Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"This is gonna be my next facebook pic"

Assignment 5
We’ve all heard it and many of us are reluctant to admit using the new clichéd term. Yet today, thousands of college students use facebook as a networking device that provides a source of information about those in one’s network and an alternative to traditional methods of interpersonal communication. While knowing you are one of three-thousand freshmen entering Cornell once was a scary concept, today incoming freshman are able to reduce this fear by researching those in the same boat over facebook.
While there many aspects to facebook, I am going to focus particularly on the facebook profile. The profile consists of a picture, personal information, contact information, personal information, educational information, and course information. There are also additional features that indicate more interactive information about your social network including, “the mini feed,” friend details, friends in one’s network, friends in other networks, tagged photos and groups. The picture however seems to be the most important feature of the profile, allowing users to judge the individual based on his or her appearance. One can gain an understanding of the individual’s personality based on the type of picture (ie. A picture of individual and friends, glamour shot, drunk shot, etc…)
Unfortunately, facebook is an extremely deceptive tool by nature. According to the selective self presentation model, “Due to the asynchronous nature of CMC, and the fact that CMC emphasizes verbal and linguistic cues over less controllable nonverbal communication cues, online self-presentation is more malleable and subject to self-censorship than face-to-face self-presentation,” (Walther, 1996). This suggests that individuals will present themselves in the most attractive way because CMC features allow certain cues to be hidden. While this concept was used in Catalina’s study to explain information presented on online profiles, this concept is also applicable to facebook in several ways. First, people tend to chose very good pictures of themselves as their picture. While this most likely is actual picture (as opposed to a photo shopped image), often times pictures are not representative of the actual appearance of the individual. Second, individuals are free to select any personal information about themselves they feel is important to present, ranging from their sexual preferences (including not only who they are interested but what they are interested in, i.e. a relationship, dating, friendship or random play) to their favorite interests, movies and books.
Another theory used in Catalina’s study that may be applicable to facebook is Warranting. This theory focuses on the connection between the online and offline self and it also increases the opportunity to be detected for deceiving over the internet. This concept is applicable to both online dating and facebook in that users develop presentation strategies that “warrant” identity claims. In terms of facebook, users may use “the wall” or pictures to validate whether another users is as “popular” as he says he is. Therefore, individuals will attempt to be more accurate in their profiles because detection online is easier with these features.
As was the case with my friend, I asked her a little bit of information about her profile. I chose this particular friend because she has presented a lot personal information about herself. She had the most information in the favorite music section. She is very into music, and I know this information is accurate because she lived in my house last year. One of the most important aspects of her profiles however was her apparent popularity. She has 614 friends and 271 wall posts. These aspects made me want to look further into her popularity over facebook.
When I asked her how accurate her profile picture was, she said “well, it’s pretty accurate. It’s candid, but I am showing only my profile.” She rated her picture in terms of accuracy to be a 4. (5 being completely accurate). From what I know about my friend, I would rate the picture to be about a 3. Although it is a candid, it is a particularly good picture of her. It was taken over the summer, on her birthday. She is very tan, and it is a low angle shot, making her legs look a little bit longer than they actually are. My friend did a good job of presenting her self in the most attractive light. In conjunction with Catalina’s study, this would support her findings that women tend to lie more about their physical attractiveness than men because men value physical attractiveness most in women.
When I asked my friend to rate the aspects of her profile, she very confidently rated her interests in books, music and movies to be 5 (completely accurate). She rated her relationship status however to be a level 1 in accuracy because it says, she is married to her friend from another school. While some may argue this is a lie, it is implied that she is kidding. Vrij would not contend that this is a lie because the deceiver (my friend) wants the deception to be uncovered.
When I asked my friend about all 614 friends at Cornell, she said that she may not be close with all of them, but she would still call about 80 percent of them her friends. While my friend is a very social girl, I would not agree that she has that many friends (at least that I know of).
We all deceive in our online profiles, whether we know it or not. I think my friend did a pretty good job of accurately depicting herself over facebook despite the fact that she provided such a plethora of personal information. While I know that many of us are using facebook to “get to know” to those around us, it is so important that we realize how deceptive online profiles can really be.


At 8:44 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Robin – I think that you made an excellent point in noting that the picture is the most important part of one’s facebook profile. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. As you mentioned in your post, we have all heard the phrase, “That’s going to be my next facebook picture.” I even know people that specifically get dressed a certain way or try to look especially good at a certain event with the intention that they want to get a great new facebook picture. I think this speaks to the fact that so many people have the opportunity to view your picture on facebook. The picture is the only thing that people from other schools who are not your friends can view, and therefore, literally anyone on facebook can see your picture. (Unless of course you adjust your privacy settings and make yourself “unsearchable.”) As a result of this, there is high motivation to select a picture that presents you in a positive light. I don’t think that many people consider pictures they post of themselves to be deceptive, even if they do not appear as they do in their picture all the time. Selective self-presentation plays a huge role when facebook users select profile pictures, whether they are conscious of the effect or not.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Lauren Katzberg said...

Your post is extremelly thorough, you did a great job of disecting your friend’s profile. I really like your exploration of the profile picture, which I would have to agree is the most important aspect of a profile. I would definitely agree that women tend to choose pictures that show them in the best possible light. I think that women do this not just to appear attractive to others, but because they think it is how they actually look. When I look at pictures of myself, I usually do not like the majority of them. I will say it’s a “bad picture” and think that is misreprsents me. We have the tendency to think the “good pictures” are better representations of our looks. My point is, maybe women are not being deceptive if they are choosing pictures that they think best represent themselves. Maybe all women are just wishful thinkers! I think this is an interseting area to explore, one that we would have to be very carefully considered in terms of various models of deception.


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