ironically, even though [Korean] society is getting more individualized, people do not want to be alone and try not to look like alone.

Ryu Suk-choon, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, said, ‘Traditionally, Korean people tend to be included in a community. That is one of the reasons.’ He added, ‘Korean people are not familiar with being individual like Westerners, and they still keep a community spirit inside of them. That makes Korean people look for superficial relationship these days.’

Meanwhile, Jung Jin-sung, a sociology professor at Seoul National University, said this phenomenon is caused by teenager’s lack of spirit of independence. According to Professor Jung, teenagers have become more individualized than before, but they still cannot stand being alone because of lack of spirit of independence. He added that people’s idea that they do not want to look like an outsider is from their lack of confidence, and in order to make society sound and healthy, each individual has to become more confident.

Comments from Nate:


Having one friend who can help me when I’m in trouble is better than having many friends


Real friends don’t exist online kids.


Kids and adults are all same. Some adults invite fake guests to their wedding by paying money to look like they have a lot of friends. They only care about superficial things.


I have only about 25 friends on my Kakao Story who can share my private life. I don’t want random people see my pictures and comment on them. What’s the point of bragging about the number of friends? What a miserable situation.


The more ghost friends you have, the more you know you are all alone when you really need to talk to someone, but realize no one’s there to listen to you…


I want to let teenagers know that people can be happy only when they can feel it. Not when they can see it. Once I asked middle school students to write down three wishes they have, and they wrote down money, imported cars, and expensive houses. Isn’t it abnormal?


Teenagers are getting poisoned with bluffing


Depth is more important than width


If you have one real friend in your life, your life is successful. It is usually hard to meet that real friend though. You might think you have lots of friends with you, but usually they are not real friends.


I feel sad that they are getting hurt through such friendships. Most of them are of a similar age to me. It would better for them to meet friends face to face instead of meeting online. I want them to cheer up.

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