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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  • Pumpkin

    American kids do the same thing. My son has thousands of friends on his facebook page and uses it to entertain them. When we go out, kids will point at him and treat him like a local celebrity… “aren’t you _______?” and will make comments like “you look taller in person” or other such comments. This phenomenon is nothing new. He uses his page to tell jokes, talk about girls, share crazy internet pictures, his dance videos and to get as many likes as possible.

  • Ruaraidh

    I’m the opposite. I take great pleasure from periodically culling my Facebook friends down to as few as possible.

    • That’s the only time Facebook is actually fun.

    • Brett

      I thought I was the only one. Glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t feel like a lower with few online friends.

      • Kate

        Hey I just landed in Korea with family yesterday! My korean family is head over heels in love with their brand new little addition (korean grandmas are fierce!). This time around, no culture shock for me too ^_^ So excited to be back in Seoul with family :)

        • Brett

          Hey send me an email if you ever want to get together with the little ones once you’ve settled in. This is a junk account, so just write that it’s you and ill send you a reply from my real account.

          Chako86 at comcast dot net

    • Kate

      Oh me too! I have 70 friends on FB (most of which are family and all are people I actually know and enjoy talking to or have alot in common with). I read an article awhile back that said the trend in the USA on FB was that people were starting to go with quality, not quantity and that other people look disfavorably at people who add anyone for popularity.

      These “random strangers” (I don’t like the term “ghost friend” because it takes away from the seriousness of adding people you don’t know) are scary especially for children. Mannnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyy pedophiles use FB to find young kids and teens. Also why in the world share intimate life details with people you don’t even want to say hey to if you saw them? I know if my daughter was doing this then that’d be the end to her account, computer access severly monitered and restricted, and a simple, no data plan cell phone. End of and more parents need to parent like that because young kids + unchecked internet/social media use = disaster waiting. Its a scary world and monsters do lurk on the net.

    • Gabrielle

      I do the same. Spring cleaning is good.

  • commander

    Over time into adulthood, when one is confronted with a cutthroat competition and the responsibility to head a family, it is much more important to deepen friendship than broaden the networking scope for business.

    As many famous aphorisms saying, the number of true friends is often assessed as a measure of success in life.

    That’s so sad to see teens are more eager to seek to add strangers of one or two online chat to a friend list than make a friend in thick and thin at a time when real friendship are often forged.

  • “Depth is more important than width”

    Geometry fail

  • well, its not perfect…

  • Paul M

    Pay me 10,000 won and I’ll be your online friend. I absolutely promise never to contact you. You can even make up stories about how we met etc. Oh, by the way I will absolutely not contact you – ever. I’m serious about the non-contacting thing okay.

  • bultak23

    technology is making people autistic.

    테크놀로지로 자폐증의사람들 됬다.

  • name

    fuck smartphones

  • Gabrielle

    It seems to be a wider problem than just korea, imho.
    junior/high school is a time when every one is awfully superficial, and it was already the case before sns…
    It gets better with adulthood, fortunately.

  • Guy Forget

    Damn why korea is so superficial and fake….don’t they know that it is pointless to be a mile wide but only an inch deep? I blame kpop and hallyu movement…..its teaching kids to become prostitutes the legal way.

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