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e College of Wooster Libraries
Open Works
Senior Independent Study ;eses
2014
Do You Like It?: An Autoethnography and
Ethn...
DO YOU “LIKE” IT?:
AN AUTOETHNOGRAPHY AND ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF HOW THE USE AND
ABSENCE FROM FACEBOOK IMPACTS MILLENNIALS....
ii
ABSTRACT
The social networking site Facebook has shown impressive growth and increasing
influence on the ways in which ...
iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The completion of my Independent Study would not have been possible without some very
important and s...
iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION.................................................................................
v
Narcissism...........................................................................................................28
...
vi
Audience Segregation ...................................................................................53
Physical- Vi...
1
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
I‟ve had social media accounts on several platforms ever since I was in middle school.
Yet, a lo...
2
Purpose Statement
The purpose of my study is to conduct a qualitative analysis of how our increasing
presence on Faceboo...
3
Facebook users in our society? Or, like I theorize, is Facebook actually having adverse impacts
on our relationships and...
4
Definitions
There are a few terms that are key to effectively understanding my study. First, the
concept of presentation...
5
Zuckerburg attributes the success of the website because it gives its users the 'power to share
and make the world more ...
6
CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW
I’ve been a social networking fanatic ever since I got my hands on Myspace in middle
schoo...
7
defined as “a wide range of online, word-of-mouth forums” that encompass “numerous and
varied” outlets (Mangold and Faul...
8
often lengthy conversations that can be traced back on the blog itself” (Kietzmann et al. 244).
Therefore, people have m...
9
“social support on different issues” (Brandtzaeg and Heim 148). Socializing online provides
“self-confirmation,” allowin...
10
With all of these options and abilities to connect and share, the way we “communicate and
interact” has changed (Kirkpa...
11
With Zuckerberg‟s “knack for making software people couldn‟t stop using,” he continued
with computer projects and colla...
12
While Facebook is known for it‟s various functions and abilities to connect the world, it
is also infamous for risking ...
13
been known to use such techniques, such as Barack Obama, who used social media effectively
with his 2008 and 2012 onlin...
14
plan so that by 2020, there will be a thousand times more information about each Facebook user
flowing through the site...
15
“intolerant of our own company” (288). As a society, we have become disillusioned into thinking
that an increase in com...
16
like just yesterday when an anonymous account messaged me in eighth grade and drew me into a
downward spiral of drama a...
17
the different facets of cyberculture, including “the social, cultural, and economic interactions”
occurring online (Sil...
18
simply because of broadband access, or lack thereof. For instance, rural communities do not have
nearly as much broadba...
19
lack thereof (Van Deursen and Van Dijk 894). As a result of the widespread growth of Internet
use and cyberculture, our...
20
While I have discussed the various ways and reasons in which people lack Internet access
or skills, I must note that th...
21
For example, a 2009 Pew Research Report regarding “Social Isolation and New Technology”
found that members of social ne...
22
school administrators or parents for several reasons. Victims often fear “retribution” from bullies
and peers worry abo...
23
inhibiting my productiveness in being so incredibly connected, or am I as skilled as I would like
to think?
***********...
24
others worldwide. The “Baby Boomers” were often called the “Me Generation,” and thus they
“produced the Me Me Me Genera...
25
for “personal social interaction” or for a “personal/ professional hybrid mode,” the ability to stay
connected is a gro...
26
generations, the pressure is on to stay successful and utilize all tools available (75). Thus,
because millennials are ...
27
teacher relationship, increasing “comfort” and “efficacy” (Amador and Amador 13). Thus,
because Millennials are familia...
28
not undivided towards their homework. Overall, it can be concluded that millennials are more
concerned with instant gra...
29
and that are “negatively related to the extent to which they post pictures that feature others”
(Bergman et al. 707). S...
30
I would be lying if I said I’ve never posted a particularly flattering picture of myself to
get the attention of someon...
31
Manipulating our identity is not new to western culture. In Fact, Shakespearean comedies
and tragedies represented thes...
32
certain characteristics, they make “neutral expressions,” conform, and only engage in “modest
self- disclosure to avoid...
33
allows users to “express hidden self-aspects” that they might not feel comfortable revealing in
everyday life (402). In...
34
to be subjected to “other- provided” information, OPI, and thus must engage in more “protective
self- presentation to m...
35
While some users do engage in deception or present themselves inaccurately, others
desire to portray themselves in acco...
