Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Digital Deception

Assignment 5: Fudging on Facebook

The Expectancy Discordance Theory suggests that men place a greater emphasis on physical attractiveness and youthfulness while women put the onus on financial resources and social status. If the Facebook were to be used as primarily as a dating mechanism, we might expect then that summer internship categories and perhaps even majors would be slightly distorted for males. Any female young enough to have a Facebook profile need not worry about youthfulness, but if dating were a primary objective then we might anticipate that the picture would be distorted.
Ultimately, Catalina’s study found that women lie most in their picture.

In my Facebook analysis with a friend, I found this also to be the case. What she perceived to be a “good picture,” was a picture of her in an outfit substantially more revealing that she might normally wear. This is not an unusual finding for females on Facebook – a quick glance over the profiles of my friends and friends of friends reveals that scant clothing is a trend in Facebook pictures, and it is very doubtful that this is truly representative of every girl pictured.

The Facebook picture is an obvious method of self-presentation. What better way to accomplish impression management than by freezing a moment in time that would lead a viewer to arrive at a particular conclusion about an individual? Furthermore, the alternative makes for a very, very negative impression. Having a picture is the norm, so not having one makes a person look mysterious and as if they are intentionally hiding something.

Additionally, the reduced cues also facilitates impression management. Viewers can only draw on what they are overtly given.

According to the Feature-Based Model (Hancock et al 2004), the more synchronous and distributed, but less recordable a medium, the more frequently lying should occur. Inaccurate interests, favorite movies, or summer internship information can be identified once two people get to know each other.

It’s harder to pinpoint that a picture is a lie. A picture is documented proof that something happened; the property of recordability attributed to the picture itself undermines the recordability of the picture in the Facebook profile. Essentially, even if a picture does not truly represent its subject, its very presence lends credibility to its message.

Interestingly, although Facebook is in no way synchronous communication, it still very readily lends itself to deception. The Facebook anatomy I analyzed was deceptive in a lot of different places. For example, the number of friends was greatly exaggerated. It listed over 300 current friends but many of them were characters from my subjects’ past. The groups listed as part of the Facebook profile I analyzed were mainly jokes and inside jokes at that, so they were also slightly deceptive to the outside viewer.


At 9:09 PM, Blogger Kristen Schneider said...

Erica brings up some excellent points about why Facebook lends itself to deception. This post contains a lot of insightful theoretical connections, so great job with those connections! I also found this particular type of deception among females to be quite prevalent on Facebook, although the trend seems to be going toward more conservative pictures as employers gain access to our profiles.

I want to bring up a point that Erica touched on in this post. Erica points out that a picture is documented proof that something happened. In my opinion, many of us are hard-wired to trust the indexical property of visuals, which means that there is proof that the person, place, or event did exist. However, I believe that Facebook is making us believe less in the indexical property of visuals, and they no longer provide proof of anything. We are now becoming exposed to photographs that have been manipulated in small and extreme ways. Depending upon the skill of the individual (or his/her friends) a photomontage can be created that completely reinvents the image of the person. Thus, our trust in photography may be decreasing as a result of the use of Facebook.

At 12:55 AM, Blogger Robin Kornet said...

You bring up some very interesting points. This is especially true when you introduce the Expectancy Discordance Theory, which many of us have not studied, but is very applicable to Catalina's study. Although it may not directly apply, there are some aspects of Facebook that seem to support the theory. Internships for men are definitely a way to assess future success, since experience can lead to financial resources and social status. While youthfulness may be obvious considering they are young enough to be a member of facebook (as you said) young pictures may be strategically selected. Perhaps the user was thinner her freshman year and chose to strategically keep this picture. I would consider this deceptive, yet a form of selective self presentation as well.
I definitely agree that many girls tend to present pictures that are more “promiscuous.” While I hadn’t thought of this as a form of deception, your explanation was very valid.
Great Post!

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Josh Perlin said...

Erica, some good points here about facebook and deception. You did a really good job connection theory to real-life observations to attempt to explain those actions. (Expectancy Discordance Theory? You connected this well to your observations, and although we haven’t studied it, was great to see in the post).
Wow, couldn’t agree more about the indexical properties of photos. There used to be a belief that if a photo exists, it must have happened as it appears in the photo. Certainly, that is no longer the case, especially on facebook. I’ve seen some unbelievable pictures on facebook, and not many of them actually happened. Photoshop should bare part of the blame for this, as this tool – once only used by professionals – is now a household product or easily accessible for many. Not that this is a bad thing! It’s just seems there is a notion that pictures are “cooler” to lie in than sentences, probably because it’s easier and pictures aren’t taken as seriously.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Kate Frezon said...

Erica, I think you bring up a lot of really interesting points analyzing your friend's Facebook deception. One question that I have is, what exactly constitutes deception in a picture? Just because your friend doesn't normally dress the way she does in teh picture, does it mean that she is actually deceiving anyone by putting that picture up? Most people would assume correctly that she did, at one point, wear that outfit, so would that still count as deception.

Another thing to consider is what your friend considers a "Facebook friend," and how people view the whole concept of "being friends" on facebook. I think that most of us would admit that we are friends with people from our past (elementary school friends, etc), or people we don't even know. So, if EVERYONE is taking the concept of "friend" so loosely, would it still count as deception? I think it's just really important to take people's expectations into consideration, to decide if something is actually deception.


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