Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Facing Facebook

Assignment 5: option 2

As a complete outsider to the world of Facebook, this assignment gave me a chance to explore a phenomenon I have had very little interaction with. From what I saw, a facebook profile basically consists of six elements: basic information, personal information, the picture, the wall, friends, and albums. I chose to dissect my friend “Sara’s” profile, and determined the accuracy of the information provided in each of these categories compared to the “real Sara” that I know quite well. Using Vrij’s notions of deception, I wanted to see how deceptive my friend had been in her profile. Vrij defines deception as “a successful or unsuccessful deliberate attempt, without forewarning, to create in another a belief which the communicator considers to be untrue” (p. 6). Using this definition, Sara walked a fine line between deception and selective self-presentation, which as discussed by Catalina, are intimately intertwined.

I would give Sara a five in every category, meaning they were completely accurate, with the exception of her picture. The reason these categories deserve a five is because she provided little information, making her virtually indistinguisable from thousands of other girls on facebook. However, by doing so Sara created an image of someone who does not buy into the sillyness of facebook and is somewhat too cool to care how others perceive her. I know Sara very well, and this image is entirely incongruous with her actual self. Sara is constantly on facebook and does care a great deal about what other people think of her. So while Sara and I can both verify that the information she provided is accurate, her profile paints quite a deceptive picture of who she actually is. I would classify this phenomenon as deception, especially when considering Vrij’s model, because Sara is intentionally fostering a belief in those who look at her profile that she knows is not true. The question here is whether or not Sara knows that she really cares what others think and that she does spend a lot of time on facebook, which I think deep down she is aware of.

As mentioned before, Sara’s profile picture was the only element of her profile that I rated as less than completely accurate. I gave this category a three because although her face in the picutre gives an accurate indication of her looks, her body in the picutre is rather, shall I say, enhanced. Sara, a size A cup, looks like a C in her photograph! When I interviewed Sara on this matter, she replied “I know, they look huge. I love it.” Any person who viewed Sara’s profile would assume she was rather well endowed. This finidng is rather consistent with those in Catalina’s study. She correctly hypothesized that men value attributes in a women that hint to their capacity for reproduction. As a result, women tend to present themselves in a manner that shows their “womenly” physical attractiveness (i.e. small waist, broad hips, thin body, large breast.) All in all, this assignment gave me a great excuse to hop on the facebook wagon, if only for a moment.


At 8:11 PM, Blogger kaitlin said...

Great assessment! I think you took a really great angle on the topic; some similar thoughts have crept into my head as well. I too, used to be a complete outside to the world of Facebook. I only joined a few months ago. I guess some people would say I caved, but I try to look at is a way to keep touch with people that I met abroad and may never see again :). I agree with your thoughts regarding how Sara may want people to perceive her. It seems to me that the information provided by Sara may be the expression given whereas the fact that she gives so little may be an expression given off (Goffman). I think this probably occurs a lot on Facebook, mainly because it certainly crossed my mind as a reason not to join. I didn't want to give into the fad. It amazing that even in all the truth provided, we can still find some sort of underlying deception. Moreover, the only reason you can pinpoint it is because you already know her! This would be something virtually undetectable had you not already been friends with her. What implications to you think that has?
Overall, I think you had some really unique ideas, so great job!

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Kristen Schneider said...

Lauren brings up some interesting ideas in this very well-written post. I believe that her outside perspective may have given her even more insight into this phenomenon. However, I would also like to bring up something that Lauren addresses that would be interesting to discuss further in class.

The idea of deception in a picture is actually very tricky when you think about this further. Assuming that "Sara's" photograph was unmanipulated, it could be argued that her photograph was not deception. If that is how Sara looks from that particular angle, then maybe she is not actually deceiving, even if the purpose of the photograph is to appear that way online. If I take a photograph in the sunshine where my hair looks completely blonde due to the way the rays hit my head, does that mean that I am also deceiving others by posting this picture on Facebook? My hair is not really blonde, that is just how it looks in the picture due to the level of sunlight.

Based on the results of her study, Catalina proposes that women deceive in their photographs by showing pictures that make them appear to be younger and thinner than they actually are. I think this can be deception if it is completely inaccurate from how the person appears later on when the profile is posted, but we should realize that there may be some gray area. How much younger does the person have to look before the photograph is considered deceptive? How much thinner? Are camera angles really deceptive, or do they just display the truth from a different angle?

This is something I would like to hear more opinions about in class, because I think we might be thinking of deception in photographs in more simple terms than we should.

At 12:43 AM, Blogger Shane said...

I think it's always interesting to understand the different levels of experience with technologies, even in social networking sites that are so ubiquitous throughout certain populations. Obviously facebook is that social networking site but you have just recently become a member of this fraternity os socialites. You offer some interesting insights saying that your friend Sara doesn't "buy into the sillyness of facebook and is somewhat too cool to care how others perceive her." I think that's an interesting statement because I don't think perception is something we've talked about in terms of deception. Is it true that outsiders' perceptions have implications and validity in claiming that something is deceptive? It's a weird question to wrap your head around, but what happens when a subject doesn't believe he/she is deceiving but they actually are because of the incongruity and inconsistency of their perceptions? It's tricky but it could be interesting. Great post, and welcome to facebook!

At 12:43 AM, Blogger Robin Kornet said...

You point out some very interesting ideas in your post, especially as an "outsider" to facebook. While most of us in the class are very attuned to facebook, you provide insightful applications of facebook too Vrij and Catalina's study, perhaps more so than people who may be a little deceptive themselves on facebook as active users.
It is interesting how you chose to analyze facebook in accordance with Vrij. You're friend "Sara" definitely fostered a false belief by excluding information in order to achieve a careless image.
I also found that my friend may have been a little deceptive in her picture as well. While mine was more assessment and conventional based, yours definitely applies to Catalina's study. It is really interesting how men, whether they know it or not, still value a woman's capacity to reproduce.

Great job!

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Josh Perlin said...

This post is very clear and has some interesting points. I think Kaitlin was correct in her assessment: information that Sara provides may be expressions given and the lack of information she gives may be expressions given off. Certainly, I believe that the fact you are more of an outsider gives you an excellent perspective on facebook that most of us can’t really relate to.
I also want to touch on the idea of a picture being deception, since I brought it up in class as well. We know any attempt to intentionally instill a false belief in someone makes deception. So, when it comes to camera angles, it may seem innocuous and harmless … but the reality is this is also deception. Deception is massively prevalent in journalism, where Photoshop is used to manipulate and “touch up” images. These things are much more so instances of deception because the picture is actually being changed after the fact, but at its heart, it’s still an instance of instilling a false belief. Photos are, when you get down to it, just a perspective that can be manipulated using the camera techniques (angles, f-stop, flash). It’s all manipulation at its core, but because its so prevalent and the only way we can take “accurate” depictions, we have come to accept this inherent manipulation as ok. I think, therefore, that photos in which there is an intention to show something “false” in some way, can be deception. I wonder, if as Kristen said, there is some line to cross to get there, however, where a certain amount makes deception.


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