Faux & Foe

Sister: “Do you really know 999 people?”

Me: “No.”

Sister: “Then why exactly do you have so many friends on Facebook?

Me: “I don’t know, I just do.”

After the Spanish inquisition of Facebook related questions that my near 40 year old sister asked me, I actually delved into my friend list with perpetual curiosity as to who these 999 people actually were. Sure, they were my “friends”, but were they really? I realized there were a considerable amount I didn’t know or hadn’t spoke to in… I couldn’t even remember how long. There began the defriending. And afterward came the guilt. Was that mean? Will they notice and think I did it to be mean? In my haste to be more of a professional Facebook-er, I forgot the social awkwardness that comes with the act of defriending and filtering your friends list.

Danah Boyd makes a very accurate note of this “social awkwardness” that is perceived in terms of social media activities in her article Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8.

“Its easier just to say yes.”

claimed a user that she interviewed as part of data collection to prove her point that the concept of friending and being “friends” with someone in a social media outlet does not necessarily imply that they are part of an external social sphere. However, this opens up the doors to a number of concerns, especially among parents. What if these “friends” are fake? Or predators? Or bullies? I can comfortably say that even within this class someone has either bullied or been bullied via AIM, iChat, Facebook even within the 140 character limitations of Twitter. Social media has afforded these ugly and distasteful activities to fester among, especially, the youth of our modern society.

A large majority of Boyd’s concepts within the article are still heavily relevant. She mentions the emergence of Friendster, the first “real” social media network site that launched in about 2003. The purpose of Friendster, which I must admit I had never heard of until this article, was for people to create an interconnected web of their legitimate acquaintances on a virtual and web-based scale. So basically, ideally rather, a friend on friendster was your friend in real life. This was definitely not the case. People did not take this seriously, and thus came the birth of the faux friendsters, more informally (and formally) known as fakesters (. Fakesters could be any type of person, commercial interest, “celebrity” or any other type of entity that just held no real value in contributing to the desired outcome the Friendster creators were hoping for. The one positive aspect of these fakesters was that they linked like-minded individuals who chose to add these pages and entities to their list of “friends.” If you consider this in Facebook terms or terminology, you immediately can jump to fan pages (that are legitimate!) and commercial pages created by businesses, celebrities, athletes as well as a multitude of other individuals. Twitter will even verify your account! So you know that when you follow Justin Bieber, it’s not a fweeter (fake tweeter). Perhaps the fakester genocide sparked an idea in Mark Zuckerberg, a need or demand that would need to be met in a new social media outlet. If Boyd were to re-evaluate the necessity or demand for the fakester entities, I think that including the concept of commercial Facebook pages, used for promotion, marketing as well as information spreading purposes (something that Nancy Baym also stated gives us as users a certain empowerment to mold the technology to our own personal needs) would be relevant in why the fakester profiles were created in the first place.

Before I make Facebook sound like the revolutionary, proper, and truthful I should disclose that there has been an epidemic of “fake-likes” that have diluted the legitimately popularity of certain people and pages. Marketing companies, like fishbat, have relied and invested heavily on the use of Facebook to promote companies and their products. Subsequently, the phrase “if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin'” applies directly to this. Companies began to generate fake “likes” to make their clients products look more attractive and popular than they really are. In theory, this practice is instant gratification, entirely useless in the legitimate promotion of a given product. This article describes the motivation behind companies desire to do this, and exactly what Facebook is trying to do about it. To save face, Facebook has publicly declared a deletion frenzy of these fake “likes” in order to maintain the integrity of the website. Touche, Zuckerberg. 

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According to Boyd’s original argument, fakesters and these fake “likes” would be relatives. However, had she written the article a mere 5 years later, she would have acknowledged that the fake “likes” would be the children of fakesters, in the sense that the fakester, or in the case of Facebook, “pages”, were purposely and tactfully created for a purpose, but along came an element of faux popularity. Yet we as individuals maintain our human nature of competition, whether it be truthful or illicit method for getting ahead, if the technology affords it, we will find a way.

The 10 Pages That Lost the Most Fans From Facebook’s Purge

 

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4 comments

  1. I love that you discuss dana boyd’s “social awkwardness” in the context of friending and defriending on Facebook. boyd quoted someone she interviewed stating, “It’s easier just to say yes,” and this is indeed an issue we often have to deal with in the social network world. For years my mom has requested to be my friend on Facebook. While she is my best friend and I am undoubtedly closer to her than any of my 1,663 Facebook friends, I have declined her time and time again. As she knows that I am friends with my aunt and cousins on Facebook, she doesn’t seem to understand why it is not “just easy to say yes” to her friend request. I have also recently received a friend request from my grandfather on Facebook, the second one as I have rejected him previously.

    It is interesting to realize how careful we are about connecting with the people closest to us on social media sites, but when it comes to people that we don’t know very well, we are more lenient in accepting their requests. Your discussion about fakesters has made me ponder upon the value we place on our friend requests. Isn’t it peculiar how we are afraid to accept the people closest to us but are often fearless about accepting people we don’t know personally?

