Sunday, October 17, 2010
Media Ethnography Discussion
After finally seeing a screening of The Social Network a few days ago, my interest was sparked in facebook's impact on culture. A large component of the film that I felt was particularly fascinating was the role that facebook has played in our new online social culture that has made our actual social culture less legitimately "social". Throughout the film, Mark Zuckerberg is constantly being depicted as socially awkward, not paying attention to conversation when people are speaking to him, being "plugged in" to his computer and not being able to recognize the world. At one point in the film, Justin Timberlake's character says, "We lived in farms, then we lived in cities, and now we're gonna live on the internet!" This is the current trend that facebook is implementing onto us: a world in which we are more concerned with our social network online, than our social network in real life.
When looking at my own experiences with facebook, while it may not be as extreme as I just made it out to be, even I spend a lot of time and energy in maintaining my social network on facebook. I joined facebook in 2006, when it was still a prestigious online network of only college students (you had to have a college email in order to register). I was a junior in High School, however, I was enrolled in a C.I.S. (College in the Schools) course of Hebrew, so I had a University of Minnesota ID and Email address. I remember one day I was spending time with my older brother and cousin, whom I have always thought of them as being "really cool". My cousin showed me this website called "facebook", which he described as a cooler myspace in that it is only for college kids, and its not creepy like myspace. So, I wanted to be more like my older brother and cousin, so I joined facebook using my University of Minnesota ID. And thus, I felt really cool, joining this prestigious network.
I had this unconscious motivation to be seen as "cool" online, so I constantly added more and more to my profile information- my music, movies and tv shows are filled to the brim with my interests. I thought that if people read it, they would think I'd be cool, and thus "friend me" on facebook. I wanted more and more friends, which I equated with "cool". In the same way, I joined as many groups as possible with the themes of favorite bands or TV shows or social issues regarding peace, etc. In addition to the motivation to be "cool" with these groups, I noticed that everything I did on facebook was also motivated by the thought that "Hey, girls might see my facebook, and then they might wanna date me!" I noticed facebook encroaching more and more on actual society. Like in the film, I constantly overheard people saying "facebook me", or "tag me in those pics". When I actually did enter college, my interest in facebook increased even more. I was constantly "friending" people that I met. I wanted more and more friends on facebook. I changed my facebook status daily, and checked the main facebook page regarding others' statuses multiple times everyday. I then saw facebook being incorporated into other forms of media. I saw facebook being talked about movies, on TV shows as sponsors and so on. As I am writing this blog entry, I am watching Law and Order SVU and there was an ad that came up at the bottom of the screen that said "go onto Facebook and find out more about shows on USA".
When I asked my girlfriend to be my girlfriend, right away, we went to facebook and changed our relationship status to in "in a relationship" with each other. It was as if, when I asked her and she accepted to be my girlfriend, it was only official in real society. We then had to make it official in our online social network. Once I got an Ipod touch, my addiction to facebook worsened. Now that I had access to internet all over campus or anywhere I could get a free wiki signal, I wanted to see facebook more often. After every class I check facebook, every time I get back to my apartment, I check facebook. I have this constant need to see whats going on in my "online social world" and with all my "friends" whom I haven't seen in years or only see once a month, or once a year. I made a personal rule that I would not friend anyone on facebook that I have not actually met in real life.
My facebook use has changed over time. At the beginning, it was all about trying to be "cool" and getting as many friends as possible. Now, it seems that I use facebook to keep up with my social network of friends to see their opinions and what they are up to.
Facebook has even influenced the business world in terms of hiring employees. At camp one summer, during staff week before camp started, we each had to attend an information session regarding facebook. We were taught that most companies look at people's facebooks who have applied to work for them. In addition, when working with kids, we were taught, like businesses, kids will look through our facebooks and make judgments about us regarding our interests, wall posts and pictures. Therefore, we were taught to limit our profiles to just our friends, and even change your name so that business can not find you. Finally, we learned the all important quote that, "you should not put anything on facebook that you don't want your grandmother to see." Whenever I add things to my faecebook, I think about what one of my campers would think about if they saw it. Furthermore, whenever I take pictures with friends, I make sure that there is nothing inappropriate, because I KNOW that it WILL be put on facebook, and I WILL be tagged in it. Despite all of this, I know that I surprisingly have a moderate addiction and use of facebook. I have friends that are more addicted and use facebook exponentially more than I do.
Despite all of the negative impacts associated with facebook, it is a tool that can be beneficial to classroom education. Using facebook chat and events, it can be an effective form of communication for students discussing homework or projects. In addition, a facebook profile can be created for a literary or historical character which can be "communicated" with or analyzed (make 2 facebook profiles of characters such as Shakespeare and JD Salinger and have them chat with each other on their walls.)