Very Interesting Article…

November 26, 2007 at 1:25 am (Uncategorized)

Friends, foes and Facebook

Dan Kaufman
November 26, 2007

This is the tale of one man’s nervous foray into social networking.

Innocently thinking it was an online dating agency in disguise, I optimistically joined Facebook in the hope that desperate women would soon be knocking on my door. Fast forward four months, however, and my life is still devoid of vamps and vixens – but I can count almost 40 friends.

At least, they claim to be my friends but, on social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster and MySpace, you never can tell. After all, some of my so-called friends barely know me (I didn’t even recognise two of them by their photos) or avoid me in real life. I even agreed to be one person’s friend because he’s so psychotic I was scared of what would happen if I said no. As the old adage goes, with friends like these who needs enemies?

As in most social networking sites (see box for the lowdown on the most common ones), once you sign up a friend their photo appears on your profile, meaning the more friends you have the more popular you seem. This has led to accusations that these sites are little more than popularity contests. For example, Urban Dictionary’s primary definition of MySpace is that it is “the ultimate game of testing your ego”. Facebook users can install applications such as The Number and Friend Rank that calculates their popularity in comparison with others. I would have installed them myself but my ego is low enough as it is.

For those not familiar, online social networks allow you to post photos of yourself as well as information such as age, sex, where you live, what you do, how you’re currently feeling and so forth. They all have their own quirks: whereas MySpace is popular with musicians who want to put their music online, Facebook is more about interacting with others by sending messages and giving fake gifts such as digital cocktails.

There can also be socio-economic distinctions. Dana Boyd, a sociologist at the University of California, says that Facebook attracts more preppy and well-off people while MySpace lures those more likely to be ostracised by society. I suspect I chose the wrong network.

Most social networks also let you search for people with specific qualities, such as having gone to the same school or worked at the same company as you and, since you can also search for single people, they’ve often been criticised for being perfect for stalkers. On Facebook you can not only track someone down but then find out what they’re doing via their status messages, even if it’s just having a shower – leading some to dub it Stalkbook.

Provided someone becomes your friend you also receive updates on the minutiae of their lives thanks to the constantly updated news feed, a feature which some find unnerving. For example, if you search Facebook’s online communities using the word “stalk” or “privacy” you will come across hundreds of groups with names such as “Facebook feed has just killed privacy”.

“I think it’s a little creepy,” says Theo Chapman, a recent Facebook user. “I didn’t realise I would get updates about my friends’ activities on the system. It’s all a bit 1984 … is the next step to publicly denounce people?”

The growing backlash against social networking has seen the rise of parody sites and Facebook applications such as Snubster, Hatebook (which has a section in users’ profiles called “Why I’m Better Than You!”) and Enemybook. Personally, if I were to create a parody I’d call it Fakebook.

The creator of Enemybook, Kevin Matulef, calls his site a satire of social networks and online relationships in general. “People are definitely frustrated with the proliferation of ‘online friends’ that they hardly see, communicate with, or even know,” Matulef says. “But I think the frustration runs deeper than that. It’s really the whole idea of having to define yourself via your favourite movies, TV shows, how many friends you have etc. It all adds up to a very superficial representation of you and your relationships.”

Then again, you don’t have to be listed as someone’s nemesis on Snubster or Hatebook in order to feel slighted – you just need an ex to send you a link to their profile so you can read about their fabulous new life without you. I’ve learnt from experience that this happens and I’m far from the only one – the internet has scores of angry and upset blog posts detailing similar incidents. Whereas in the real world we don’t always bump into our exes, online it can be hard to avoid them – even while writing this, for example, a friend had an ex-boyfriend send her a friend request, leading her to obsessively pore over his profile.

“I’m already jealous of other girls on his site and have decided to avoid further interaction,” she says.

It can get worse, however, as some people are actually dumped via Facebook – one pitiful blog entry describes how a poor fellow only found out his relationship was over when he noticed his girlfriend had changed her profile status to single.

A more gentle form of rejection, or at least of neglect, is finding out that your friends like other people more than you. Just finding out that you are not ranked in a friend’s Top 8 list of close buddies on MySpace can do it, whereas being notified of all the imitation drinks and gifts that everyone else except you is receiving on Facebook will have a similar effect. After all, it’s one thing for someone not to include you in a round at the pub but when they won’t even send you a free fake beer you know you’re low on their social pecking order.

Social networks can also be the perfect gauche tool to show off your culture and success. Once upon a time you’d have a dinner party and take out your finest china and antiques, a la Hyacinth Bucket from TV’s Keeping Up Appearances. Now you can tell everyone about what highbrow books you are reading by putting them on your virtual bookshelf, list all the eclectic bands that you like and post a picture of some art on your profile to look cultured. I know I did.

One thing social networks do very well is make it easy to keep in touch with people. If you’re travelling overseas, for example, you now only have to update your profile rather than email people or, heaven forbid, send postcards. A friend of mine recently took this method of communication further by becoming engaged – and only telling her friends about it by updating her profile status.

