Friday, September 22, 2006

Assignment 5: Posting Days Before Everyone Else

Facebook began as a site just for creating and maintaining networks of friends and colleagues and to help organize groups in college. However, it has become much more than that. It is now a site that can host pictures, constantly updated you on the actions of your friends (f’ing mini-feed), post up notes about people or things, state your relationship to others (including hook-ups), and now includes high schools and workplaces (starting October 1) in the potential network. It’s not much different from a dating site with online profile which people are constantly judged by. Facebook structure allows for lots of impression management due to the minimal cues; needless to say it’s ripe for deception.

The site structure has become pretty overwhelming lately, but for the point of this article I’ll just go over the anatomy of the personal profile page. It is very symmetrical and each category has its own drop-menu section. First and probably most importantly, is the picture in the top left corner. A lot about someone can be deducted from the picture: personality, attractiveness, groups the person is a member of, among other things. Then the basic information: sex, interested in (AKA sexual preference), relationship status, birthday, hometown, and political and religious views. Below that is the ever-so-controversial mini-feed which people can customize to list all their Facebook actions or to not show any. Below that is contact information including email, cell phone (if you put it on), AIM screen name, residence, and website. Under that is the most personal information, such as interests, activities, favorite music, favorite TV shows, favorite movies, favorite books, favorite quotes, and an ‘About Me’ section. Rather low on the page (obviously because it’s SO important) is the education info and courses. Further down and now on the side-bar is a list of groups that the person is a member of and their “Wall” where people can post messages for them or about them; think of the ‘wall’ like having a cast on your arm, that’s the context of what people write.. That or a post card (for kids that don’t go to your school).

So is deception prevalent? If so, why? I invited one of my friend’s to basically expose his own profile and show me everything that was a lie and explain why.

Well, his profile was pretty concise (for a strategic reason) and he had no serious lies. The lies in his profile consisted of his religion (he’s Jewish and he said ‘Whedonology’ as a joke that I didn’t understand) and he is in a group about waffles (that he doesn’t actually love). That was literally it, his profile was very dry compared to most other people on Facebook. His reason? He wants to be a contrarian; he picks movies and music that few other people have because, as he states, “I could say I like the movie ‘Wedding Crashers’ but no one would care and everyone else has it.” I concluded that he made his selections (such as the rather unheard of movies) to differentiate himself from other people, possibly to get more attention. He did admit that his lack of information and lack of popular choices played into the image he was trying to portray; he’s not a cookie-cutter kid and lives by “his own rules.” With his lack of information, besides his bizarre statement for religious affiliation, he also has nothing posted that would not be considered socially acceptable.

I talked with him for a while about his opinion on lying in online profiles. He felt that lying and misleading is assumed in online profiles, just the way that people exaggerate stories in real life. I agree with him, I think that most people lie/mislead in their profiles strategically in order to portray their “ought self” as opposed to their “actual self”, what they’d like people to see them as by using impression management due to the lack of cues. People can also use conventional cues to further their impression management by setting up a picture so that people will deduce traits that they intend them to, presumably fitting their “ought self.”

9 Comments:

At 2:50 AM, Blogger Jenna Odett said...

Kudos for posting early...and apologies for commenting so late. I liked your post because you were wholeheartedly honest, something most Facebook users can't relate to. You chose to analyze a friend's profile that you deemed "dry." If there is minimal information and few cues to assess credibility/deception, is it then a bad profile? A boring one? One that might grab less attention or be less memorable? Sometimes I think the most outrageous profiles that are clearly doctored prove more than decision to deceive--they show creativity and imagination. There's a reason people spend time on Facebook, and it's not because people who they are stalking are honest.
You mentioned your friend's attempt at being original...Did you consider that some people use the inputs for favorite music, movies, and books to find people who are similar to themselves? If I click on Wedding Crashers all people who list that as well will show up. You correlated Facebook to an online dating profile, and I agree, but this similar interests factor is the intersection; commonalities are important for prospective daters.
Overall, I agree with your observations and analysis. Your most important point, I think, involves impression management. How much do we want other people to see in order to a)know us b)not know us too well that it becomes scary and c) like us.

 
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