36
constantly both on and offline. By writing narratives that correlate with different aspects of my
literature review, I ...
37
CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY
I will be using two main methodological approaches in my study on Facebook;
ethnographic metho...
38
participants that can provide critical information otherwise neglected from quantitiative research,
such as standard su...
39
would fail to allow an individualized examination of my participants, which is fundamental to
discovering the meanings ...
40
experiences to those of my participants. Thus, providing me the opportunity to determine any
common themes in our behav...
41
Methodological Steps
In order to cary out my ethnography, I will conduct an in-depth interview with each
participant ab...
42
thoughts, experiences, productivity, and overall wellbeing. I will complete this portion of my
study before I make any ...
43
CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS
Upon looking at my interviews and observations, I noticed some common themes among
my participants...
44
own usage with incredible sagacity. He recognizes his media consumption and is conscious
towards not only what he does ...
45
Thus, Ted no longer goes to Facebook in times of loneliness, and admits that Facebook
has contributed to it in the past...
46
he contacts and how, and does so with an obvious intention of not being creepy. In this day in
age of technology, Kyle ...
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H
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Do You Like It-- An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of H

  1. 1. e College of Wooster Libraries Open Works Senior Independent Study ;eses 2014 Do You Like It?: An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of How the Use and Absence From Facebook Impacts Millennials Rachel J. Lewis e College of Wooster, Rlewis14@wooster.edu Follow this and additional works at: hp://openworks.wooster.edu/independentstudy ;is Senior Independent Study ;esis is brought to you by Open Works, a service of ;e College of Wooster Libraries. It has been accepted for inclusion in Senior Independent Study ;eses by an authorized administrator of Open Works. For more information, please contact openworks@wooster.edu. © Copyright 2014 Rachel J. Lewis Recommended Citation Lewis, Rachel J., Do You Like It?: An Autoethnography and Ethnographic Study of How the Use and Absence From Facebook Impacts Millennials (2014). Senior Independent Study eses. Paper 5981. hp://openworks.wooster.edu/independentstudy/5981
  2. 2. DO YOU “LIKE” IT?: AN AUTOETHNOGRAPHY AND ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF HOW THE USE AND ABSENCE FROM FACEBOOK IMPACTS MILLENNIALS. by Rachel Jessica Jenny Lewis An Independent Study Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Course Requirements for Senior Independent Study: The Department of Communication March 24, 2014 Advisor: Dr. Ahmet Atay
  3. 3. ii ABSTRACT The social networking site Facebook has shown impressive growth and increasing influence on the ways in which we communicate over the last decade. Specifically, Millennials are highly dependent and devoted to Facebook. My study examines how Millennial students‟ use of Facebook impacts their self-presentations and perceptions of others. Additionally, this study reveals the implications of deactivating one‟s account for a brief period of time. To conduct a qualitative analysis, I employ the methods of ethnography and autoethnography, with narratives of four liberal arts students as well as myself. My research reveals common themes among my participants, such as the preoccupation with self-presentation, the importance of self-concept, and negative feelings resulting from Facebook use. Overall, I found that our perspectives towards Facebook are highly dependent on our own individual experiences and identities, and most importantly, directly related to how we value the site. Key terms: social networking site, facebook, identity, self-presentation, perception, millennial
  4. 4. iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The completion of my Independent Study would not have been possible without some very important and special people. First, I am so grateful for my advisor and mentor, Dr. Ahmet Atay, who is one of the most dedicated professors I‟ve had the honor of knowing since I was a wee freshman. Thank you so much for always being my cheerleader and keeping me motivated. I appreciate your honesty when telling me to take a “chill pill.” Additionally, I want to thank the entire Department of Communication Studies for their hard work and positive attitude throughout this process. I look back at my late nights in Wishart 105 with fond memories. It is rare that a student can have inside jokes with professors that stem from 2 AM work/ grading sessions, and such solidarity among faculty and students is what makes our department unique. (Also, thank you Dr. Johnson for calling me “Dean Lewis.” I think it is starting to catch on.) Next, I want to thank my wonderful family. Both my parents and brothers have been tremendously helpful throughout not only my I.S. endeavors, but any feat I‟ve had to overcome during my college experience. Mom, Dad, Zach, and Jacob, thanks for the continued inspiration and support; I would not be where I am today without you. Last, I want to thank my incredible friends, near and far, for simply being there. You know who you are and please know that you are always appreciated.
