Fakebooks

On: October 13, 2008
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About marie-anne soyez
BA Literary, Cultural and Media Studies (University of Siegen, Germany), currently attending MA Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam, NL)

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Every social network service has its own parodies, the more successful it is, the more it has. I will take facebook as an example for applications and actions that play around with SNS. With more than 110 million active users (according to its own statistics), it is the most successful SNS. It is surrounded by at least six fakebooks and dozens of clips and mocking songs.

There are three different ways of making fun of social networks. First, there are fake profiles. They use the offered infrastructure to be a disturbance in the system. Danah Boyd states that fake characters also can be a motivation for users (adressing the issues of fakesters in friendster).

Second, there are fakebooks, which repeat the system they make fun of – and which offer an alternative site, mostly with resembling interface and an infrastructure that can be used similarly. “It started basically as a satire, sort of a parody of some of the superficial aspects of facebook and the connections that you have, but now it’s kind of evolved and it allows people to express themselves via their dislikes,” says Kevin Matulef, creator of enemybook. In that sense, it is just another maybe more sophisticated way to create an online identity aside the mainstream. Beside enemybook examples for this group are hatebook, arsebook, crackbook, rightwingfacebook, ncludr and friendspacebook. How influential these parodies can be is also shown by the fact that the US election campaign also takes part in them; the rightwingfacebook is a facebook application answering to the barackbook launched by republicans. Ncludr and friendspacebook are both aiming at the totality of SNS, in ncludr you are friends with everybody from the beginning, in friendspacebook you create parody profiles from celebrities.

The third group consists of video clips which either exaggerate the mode of conversation in SNS in extreme way or which translate what is going on in the virtual world into real life situations. A great collection of them can be found here.

The criticsm of SNS is wide, concerning privacy issues, data scandals, stalking, superficiality of online relationships and addictiveness (and therefore neglection of offline sociality). These different points are also adressed by the parodies. Especially the youtube videos make fun of the awkwardness of facebook relations. Ncludr concentrates on oversatisfying the desire to have a lot of friends and gives you from the start 12 billion friends, among those also paperclips and other inanimated objects. Hate, crack, enemy and arsebook point out the phonyness of many facebook friendships and state that you can find more easily people you get along trough a shared hatred. The political books have an extra layer, they are not only making fun of the politics behind the service or of the users who contribute to it, they are in addition to that also making fun of the respective political rival.

Concerning myths, Roland Barthes writes “The best weapon against myth is perhaps to mythify it in its turn, and to produce an artificial myth: and this reconstituted myth will in fact be a mythology. Since myth robs language of something, why not rob myth?” That is what parodies are doing. That they create the next myth instantly after robbing the first one has also been described by Barthes. At the moment, the web presence of the facebooks parodies is quite high in quantity, but not really high regarding traffic ranks. Hatebook is the most active one, with a traffic rank of ca. 253. Facebook traffic rank: 5 (according to alexa.com). The fakebooks as well as the other parodies play a role in the SNS sphere, but compared to the size of facebook, it is a really tiny one.

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