The Complexities of Facebook

In her book, “Personal Connections in the Digital Age,” Baym discusses the idea of community and how there are five specific characteristics or qualities that a community must have to be considered as such. These five characteristics are: sense of space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships. As long as communities have these characteristics, it doesn’t matter if they are physical communities or viral communities (found on the internet).

Claire Suddath’s article, “How Not to Be Hated on Facebook: Ten More Rules” reminded me of the quality, shared practice. This article lists a few “electronic friendship guidelines” or “etiquette rules” for Facebook users in a comedic yet semi-serious way. Personally I enjoyed the ones connected to friend request etiquette (3,4, and 5).   In class, we discussed how shared practices referred to the linguistics of a certain SNS and how they unconsciously form a set of rules or norms as a way of keeping users in line. Suddath’s “list” seemed to emphasize how important it was to follow the norms or rules on SNSs and how users should be “prepared for people to de-friend you” if they don’t follow them. While Suddath’s article was entertaining, I thought that is was biased in that it portrayed how users can easily be ostracized from the Facebook community through their lack of knowledge when in my experience I realized that people are very unlikely to de-friend another user unless there is a legitimate reason. I guess you could say that Suddath’s etiquette rules or guidelines seem trivial and random in my opinion. In other words, I think that Suddath failed to acknowledge the diverse network of users and how individual users friend other users based on different contexts, which goes back to my previous comment  about how people have their own understandings of various terms. For example, while some of my friends “de-friend” people they have rarely see in the physical world, they don’t “de-friend” users because the user kept taking quizzes or had mundane status updates. They “de-friended” because they no longer felt that they had a connection with that user. Suddath also seems to have created this set of guidelines based more on her beliefs of Facebook etiquette and not on a vast survey. Like the film, Life 2.0, seemed focused only on the extreme users of Second Life,  I felt that Suddath focused only on a certain extreme and not on the vast array of users. Perhaps if she had interviewed or surveyed a variety of Facebook users to find out what made them “de-friend” other users, she could have compiled a better set of guidelines.

In another article, “Your Facebook Relationship Status: It’s Complicated,” Suddath explores how the SNS Facebook has influenced the interpersonal relationships between different people. While Suddath brings up how facebok has come to reflect how we view our lives through “photos [that] broadcast the fun they’re having, status updates [that] say what’s on their mind,” she focuses on how the relationship status is the only thing that involves other people. In other words, this mini-declaration is one of the few bi-directional connections within Facebook. Suddath then continues to explore how this “relationship-status” affects the interelationships in the physical world.

Suddath focuses on both the shared practices of Facebook (relationship etiquette), interpersonal relationships and the sense of space. Facebook has six different relationship categories: single, in a relationship, engaged, married, it’s complicated and in an open relationship. Throughout her article, Suddath explores how this seemingly uncomplicated factor of Facebook has become a complicated issue and I admit, the facebook relationship status can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. While some people don’t like listing their relationship status on facebook and others don’t acknowledge your relationship because it isn’t “facebook official,” news of relationship changes can cause a lot of chaos. In this article, Suddath takes into account a variety of users who use the relationship status. For example, while there are some people who don’t use the relationship status, there are others who consider the relationship status as a “deal-breaker.”  This idea that some people want relationships to be “facebook official” reminded me of Boyd’s article “Friends, Frienders, and Myspace Top 8” because suddenly it brings up more conflicts within relationships. Take for example the woman who updated her status to “engaged” before even telling her family that she was “engaged.” Unlike her other article, which in my opinion was a bit biased and comedic, this article looked at how this feature affected the Facebook users and how Facebook seems to have redefined the term “relationship” for some users. The article also seems to show that while the relationship status can be informative, it also can lead to conflict if you aren’t careful. However, I felt that Suddath’s article implied that the relationship status is a very huge part of Facebook when personally I believe that it isn’t that big of a deal. I also wished that she had explored the idea that some people change their relationship status “just for kicks.” For example, I was “married” to my room mate for a semester and all of my friends knew that it didn’t necessarily mean that I was actually married to her.

I feel like Suddath’s articles are lacking in research because it seems like she only looks at a certain aspects  and categories of Facebook. Like the film Life 2.0, I think that her articles give a distorted or partially untrue presentation of Facebook and how the relationship status feature is used.


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