Facebook is a self constructed reality

On: October 18, 2011
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About Sebastiaan Smink
Study: BA degree New Media (University of Amsterdam) MA student New Media (University of Amsterdam) Work: Dancefair.nl Passion: Electronic music


All right, here we go. For this blog post I was asked to write something about social network sites. Geert asked us to think about what we disliked about social network sites, like for example Facebook. Furthermore he told us to think about what kind of research we were still missing on social network sites.

I Like Facebook

First of all (this is going to sound real ironic), I like Facebook. Not so much because it allows me to keep track of what my friends are up to (really I don’t care what you guys are doing all day). The thing that I find useful is that Facebook is a great tool promoting your business. Whether you’re a rock star or a marketer at some big fashion brand, Facebook makes it very easy to connect with your target group. In return Facebook makes allows the masses to easily connect with their favourite brands. In this sense Facebook can be seen as a very useful and dirt-cheap marketing tool.

I don’t like advertising

However, the fact that Facebook is such a handy advertising-machine is also one of the things I dislike about Facebook. Not only brands advertise themselves on Facebook, everyone advertises on Facebook. Even I advertise myself on Facebook by uploading cool pictures of my last holiday, liking bands and products that fit my persona, and by updating my status with catchy one-liners. The more I use Facebook, the less it seems about real connections. Instead, Facebook seems to be one big advertising tool to promote your brand, band, company or online self. This is not why I entered Facebook! I want to interact with my friends, not with ads!

There are in my opinion three players in this advertising game: (1) the brand Facebook, (2) other brands and companies and (3) normal Facebook users.

The brand Facebook

Facebook tries to connect all its users to the brand Facebook. They do this by trying to let their users interact as much as possible with everything Facebook has to offer. For Facebook it is highly important that you like, comment, share and upload as much content as possible. Facebook stimulates the use of the medium by rewarding more active users. Facebook works better and smarter when you use it more intensively. For example, someone who actively uses Facebook every day for a couple of hours gets better friend recommendations than someone who uses Facebook ones a week.  This data is very valuable for Facebook. They will use it to their own advantages. For what purpose we don’t really know.

Other brands

As I discussed earlier, Facebook is a great place for connecting people to brands that normally operate outside Facebook. I can’t think of a brand or company that doesn’t have it’s own Facebook page. Even my dad’s pub has it own page! Because Facebook is such a great tool for companies to learn more about their customers, interact with their target group, and connect to new buyers everyone is getting on the bandwagon. The sad thing is that as more brands, stores, pubs or other companies apply for Facebook, all those who aren’t on Facebook will get the feeling they’re missing out. So now that my dad’s pub has its own Facebook page I’m sure the other pubs in town will soon follow. And when all those pubs (and other companies) are on Facebook, they all want some of my attention.

Advertise yourself

The last point I want to make is that I think that Facebook isn’t about connecting me to my friends, but connecting my self-constructed online-identity to the self-constructed online-identity of my friends. Although I try to be as honest as I can about my “real” life on Facebook (yeah, I know this sounds real weird), I know that my Facebook data-double isn’t me. The Facebook me, is me with all my boring, embarrassing, and ugly parts left out. In this way the “Facebook reality” is just like “television reality”: life with all the boring parts cut out.

Sometimes I really wonder: do all Facebook-users realise that Facebook is just one big, self-constructed reality, full of surreptitious advertising? When asking someone the same about television, the answer would most likely be that they do realise not everything shown on TV is real. Although in some cases it remains hard to separate the fake TV-reality from the real world, most people are conscious about the mediated reality they see on TV. But do Facebook-users realise the same?

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