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I am building a drupal 7 site, and I want to assign each authenticated to a group which I define myself, for instance "friends", "family", "coworkers", "mortal enemies" and so on. I want the content access permissions to depend on this group, so that my friends and family are allowed to see all my images with cute kittens, whereas my mortal enemies should only have access to my archive of taunts and elaborate verbal abuse.

I would like to suggestions for modules that can accomplish this and good things to read about this. I am quite new to Drupal.

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The Organic Group module will come to your rescue. Read the documentation about how to use the module.
More about the module:

Enable users to create and manage their own 'groups'. Each group can have subscribers, and maintains a group home page where subscribers communicate amongst themselves.

They do so by posting the usual node types: blog, story, page, etc. A block is shown on the group home page which facilitates these posts. The block also provides summary information about the group.

Groups may be selective or not. Selective groups require approval in order to become a member, or even invitation -only groups. There are lots of preferences to configure groups as you need.

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