The Act of Friending

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In “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites” Danah Boyd discusses the action of friending on many sites including MySpace, Friendster and LiveJournal and the surrounding context. She argues relationships are performed on social sites because they are visible to everyone. One’s life is not just translated online, unfortunately, because that would be just too easy! Many problems and issues need to be addressed in this new community that emerged such as the blatant public preferences of people with MySpace’s Top 8. Boyd states social network sites allow a new way to build social context in addition to the advent of the narcissistic way of thinking. This is seen when users online choose to find other users first and then a shared interest second. Boyd touches on the obsession to have many friends that becomes an online popularity contest. So much drama comes out of MySpace for new users, but as time goes on and they begin to accept functions like the Top 8 as just one of the many limitations of the site, the drama dies down.

Since writing this article, both the technology and norms have changed. Friendster is now a gaming website (wait-WHAT?) and MySpace has been defunct as that site you only go to when-what am I talking about? You don’t go to MySpace anymore! Well, at least not yet anyways.

Danah Boyd’s article would benefit tremendously from an update in her analysis changing the focus from MySpace to Facebook. In the context of MySpace, she discusses the rudeness surrounding not responding to a friend request  right away when it’s been documented on their profile the time of their last login. With Facebook, not only are login times not documented, but it isn’t necessarily true that everyone checks their page everyday. While it certainly is common, it is not correct to assume that is the case, especially with the ignore button that allows you a second chance to accept a request. There is also no way of knowing when the person logs in which doesn’t eliminate the suspense but does give an excuse to why the request has not been answered.

Her argument would also benefit from an analysis of not just friending, but de-friending which carries just as much social meaning. While friending means having the ability to showcase your relationship, on Facebook defriending a person or the “cleaning out of friends” is very important in publicizing the end of a relationship. This is interesting to explore because one is naturally judged by the friends they have and much is said when you distance yourself from a particular person. Also changed since MySpace is the display of personal relationships and dating antics. While one might put their boyfriend or girlfriend in their Top 8, the Facebook relationship status is more authoritative in nature. It links you to the actual person you’re dating’s profile in addition to having personal information, like your anniversary, visible. Relationships are weighed more heavily as a whole on Facebook than on MySpace because ideally every single friend matters, not just the ones you specify as family. Facebook assumes everyone is equal and the only way of knowing who holds importance is by who posts on your wall a lot, who has pictures with you and who tags you in things. Whereas MySpace’s Top Friends were one sided, presumably you’re not asking anyone to tag you on Facebook or write on your wall.

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On another note, she argues users amass “friends”, even if they don’t know them so they have the most connections. The dynamics of Facebook are quite different, as it is considered creepy to friend someone you haven’t met. The rules are unspoken, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. Danah Boyd could dig deeper into these rules around friending and the netiquette at play now. She doesn’t mention any netiquette, most likely because MySpace, in 2006, was very new and these social norms online weren’t yet in place.

The transparency is something else that should be investigated as in MySpace you could parade around with the nickname of Pretty Princess while on Facebook real names and networks are used. A topic to be explored is the validity of your friends’ identity. Boyd doesn’t discuss the possibility that your new “friend” may be a pedophile or weird person at length, other than mentioning it happened more often after News Corp bought MySpace (pg.15). However, bots are becoming increasingly popular on Facebook causing problems in several ways. Specifically, they are mass liking and un-liking pages. They are also possibly hacking accounts. Many people, including myself have been hacked in the past. Boyd could delve into the implications of these new problems and the psychology behind it.

This article is still quite relevant, though. “Fakesters”, whom she mentions are “characters, celebrities, objects, icons, institutions, and ideas” (p. 6), still exist in the form of pages on Facebook you can “like” or subscribe to. The terminology might be a bit off but the premise is the exactly same- those accounts are just representative of something other than a normal person. These accounts are accepted and even have the same perks some on MySpace had, such as exclusivity. An example of this would be liking a page to enter a contest (I did it today!) or getting site-specific offers and coupons. Dressbarn has the Friday Giveaway every Friday where only those who are fans can enter.

Still prominent as well is social awkwardness surrounding declining a friend request.

Also relevant is the analysis that “external material compliments the personally written material to paint a broader picture”(p.13) meaning comments by friends, friend’s pictures ect.. supplement and validify the information written on your profile by you. Perhaps the best part of the article is when Boyd speaks of Suzy boosting her self-esteem by looking at other people’s pages. No other analysis rings truer today than that. Suzy creates an opinion of her friends by what their friends write on her friend’s page. Why is it that we get satisfaction and validation from other people’s lives looking dim? I personally think it is one of the most important and most fascinating parts of social media spanning from the beginning of Myspace to the present.

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