    I also think incorporating the discussion about fake likes on Facebook is extremely relevant today. We read article after article about companies paying for a mass number of likes. This relates to my comments above about befriending the people dearest to us and our relationships with them on social media sites. Shouldn’t brands care more about interacting with their loyal customers who will naturally provide optimal marketing and public relations for them, rather than creating fake likes that will not enhance brand awareness in the long term? In Jim Vacey’s Social Media Today article, “Do You Fake-Like Me? How the Facebook Fake Likes May Be Hurting Your Client,” he explains that online marketing companies who practice “‘faux Facebook Liking’” are probably “endangering [their] clients’ brands.” In the realm of social media, there is infinite room for fakeness, deception and lies. Maybe we should be more open and focused on connecting with the people and brands that we genuinely care about rather than create a false notion of having many friends or likes.

    http://socialmediatoday.com/jim-vacey/850056/do-you-fake-me-how-facebook-fake-likes-may-be-hurting-your-client

  2. At my school, Facebook has literally become a right of passage from middle school to high school. Every year in early to mid June, all the new freshman seem to create profiles (my sister included two years ago) and friend every single person they see in that network. I later found out that my sister had actually turned it into a competition to see how fast she could amass more friends that I had accumulated in four years. I think it took her a week. But then she got endless posts from upper classmen who I was acquaintances with, but had no idea who this random Asian girl was asking Who are you? Do I know you? She literally knew nothing about these people, except that they went to the same school, so that was enough reason for her to friend someone. Did she eventually defriend them? Probably not

    I think it’s so interesting how each social site has it’s own rules and norms about friends or followers. For Facebook, we automatically call people we don’t know creepers, and we admittedly stalk others. A creeper or stalker in real life would be very scary! Yet, it’s somehow ok to do that because it’s Facebook, and it’s the internet and you can stalk from the comfort of your own home. Whereas on Twitter or Tumblr, I’m very happy to get a new follower, whether I know them or not.

    And regarding followers on Tumblr, I think it’s one SNS where it’s actually not uncommon to become friends with someone you follow and previously did not know. Tumblr hosts lots of meet ups around the world, so it’s easy to meet other local users in a non threatening or creepy setting.

  3. When it comes to Facebook I’m always wary of who I’m friends with, what pages I like and what goes on my profile. Facebook has made me much more aware of how I go about identifying myself. So much so that I do not want to be judged solely on my profile. After High School graduation I deleted many of my Friends that I knew I would never talk to again, or do not care for. I did not feel the social awkwardness that most people feel when they do this.

    After reading “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances” by Hugo Liu, I never realized how much Facebook mandates interests based on our consumeristic culture. What can reveal even more about one’s identity is what brand pages we like. It’s interesting how Facebook takes note of likes that Friends have in common, which Liu would call “interest tokens.” Just as Facebook suggests Friends, it also suggest pages to like and shows when a Friend has liked a page recently. The fact that these likes can show up so often on other peoples feeds makes me unsure of whether I should like a page or not, because others will see it as well. With likes on Pages, it’s constantly being showed on ones timeline or another persons newsfeed, and it doesn’t become just another part of ones profile. It is great that Facebook and Twitter allow for the development of brand pages, and a way to know that they are legitimate, because of verifications and the fact that there a part of Facebook designated for these brands to branch out.

  4. I think your initial question of who your 999 friends are in the first place is a question worth examining further. In Donath and Boyd’s article Public Displays of Connections, they acknowledge that we “keep in touch with an unprecedentedly large number of people via electronic media” (71 Donath and Boyd). You mention that out of your 999 friends “there were a considerable amount [you] didn’t know or hadn’t spoke to in” a very long time. While your “friends” on Facebook may not be your closest pals, it is important to acknowledge that your 999 friends are not random but a group formed by a series of conscious decisions. By this I mean that each friend you have on Facebook had to be requested and accepted, it is a mutual decision made to have this connection (and label) displayed on the web.

    While as you mention, Danah Boyd does say in regards to friending on the Internet, “It’s easier to just say yes,” convenience is not the only reason we accept Facebook friends. Our Facebook friends, in some sense are a history of the people we have had connections with over time. We friend some people genuinely, others for social reasons, and others out of obligation. Over Facebook we do not just connect to present friends but also reconnect with past friends and work towards making future friendships.

    In Claire O’Neill’s article Are Your Facebook Friends Really Your Friends?, photographer Tanja Hollander expresses having gone through a similar experience as you, during which she realized out of her 626 Facebook friends, most of them were not current ‘real life’ friends. She did come to the conclusion however, that these friends are a collection of her experiences and life. Some of her friends are ex-lovers, other ex-partners of friends, and some high school friends who she “hadn’t seen in over 20 years.”

    I now take the moment to step back and question, is it such a terrible thing to be able to connect with people who once were a part of your life or even who you want to be part of your life? Isn’t Facebook (a low maintenance friendship environment) the perfect place to maintain these connections?

    Sources:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/04/23/151201002/are-your-facebook-friends-really-your-friends

    http://smg.media.mit.edu/papers/Donath/PublicDisplays.pdf

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