After reading danah boyd’s essay, “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites,” I attempted to log into my MySpace account to see how it was doing. I haven’t logged in in probably 3 or 4 years, and after several failed attempts at guessing my email and password combination, I finally logged on. What I found shocked me- this was not the MySpace that I had remembered. I could barely navigate my way around it, but finally got to my profile and laughed out loud at what I saw.
In danah boyd’s essay, she discusses the meaning of friendship and Friendship (relationships between users across social media network sites.) In her analysis, she takes a close look at Friendster and Myspace. Having never been on Friendster, I more so focused on her analysis of MySpace Friendships. boyd explores the reasons users decided to “Friend” people on MySpace, varying from feeling rude if you don’t accept a friendship to accepting family members. Finally, she discusses Friendship in relation to “offline relationship management.”
If you ask me, boyd’s analysis needs some updating. I think in order to do this, she should analyze newer social media networking platforms, especially Facebook. She could analyze how Facebook started, as a social networking site meant to connect college students, and what it has developed into today. I think people’s use of social media networking sites have severely changed since she did her analysis in 2006. In the essay, boyd spends a lot of time discussing MySpace’s use of a “Top 8” or “Top Friends,” a tool in which users can list their most important friends on the site, and when other users are on their profile, can traverse the space from one profile to the next through these connections. Nowadays, Facebook lets you list your family members (along with your relationship to them), your relationship status (they even include an “It’s Complicated” option!) and tags in statuses, comments, and photos.
Recently, Facebook has even accomadated these features to members of the LGBT community. As seen in the Huffington Post’s article, “Facebook Adds Gay Marriage Timeline Icons for Same-Sex Couples,” in 2011, Facebook added “In a Civil Union” and “In a Domestic Partnership” options to their relationship statuses. Now, they have added icons that depict same sex couples to go along with these statuses. This is important to take into consideration when thinking about boyd’s analysis, because this allows other Facebook users to more accurately depict themselves in their profile. Now, users can accurately depict their relationships with other users, whether they are gay, straight, or actually unsure. It is important for these social networking sites to accommodate all of these communities so that all users can traverse the sites, connecting with other people from their own community. This goes back to the social construction of these sites.
boyd’s analysis would have to change in light of Facebook’s new features. There is many more things to take into account, such as why people list these relationships on Facebook, or why some users choose not to. Facebook has also changed how people connect through social media, allowing users to create groups. Groups can be used for school projects, sororities, co-workers, or just high school friends that want to keep in touch (clearly all examples of what I use groups for!) It is still important to take boyd’s original article into consideration to see how social media networks have developed since they first started. As a student studying social media networking, it is imperative to understand how these platforms have changed and how users’ needs for them have changed. I also think it is important not to only look at social media networking sites in terms of just “Friending,” but how people use them as well. Recently, a man who took a person hostage was updating his Facebook as the events progressed, and was eventually talked into a negotiation. Do I think this could have ever happened on MySpace? Nope. Social media network sites have progressed far beyond what I think boyd ever expected.
In thinking about all that boyd and I have discussed, I return to my MySpace profile now to think about how my own use of social media platforms have changed. As I parooze my MySpace page, I found my own Top Friends. Only 6 are listed, and they are 6 people who I still keep in contact with, but would no longer list as my “Top Friends.” It’s interesting to think about how much has changed- I would post bullitens letting friends know of a new profile picture to see how many comments I could get on them (so stupid.) I even recall two of my friends having a competition- spamming bullitens to see who could get the most comments (they both got up to about 100.) I would never do any of these things on Facebook, maybe becuase I have grown up, but maybe because I use Facebook for different htings. Facebook is less about appearances for me than it is about connections, which is another important thing to take into account when looking at friends vs. Friends.