What Does the “Friend” in “Friend Sign” Stand For?

No, I’m not here to debate semantics. I’m just here to (pft) give my expert opinion on a recent case of drama in the cosplay world. Yes, more drama. Yawn. But you gotta admit, the cosplay world can’t live without drama, just like how your momma can’t live without her favorite cheap Indonesian TV drama crap.

So, here’s the case.

Recently, prominent Indonesian cosplayer, Pinky Lu Xun, uploaded a series of screenshots. These screenshots are of her conversation with censored-name guy (let’s just call him “the Dude”, because it’s obvious that it’s a he). You can visit her album here, it’s public.

Anyway, for those who don’t understand Bahasa, let me give you a quick rundown of what happened.

Pinky received a message from the Dude. The Dude first asked whether this was Pinky’s real account or not. After knowing that it was, the Dude proceeded to praising her for not being “arrogant”. Being the smooth motherfucker he is, the Dude instantly proceeds to ask for her BBM PIN. Now we’re operating under the assumption that the Dude is driven by the power of boners.

Pinky rejects him and the Dude accuses her of being “arrogant” because she doesn’t want to add him on BBM. Instead, she offers her LINE and BeeTalk ID. She’s really generous. Now comes the important part.

After giving her chat IDs, the Dude immediately asks for an FS, or better known as a “friend sign”. Pinky says that she does friend signs only at events, where she can meet and greet real people. The Dude starts whining that he has no friends to go with to events and starts accusing the account as a fake one. Pinky, who I assume must be screaming internally by now, gives a lecture on why she doesn’t do friend signs online anymore. Then, the Dude complains why she doesn’t confirm him as a friend. She patiently explains why her FB can’t accept more friends, citing maximum numbers of friends. She starts going on offense, attacking the continued use of the word “arrogant”, which she thinks is just a guilt-trip tool the Dude uses to get what he wants. She also questions the weird necessity of adding virtual friends as opposed to real friends. She cites her real life, her job as an architect, which limits her time online and dealing with her fans’ requests. She does provide an alternative, saying that she’d be delighted to indulge him if he attends a cosplay event.

This is where Pinky turns the tide and elegantly pwns the Dude, forcing him to swallow his own words. The Dude, so driven by the power of boners, then “challenges” her. He promises to attend an upcoming event where Pinky will be present. At that event, he’ll bring his friends (wait, didn’t he say he didn’t have any?) and all will request friend signs from Pinky. Pinky feels delighted that the Dude finally wants to attend an event and wishes him well.

Now… please excuse me while I laugh on all fours because no matter how many times I re-read this, it’s funny as fuck.

*Ahem* Okay, I’m back.

Now, this particular drama gives some insight to the “friend sign culture” of cosplay. Just to make things clear, I’m not bashing friend signs in general. Friend signs are a personal matter; cosplayers can choose whether to make them or not. And no, the point of this post is not to put blame on anybody. The point of this post is to express a growing concern that I’ve had ever since I started observing the friend sign trend, which is… friend signs are fucking meaningless.

So, what exactly is a friend sign? I understand it as “writing down someone’s name on a piece of paper, taking a selfie of you in costume holding said paper, and uploading it on social media while tagging the person in question”. If there are any other definitions, feel free to add.

What purpose does a friend sign serve? What meaning could a piece of paper with your name, either Photoshopped or handwritten, on it possibly have?

I did friend signs a year ago. Not cosplay friend signs, but Nendoroid friend signs. I only did ONE cosplay friend sign, and that sucked. The effort I put in my Nendoroid friend signs was a lot. I had to find good angles, position them correctly, Photoshop the pictures so they’d look good, and upload them to social media. When the target person liked it, I felt a great surge of happiness. And from there, I was promised several reply signs, which I’m still waiting for. I don’t think I’m getting them, though…

The meaning of an FS for me is a personal statement saying “Hey, you’re my friend and here’s something to prove it.” I did them by request and sometimes, handed them out whenever I was in the mood. Of course, I only gave them to people I knew in real life. But after a while, I stopped. The thing just sorta lost its meaning and fun. I didn’t need to send people pics just to prove I’m their friend. I’d rather log off Facebook and talk with them.

There are people who go around asking cosplayers for friend signs. I know a few cosplayers who experience this. Sometimes they reject these people, sometimes they indulge them. I ask “Why would you give out pics which you have worked hard on for random strangers?” Kinda defeats the purpose, does it not? Why not call them “Random People Signs” instead of “Friend Signs”?

Perhaps friend signs receive a significant boost in meaning if they’re from someone important. Pinky is a well-known Indonesian cosplayer. She has a crapload of fans, both domestic and international. Receiving an FS from her could be considered the equivalent to getting an autograph from a celebrity. But… that’s just about it. It’s a picture of a famous cosplayer holding a piece of paper with your name on it.  That’s it. Nothing more. It’s just proof that someone important recognizes your puny existence. If it’s on FB, then it’s fucking low resolution. You can’t print it out on as a tapestry and kneel in front of it five times a day.

In the end, a friend sign is just a narcissistic pleasure. It’s like going around saying “Hey look! I got a friend sign from a famous cosplayer! That makes me their equal! Now bow down in my presence, you filthy normals!” or “I got an FS from a cute cosplayer. I guess you can say that things are advancing quite nicely in our relationship”. Or in another case, friend signs are nothing more than a collector’s item, just like how Weiss Schwarz nerds collect cards (“I have more friend signs than you. I know a lot more people than you do!”)

The point that I’m trying to make is this: mass production of friend signs diminishes the meaning of the friend sign itself. I would understand why Pinky only wanted to grant real-life people her friend signs; because the value in a friend sign lies in the “friend” part, not the “sign”.

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