Sunday, September 24, 2006

Selectively Self-Presenting

Assignment 5

Ah, yes. The wonders of Facebook. Where else do thousands of students (and non-students) feel comfortable revealing
everything about themselves to nearly anyone in the world? Where else can you find out that your COMM 445 professor plays croquet team, listens to Outkast, and enjoys monkeys?

For the assignment, I sat down with a friend of mine and carefully analyzed her Facebook profile. I divided the profile up into its various anatomical components (photo, interests, friends, networks, political views, mini-feed, etc., etc.). She rated each element on its accuracy and its social acceptability, providing interesting insight into her feelings on Facebook.

In the end, out of the twenty-six identified components of a Facebook profile, she averaged at 3.81 out of 5 for accuracy and 4.19 out of 5 for social acceptability of these elements. Her profile seems to be pretty accurate and acceptable, though it's interesting to note that it is less accurate than it is acceptable.

There were only two items ranked 1 out of 5 for accuracy: relationship status and hometown. This is because her profile lists her as being married to a female friend, despite the fact that she "interested in men" and currently single. However, she noted that this was a 4 out of 5 in acceptability because "b
eing married to same sex who you're not really in a relationship with is all the rage on facebook." The other very inaccurate component was her hometown of New York, NY. Although her family currently resides in NYC, she grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She preferred to list her current "home" because it was more common.

Other interesting observations on accuracy included her feelings on the "political views" section. Because it only offers a drop-down menu, she felt that it did not represent her views accurately, as they combined some liberal and some conservative ideas. Since her profile says "liberal," she rated it as only a 3 out of 5 for accuracy. With the various "favorites" sections, she considered them to be somewhat inaccurate since such things change regularly and she doesn't update them. She considered the "mini-feed" section inaccurate because she was purposely removing items from it because of its implications for stalking.

A number of elements of her profile have been influenced by how she thought others perceived them. For instance, she admitted that her "interests" and "favorites" may be less accurate, but are more acceptable to others because "
you always want to play yourself up on facebook." Also, she considered the many photographs of her to be an inaccurate representation of her since the vast majority include her and a certain other individual who is no longer a large part of her life. However, she said she had not "detagged" those photos for fear of hurting the other person.

It's clear that a lot of though goes into each component of a Facebook factor, and accuracy is not always the most important element being considered. Even so, I think we can agree that most Facebook profiles are more accurate than not. It's generally only a few small exaggerations or tweaks here and there so that a person appears more interesting or "normal."

This is consistent with the conclusions of Catalina's study. Deception is less common in online profiles than people think, but there are many small deceptions. Catalina also concluded that one of the primary factors influencing online profile construction was selective and strategic self-presentation. I think we can all agree that our Facebook profiles have some level of strategy built into them.


At 11:32 AM, Blogger alexkresovich said...

I think it's cool that you found basically the same stuff as me though the profile you looked at had much more info than mine. Generally, people don't blatantly lie and rather just exaggerate lots of the information (e.g. intersts) for strategic reasons. I think lots of people feel that with a few minor tweaks they could go from their "actual self" to their "ought self" and the anatomy of facebook allows them do so, though only through minor exaggerations of things and the limited cues. It's obvious that people do this all the time (including myself) because anyone can make themselves seem more interesting or "normal" as you put it through a couple minor tweaks and exaggerations. That tagging idea is very interesting though, how people will untag themselves or not to avoid hurting someone else's feelings.

I also agree that, for females, the "Married to (girl)" has become a total norm on facebook for whatever reason. I don't know if people would react the same if a guy did it, which would be kind of interesting. Regardless, I think you did a good job deducting stuff from your findings and they were definitely in-line with mine.

Ha.. Jeff enjoys monkeys.


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