Whether this communication is as valued or meaningful as a face-to-face or telephone conversation, however, is another matter. Furthermore, if you don’t care enough about someone to want to meet up with them, then is that relationship even worth maintaining? There’s a reason why people drift away from each other.

It’s this lack of anything in common with people that might explain the popularity of Facebook’s most famous feature, the poke. To lower the level of articulation even further, this non-verbal communique simply registers on the other person’s computer by telling them you poked them – and that’s it. This makes it excellent for acknowledging that your friends are still alive even when you can’t be bothered actually speaking to them. The more evolved can also Super Poke people, which allows you to perform (or at least say that you performed) far more sophisticated functions such as spanking and, of course, groping.

After all these snide comments you might be wondering why I don’t just leave Facebook and stop complaining. Well, I’ve fantasised about it. Many times. But in the same way that you can’t just join a cult or the Mafia and then walk away, you can’t abandon your Facebook network without offending the legions of people who have asked to be your friend, posted messages on your profile and sent you fake drinks (although I am in short supply of those). Or can you?

I pose the question to Maz Ha
rdy, who runs the Facebook Etiquette blog and is completing a doctoral thesis on the social impact of new social media. I’m hoping she’ll give the same answer as a friend of mine who, having never been on Facebook, simply looked at me oddly and said “What’s wrong with you? Just leave!”

Hardy, however, has a different view. “No,” she says firmly. “The answer is in the question, with the key word being ‘abandon’. You would not expect such social behaviour outside of Facebook, therefore abandoning friends on social networks carries as much social negativity as in ‘real’ life.”

Oh.

Oh dear.

You know, in that case perhaps I should post a more flattering photo of myself on my profile.

Welcome to my expanding network

Facebook might now be more popular than porn (at least according to internet traffic statistics for those aged from 18 to 24) but there are many more social networks out there – in fact, there are more than 100. Here are some of the larger ones:

Bebo (www.bebo.com). More popular in Britain than Australia (at least for now), this looks and acts like a cross between Facebook and MySpace. Originally popular among school and university students, it’s now being increasingly used by bands to promote their music.

Faceparty (www.faceparty.com). Launched in 2000, this is the grand-daddy of social networks. The focus is more on advertising your personal assets and, as with Facebook, you can use it for dating purposes – although FaceParty is somewhat raunchier, allowing you to search even for those with naked pictures on their profile.

Friendster (www.friendster.com). This was the leading social network until MySpace came along, which must rankle the owners since they turned down a $US30 million offer by Google to buy it in 2003.

LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). This targets corporate types who want to network for business purposes and so lacks the photos of people binge drinking and passing out that is more common on Facebook and MySpace.

Twitter (www.twitter.com). Allowing you to use SMS to update your profile, this is the network for those who truly have 24-hour social network cravings.

Orkut (www.orkut.com). This is Google’s attempt to enter the fray but isn’t considered a resounding success, especially in Australia.

Yahoo 360 (360.yahoo.com). Similar to MySpace but with more photo sharing.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/11/25/1195962828218.html

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11 Comments

  1. Frank C said,

    It’s only the tip of the iceberg. I suspect there’s a fair few potential doctoral thesis out there to be explored.

  2. Jumpin Jax said,

    Excellent article and thanks for posting it. I started online interacting in ’98 as a soul parent and since I preferred to spend my feeble dollars on my children, it was an easy way to have company. I never looked for love, but yeah obviously, it happens doesn’t it. I think in those years of ‘fantasy’ land, it was the most childish and egotistical in my life. I have not entered a chatroom of any sort in 5 years and would not. I sort of switched to forums and message boards, due to work really, as in photography, it is the only way you can keep up on technical reviews etc etc, but the egos on there are pretty nasty too at times. Keyboard cowboys, pretty pathetic and that pinky commercial comes to mind. How did I end up here? Because some fella was flirting with me whilst I thought myspace would be a great free advertising spot (I am extremely happily married, just a photographer with pics that make me look nice?) and I found this intelligent blog. Glad to have found the blog, pleased to have closed myspace and happy to leave the advertising to what we pay for on the business side of things. I enter a few competition, I interact with a select few pro photographers where I ‘pay’ to host my galleries, and the rest, is cyberia. This last year in fact, I have cut back my own addiction, and it is one, to the internet immensely. It can be handled though because it is a wonderful tool for marketing and such an easy way to interchange with clients as well. But the friend and lovers thing? I can’t be too critical as my present partner of near 5 years was met via msn lol but we shut the door on chatrooms that day and never looked back. I have been running websites, but he has always been at my shoulder and sees every single thing, nothing hidden, which was why it was such a bloody spin out with that fella. I told him all about it too and said I must be exuding some weird scent, just not a nice feeling when you ‘know’ in your heart, but anyway, I did ask that fella and it was pretty much like it was all me, as one would expect. Glad you are away from myspace, it does change people. Another story. One of my websites, I met a rising musician and such a nice guy. He was single at the time and bald, shaved head cool. Very genuine guy actually. Fast forward a year later of myspace and everything and everyone was ‘myspace’. He had completely changed, drinking more, more paranoid, very tarty, not the person I originally typed with. I have never been heavy into myspace or facebook, more chatrooms in the old days but yes, as a surfer and an old addict lol, you can just watch people unravel and it is pretty sad indeed!

