Monday, September 25, 2006

More Than Usual Facebook Stalking

It is no surprise that Facebook, a creation of Mark Zuckerberg during his free time at Harvard, has exceeded expectations of a simple social networking tool. The website boasts 4.5 million users and between 200 and 250 million hits per day. Zuckerberg et al. might not have left much room for creativity like a MySpace profile, but it manages to incorporate a fair opportunity to deceive.
Additionally, Facebook has been changing over the last few years. What started out as a fun searching activity to connect friends at various schools became a mechanism for facebook friends to mutually stalk each other incessantly. Photo albums entered the scene, then high school students, and now we've got the news feed.
Facebook's bare bones:
1. Picture! The most important visible feature on the page, best doctored up with sufficient photoshopping.
2. Basic Info: Everything including birthday, hometown, relationship status and looking for are all chances to deceive. Are you a guy who doesn't want to appear attached? Leave out your relationship status. Are you a girl who wants to incite curiosity and intrigue? Say "it's complicated." Are you a sketchy person who wants to stalk unnoticed? Leave out your birthday.
3. Contact info: phone, address, screenname, etc. For safety and my mother's health I leave most of this out. I suppose you could easily provide phony info too.
4. Let's get personal: political views drop down, but religion, activities, music, movies, TV shows, quotes, books, and about me are all space allotted for creative exposure. Say what you want, lie if you want, leave it blank--whatever. Honestly, if I include Weezer as a favorite band, all that tells someone is whether or not we have similar taste in music. I think it's all harmless.
5. Education is mostly drop-down
6. Work is a feature being used by Facebook pros who recently graduated and need time-wasters in their cubicles. I don't know may people who use it, or subsequently lie in that space.
7. Courses are drop-down, though I suppose a real character might feign some crazy classes
8. Election info includes candidates you support and issues you care about. Leave it blank if you're undecided or unaware, but liars don't really fit here.
9. Cornell "friends?" Um, I have 363. What are friends? Is friending someone more like a) asking someone out or b) asking permission to publicize having met once? Is it socially acceptable to decline a friend request? These are new questions to ponder thanks to Facebook, and deceit is a factor. I'd be lying if I said I knew more than what exists on a facebook profile for a majority of my 363 at Cornell. I'd also admit to considering myself much more facebook popular than I am in reality.
10. Status is similar to an AIM away message, ready to be manufactured
11. Photo albums don't have to be visible in your profile and can be limited to friend viewing, but more than the album the tags are important. Tagee can easily untag a disapproved photo, and thus only show approved (hot) tags. Girls will untag photos because they look pasty or pale, if they've repeated an outfit, or if they are underage and holding an alcoholic beverage. Guys might keep tagged photos that show them with lots of ladies. Deception is all over these albums.
12. Groups--they are sort of curious because they may be proof of real membership to organization or show attendance at an upcoming event, but the majority of them are simply evidence than some Facebook users have entirely too much time and waste it being silly and ridiculous trying to be creative and witty.
13. Friend Details--how you know someone. There are more ludicrous lies in this feature than I'm sure Zuckerberg et al. ever intended or expected. The majority of the people who I'm closest to now have crazy details spawning from marriage to dating to parenthood to an awesome hook-up...All made up. I'm single, have no children, have never been married, and wouldn't publicize a real hook-up on Facebook if I were paid.

According to my friend (a true friend, and roommate who I know well beyond her public Facebook profile), certain aspects of her profile are inaccurate. With no priming or explanation of intention here's how she rated her profile:
5 for all the basic info and her own photo (which she cropped)
-->This picture is a good representation
2 for # of friends
-->her accuracy sums it up. She is friends with a much smaller group than the big number that Facebook indicates
2 for groups (she belongs to 18)
-->There are a few dubious groups, and some outdated that she no longer belongs to
5 for contact info
-->She included email, screenname, cell phone # and lives in Collegetown (vague, but truthful)
4 for activities, interests, music, movies, books, and quote
-->I think she was less accurate just from knowing her. Activities should be more like a 2, I expected music to be more elaborate so maybe 3, and I didn't expect her to include books at all, so a 1.
5 for about me and education info
5 for wall posts
-->Her wall posts are all from close friends, and she hasn't deleted any posts in awhile.

After picking apart my friend's profile I did some personal analysis. Creating an honest online profile isn't as easy as it looks!


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Amanda Pearsall said...

Jenna, you did a great job analyzing the anatomy of the facebook profile. I also found it interesting that when you discussed the issue of tagging or untagging pictures you were able, through personal observation, to support Catalina's initial research hypotheses that men are more concerned with status and women are more concerned about their appearance. I think women are constantly internally competing with their peers and we will never escape the habit of being self conscious about our image. I felt myself agreeing with all of your observations.
In addition, I found myself wondering if creating a facebook profile is a self-reflexive process. If you think about it, when we sit down to dedicate a page online to ourselves we are actually admitting how we see ourselves, in a mirror, if you will. Sometimes when we are admitting truths to ourselves, which is sometimes hardest, we begin to recognize aspects of our lives that we would really like to change. I believe we all leave out aspects of ourselves that we are not completely comfortable with. Is this deceiving to hide our insecurities? Just because the technology exists does not mean we have to be an open book. Our true friends would know these flaws regardless of whether or not we wrote them down. To anyone else that we may be misleading, it is not harmful to them if we do deceive them because they must not know us well enough to be detrimentally effected. Their expectations may be higher when they meet us, but soon enough, if they dislike the parts we left out about ourselves, they will just as easily be able to let us go as a friend. I think this is the key to deceiving: If the receiver is not left with a scar, its morally acceptable to tell a few white lies for our own ego.

Jenna fantastic job overall. Have a great day!


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