Facebook- Media Etnography
Facebook- An Ethnographic approach
According to the Beach text Ethnographers, â€śstudy how audiences assume the active role of constructing the meaning of media textsâ€?. Facebook, the popular social networking site, allows users many ways to construct digital identities and to create various meanings from media; making it a complicated yet fascinating study. The site was founded in 2004 for college students, but has since expanded to include more general populations (Wikipedia). In order to better understand how people construct their own identities and interact with others, I sent a questionnaire to some people in my network and received some feedback. I understand that this information has its limitations because the pool of people are my â€ś friendsâ€? and may share more in common than that of the general Facebook population; however, I feel that some of the information is worth considering. I also have spent a lot of time studying peopleâ€™s sites and how they seem to navigate the online community and create a space that tries to both express realities in their lives, such as school and work, while also crafting a more subjective representation of self.
Here is a sample of one personâ€™s answers to my questionnaire:
1. How did you hear about Facebook?
I heard about facebook through a friend who was in high school.
2. What does your profile say about you, meaning, how does it portray your
I'm probably seen as the geeky girl with an affinity for science fiction and
3. How many times do you check your facebook a week?
Not very often. Probably twice.
4. How much do you post a week?
I change my status a lot, but I rarely post something.
5. How did your last wall post you received make you feel?
6. When you wrote your last wall post, how did you feel?
Probably happy, I'm not one for airing my dirty laundry, especially on
7. what if your favorite Facebook aplication?
Graffiti, if anything, or the x-files application.
8. Why do you like it?
Graffiti because it has to do with creativity- I like visual messages, not
verbal ones. And the x-files application because there is a trivia section that I master!
9. Why do you think so many people use Facebook?
It is an easy way to get information on potential friends, or a way to pass the
time. Also it allows me to maintain contact with people who have moved away
10. Do you think there is anything special that connects these people?
For the most part no, many of my friends are friends of friends that I met in
high school. There are a few who do mean something to me though, so I'm
guessing that its the same for most people.
11.What are your favorite Facebook groups?
I'd say the political groups, such as "legalize same sex marriage" or
"Minnesota Pro-Choice." Although, I never check them.
12. How has Facebook changed/shaped your life?
When I have a paper to write, it somehow seems more compelling... Also, I've
reconnected with people that I hadn't talked to in years.
13. Why do you use Facebook?
Its an easy way to show someone that you still care what's going on with them,a quick wall message now and then and no animosity. I like it.
Although this Facebook user seems to treat the site as a recreational hobby, one can tell a lot about what she values. One of the most complimented aspects of Facebook in my study was the ability to join groups that showed participants allegiance or favor for different political candidates and issues. This participant also said that she enjoyed the Graffiti Aplication, which allows people to post pictures they draw on different friendsâ€™ walls.
Facebook is filled with applications created and distributed around by other users. Users both produce and are subject to various forms of media including textual, visual, and aural. On one womanâ€™s site, you could even see a pregnancy counter that tracks the development of her baby and shows how the fetus will grow. People invest a lot of time into constructing their identities on these sites. People upload pictures of themselves, and can display their tastes in movies, music, television, literature, among many other indicators of what they like to do and what defines them as a person. In some ways, it seems like these sites are island oasisâ€™s meant for individuals to make a place that is all their own; these sites reflect how these individuals wish to view themselves by allowing them to control what their profiles say about themselves. But if Facebook profiles are islands, there is certainly a great deal of trade. Of course, this too is controlled by the individual by either accepting or denying â€śfriendâ€? requests and invitations to different groups or applications. Also, anything put up by another user on his or her site, can be taken down. So, if for example someone is â€śtaggedâ€? in an unflattering picture, you can easily remove it from your site so that you can maintain the image you wish.
I have already established that Facebook allows users to create an identity, but that identity must be viewed in conjunction with the audience for those pages. Facebook is primarily a social networking site, and most of the participants in my questionnaire said that they appreciate Facebook for allowing them to keep in contact with classmates and friends from work, school, vacations, as well as to meet new friends. Some people even use Facebook to get dates! A person can â€ś Pokeâ€? another and this is signals an interest in another user. It is impossible for me to generalize about what people post about on eachotherâ€™s walls. The posts are as varied in tone and in purpose as the individuals themselves that write them. Many people use Facebook to make plans to hang out while others use it for arguing, flirting, joking, as well as for scholastic support. On participant in my questionnaire said that Facebook is: â€śItâ€™s interesting and helps keep me in the loop about parties going on...I tend to 'disappear' at times.â€? This seems to be a general trend with uses, our lives are busy, and yet we want to maintain a social scene, Facebook makes this possible.
Facebook is an enormous online community, and as such, is difficult to derive any concrete definition of how people in this network construct and create meaning out of the media involved. I will say however that this study has shown me how much power the site has as a tool to create a digital face to show to other members and lends the creativity and technology to imagine the self in ways impossible in the â€śrealâ€? world. I will never be able to look at Facebook the same way!