  3. Anonymous said,

    good article elizabeth! your the best

  4. William J said,

    great stuff, ty4 posting!

  5. Anonymous said,

    WOW NICE TO KNOW OTHERS HAVE BEEN THRU THE CYBER-SPACE RINGER!!! SERIOUSLY IT IS SAD THAT ONE OF THE TRAITS THAT SO MANY LEAVE OUT IS HONESTY.Oh well,Ty for posting this article.I hope you are doing fine and plez post some more of that wonderful taste in music!!! (((Fluffy)))00 god bless..

  6. Truculent Trencherman™ said,

    I never realized how many different networks are out there. If I were to try and keep up with my Real-time neighbors and friends on-line I would have to join 4 different networks. All of this netowrking can be exhausting.

  7. Anonymous said,

    Great post! It’s almost like high school isn’t it? Sad.

  8. sharon said,

    Funny intro … it’s so confusing that’s why I like where I am at … no use in impressing anyone – doesn’t do anything for me! when is society gonna grow up and stop fakin’ it … i added a vid on my page titled “curried away” (facebook) it just made me laugh SO much! hugs …

  9. Anonymous said,

    Great article and I Copied and Pasted it to share with a few others..In the ‘ Real World and Life ‘.
    I found Myspace too immature or rather the people too young.
    Facebook was heavily read by the FBI so I left & now don’t know about yahoo.com
    I just use this place to keep up with a handful of hand selected friends & also I put articles on my page to either educate others or use it as a Journal of sorts.
    Re Dating .. It’s not for me to find a guy online, as I’ve been stalked here as with other site and you never really know 100% what and who somebody is like.Both male and female.
    I use my gut re feeling people out,for friendships, a lot now and it pays off..But then again I can make mistakes.
    Take Care and watch your back.
    Mich

  10. Anonymous said,

    This Is the computer age and people interact very differently then they did in the Late 60’s and 70’s We actually interacted and met new people via other people socializing in what now must seem an archaic way? We Mingled socialized and had communication skills with our mouths without spellcheck or our cell phones to connect us. Imagine word of mouth and meeting people from other towns by being out there. Now we sit behind our computers and send have a great day and auto Hugs to Cyber friends we have never met. Has society taken a giant leap forward or backwards?? I guess that’s up for debate!
    On the net of course where else?? ♥♥♣Sonny♣♥♥

  11. Anonymous said,

    This is a timely subject for me. I cancelled my myspace and a few others that I could be bothered to remember or request passwords to.I must admit that I enjoy the occasional interesting blog but I seriously question intentions when someone invites me to join their list of “friends”.Just this week I cautiously accepted someones invitation that I did not know. It took one real message from me to be deleted from their “friends” list :). I mad the mistake of asking them why they wanted to be my friend and what they thought we had in common lol. Shame on me – I questioned someone with well over 200 members on their list. I must be a bad human being or I would have more than 3 friends lol. Oddly enough it felt almost like real rejection. Hmmmmmm. The three on my friends list are those I have truely bonded with through a shared experience. in real life or on a small site I once belonged to which I abandoned because it had more than a few ranting abusive unbalanced people. I wonder what it is with this internet that causes functioning memebers of society to be idiots. Is it the temptation of being annonymous? And what is it with the trashy women on all the sites including yahoo. Is posting half naked pictures the only way to get some attention? Terribly saddened by the lack of self respect seen in some of these profiles.Confused by the shameless self promotion and fake undercurrent of the environment. I have become lazy wih the search for writing of value even here on 360. I found this post because it was mentioned on a featured yahoo360 members blog. I am glad I did, was feeling a bit anti social with my current attitude on the internet and the whole networking scene. Thank you for offering a subject that is timely and gave me encouragement that I am not perhaps the only one who sees these sites as a fools playground. I will say this for the networking sites, they are a great resource in learning where a persons head is …… met a man in real life and do a search of him on myspace – found he had a profile with a skeleton flipping the finger – over 100 skanky women – some posing with their crotches in their profile pics. was easy to see whe had nothing in common. Mybe there is SOME truth there afterall? Who is to say what is the truth – I don’t really want to waste the time to annalize that one. Thank you for an interesting blog.I would like to add that I met my ex on line. Three months after he moved in I suspected something was going on on my computer and so I installed a program to record all key strokes and pages to visit. It took just 7 hrs to discover he was still carrieing on with all the women he had previously met on line. Some have a real addiction to the makebelieve world. I do not. I find it frustrating and full of drama.

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