Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Media Ethnography- Use of Facebook

For my Media Ethnography, I chose to do a study regarding the use of facebook by its users. For my research, I first created a survey on, then I analyzed a specific facebook profile in relation to my survey results.

Here's the link to my survey on survey monkey!

Research Methods:
I wanted to find information regarding why and when people joined facebook, and why and what they do on facebook while they are on the site. So, I made this survey. Unfortunately, I soon realized while creating my survey that survey monkey only allows 10 questions to be made. I simplified all of my research points into 10 questions, which was no easy task. I figured that even though it was only 10 questions, it would still help me, and it did. I made a facebook event to invite all of my facebook friends to take the survey.
(Yes, I understand the irony of having a facebook event inviting facebook friends to take a survey about their use of facebook. It was purely for a practical reason. It was the easiest way to find a lot of people really fast to take my survey.)
In the facebook event description, as well as in the description on the survey website, I explained that the survey is for this class, must be 18 in order participate (I did not want to spend more time with receiving parental permission), and no private information would be shared during this analysis write-up. In addition, in order to create some sort of motivation for people to participate in the study, I advertised that any participant would be entered into a drawing to win a prize (I randomly chose a participant who will receive a recording of Freelance Whales (an amazing band) performing on a radio show with interviews that I will send via e-mail).
There were 128 participants who took my survey. (I soon realized that I am only able to see the first 100 responses for free, which is still quite helpful for my study).
The sample was 44.4% Male and 55.6% female.
Ages ranged from 18-34 (My focus for this study is the twenty-something age range that is frequently discussed as the focal group to use facebook, partially because these were the first to use facebook when it was only offered for college students in 2004).

The majority of my sample joined facebook in 2006 (40.5%):

When asked why they joined facebook (general idea from written statement):
Because everyone else was: 49% (41 participants)
To keep in touch with friends/ social networking: 38% (32 participants)
To keep in touch with family: 3% (3 participants)
Other reasons (picture sharing, relationship statuses, bored, to express one's self, transition of myspace, to be like a sibling, etc.): 10% (6 participants)
(There were 83 who answered this question, 17 skipped this question).

I asked how they felt when they joined facebook:
82 participants answered this question, and 18 skipped this question.
The majority (84.1%) of my sample associated the adjective "social" as a feeling when they joined facebook.

I asked how they hoped they would feel with their use of facebook:
Again, the majority (84.1%) of my sample associated the adjective "social" as a feeling that they hoped they would feel with their use of facebook. Interestingly, the adjectives "Accepted", "Popular" and "Well-liked" increased from the previous question.

I asked how often they go onto facebook:
The overwhelming majority (71.1%) of my sample said that they go onto facebook multiple times per day. Only one person used facebook as little as a few times per month.

Finally, I asked how often they participate in certain activities while on facebook:

The majority (54.9%) of my sample said that they view status updates every time they are on facebook. Also, 72.9% view other friends' facebook profiles every time, or almost every time they use facebook.

In addition, I took notes on the facebook use of a specific person on facebook. She will be known as "Macy" for the purposes of this study. I began studying her profile on this past saturday morning.
Macy has done the following things on her facebook since Saturday:
Changed her facebook status: 17 times.
Some of her statuses include: " 'A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend' --author unknown", "snuggling with [name removed for privacy] puppy!", "has only been as work less than 3 hours and already wants to go home!!", "Hanging out with the family at Xylon Park", "Is having brunch at Granite City with [name removed for privacy]".
Changed her facebook profile picture: 2 times.
Added pictures: 7 times.
Commented on others' statuses/ others' walls: 7 times.
Became friends with: 3 people.
Liked pages: 32.

Based on my research, I found that twenty-somethings use facebook as a means to "fit in" and feel accepted with their "friends". The reason twenty-somethings initially joined facebook was to feel accepted with their friends in the real world, by joining this online society of not only these friends who they wanted to initially feel accepted with, but also new friends that they "meet" online. Once they have entered the facebook realm, they now want to feel accepted now only with the initial friends in the real world who "told them to join facebook", but now feel a sense of urgency to fit in with new friends that they now have in this online social network.
The fact that the majority of my sample joined facebook in 2006, is extremely noteworthy. On September 26th, 2006, facebook became open to the public; anyone over 13 with a valid e-mail address was now allowed to join. Previously, facebook was only for college students (then opened to high school students). At this point in 2006, facebook had become so popular that it was undoubtedly changed to be open to anyone because of pressures to make it so by people who were not allowed to be on facebook. Therefore, the majority of my sample of twenty-somethings joined facebook in 2006 in order to "fit in" with the new cultural norm that has become facebook.
The most powerful piece of evidence that I found in my research was the answer in the survey to the question: "Why did you join facebook?" The majority answered that they had joined facebook because everyone else did. They wanted to fit in with what everyone else was doing. It became important to join facebook when it was gaining so much popularity.
In addition, when asked what adjectives they associated their feeling with when they joined facebook, the majority answered that they felt "social". When they did join facebook, my sample felt like they were apart of this new online society, and therefore felt social when they became apart of it.
Similarly, when asked what they hoped they would feel with their use of facebook, the majority answer was again "social". However, the adjectives of "accepted". "popular", and "well-liked" increased from the previous question. When they joined facebook, my sample wanted to feel accepted and fit in with this new online society and culture.
The majority of my sample uses facebook multiple times everyday. This shocking, yet not surprising statistic makes perfect sense. Facebook users want to feel apart of this society that gets changed and added to every minute of everyday, and users want to know whats going on. Therefore, they feel the need to enter into this society as often as they can, and they do: multiple times everyday.
Finally, the majority of participants in my study said that they view others status updates every time they use facebook. The majority also views others' profile pages either every time or almost every time they go on facebook. When these twenty-somethings use facebook, they dont use for the games or applications, they use it for the social purposes. They want to stay updated on whats going on in this online culture, and then they view status updates and profiles, they feel accepted in the society, as they know what is going on.

The use of Macy's facebook directly supports my findings in the research. Macy feels a constant need to fit in to her facebook network society, therefore she is on facebook multiple times every day, sometimes multiple times every hour. She changed her status 17 times in the days of saturday-wednesday. She wants others to keep up with her status, as she does with others- a sort of circular acceptance. It doesn't matter what the content of the status is- from the mundane (take naps and eating brunch) to the philosophical (the quote about grandmothers)- as long as she updates, she feels that she is accepted in this society. Finally, Macy liked 32 pages during these few days. By associating herself with culture icons, groups, items, or ideologies, Macy is hoping that other users will see these associations and think, "hey, that's cool, I like those things too". And Macy can go onto others' profiles and do the same with their page associations- again this idea of the circular acceptance.
Macy is a perfect example of my research that I found using the survey. Twenty-somethings use facebook as a means of acceptance with not only their friends in real cultural society, but to be accepted into the online society that is more or less a virtual extension of real culture.

1 comment:

  1. Brian, Wow! I love how you used a survey to collect data. It brings a truthful element to your personal thoughts. My ethnography seems far less reliable than yours.

    That being said, I think your individual thoughts are just as valuable as your data you collected are worth including in your ethnography as well.

    As I stated in your previous post, I think that adolescents are the most frequent and elaborate users on Facebook but grandmothers are using it too. I think the next biggest group is the one that you focused on, the single twenty-somethings.

    I still haven't seen "The Social Network" yet.