  5. 5. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION..................................................................................1 Purpose Statement.......................................................................................................2 Rationales....................................................................................................................2 Definitions...................................................................................................................4 Description of Methods...............................................................................................5 Conclusion ..................................................................................................................5 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................................6 Social Networking ......................................................................................................6 Functions of Social Networking Sites...................................................................7 Facebook...............................................................................................................9 History of Facebook............................................................................................10 Infringements on Privacy....................................................................................11 Loneliness ...........................................................................................................13 Cyberculture..............................................................................................................16 Digital Divide......................................................................................................17 Interpersonal Relationships.................................................................................19 Cyberbullying .....................................................................................................21 Millennials ................................................................................................................23 Digital Natives ....................................................................................................23 Generation Y.......................................................................................................23 Tech Savvy..........................................................................................................24 The Classroom ....................................................................................................25
  6. 6. v Narcissism...........................................................................................................28 Self- Presentation......................................................................................................30 Self-Presentation in Cyberspace .........................................................................32 Deception ............................................................................................................33 Recent Developments .........................................................................................35 Conclusion ..........................................................................................................35 CHAPTER III: METHOD...........................................................................................37 Ethnography..............................................................................................................37 Ethnographic Interviews ...........................................................................................37 Autoethnography.......................................................................................................38 Justification for Methods ..........................................................................................38 Participants................................................................................................................40 Methodological Steps................................................................................................41 CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS ........................................................................................43 Portraits ....................................................................................................................43 Ted .....................................................................................................................43 Kyle.....................................................................................................................45 Erica....................................................................................................................46 Anne....................................................................................................................48 Myself .................................................................................................................50 Ethnographic Analysis .............................................................................................51 Self-Presentation.................................................................................................51 Region Behavior ...........................................................................................51
  7. 7. vi Audience Segregation ...................................................................................53 Physical- Virtual Dialectic............................................................................54 Self-Concept ......................................................................................................56 Social Comparison .......................................................................................56 Self- Esteem..................................................................................................58 Group Identification............................................................................................61 Loneliness ...........................................................................................................63 Necessity.............................................................................................................67 Deactivation Analysis ...............................................................................................67 Expectations vs. Reality......................................................................................67 New Perspectives................................................................................................70 Observations Post Deactivation .........................................................................71 My Deactivation........................................................................................................73 Reflections ..........................................................................................................75 CHAPTER V: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS............................77 Major Conclusions....................................................................................................77 Implications of the Research Findings......................................................................79 Limitations................................................................................................................79 Recommendations for Future Research....................................................................80 Final Thoughts ..........................................................................................................81 REFERENCES..............................................................................................................82 APPENDIX: Interview Questions ...............................................................................90
  8. 8. 1 CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION I‟ve had social media accounts on several platforms ever since I was in middle school. Yet, a lot as changed since the days of teen angst and parental controls. Now I am a senior in college, preparing to enter “the real world.” However, I still find myself wasting away the hours on Facebook when I should be focused on finding future employment. Whether I am connecting with friends, or looking at the seemingly perfect lives of my peers, I am constantly online looking to amuse myself. After a semester abroad last spring, I realized how integral Facebook is to my life as it was my main source of connection to home. Over the summer, I spent a majority of time reminiscing over my abroad and school experiences, and conversing with friends. Yet, throughout all of these interactions I noticed that despite my communication, I was still alone and sometimes even anxious. Returning to school this past Fall I became increasingly aware of the enormous role Facebook seems to play on not only my life, but the lives of those who surround me. I cannot walk into a room on campus without seeing a fellow student logged onto Facebook, scrolling through their newsfeed. Almost every student I know at my school has an account, and thus I became curious if my peers shared similar experiences or perspectives to my own. This marks the inspiration for my independent study topic. I decided to study the implications behind our Facebook use and the impacts of our preoccupation online. The first chapter of my independent study provides a narrower scope into my research with my intended purpose and rationales for carrying out the study. Additionally, I include definitions necessary for understanding my study effectively, and a description of my research methods.
  9. 9. 2 Purpose Statement The purpose of my study is to conduct a qualitative analysis of how our increasing presence on Facebook impacts our perceptions and reality both on and offline. I will be observing how the Millennial generation specifically uses and thinks about Facebook. Furthermore, to truly determine how much of an influence Facebook has on our daily lives, I aim to examine if and how our perspectives and behaviors change when we no longer have access to our accounts. Rationales According to Facebook‟s Investor page, there are 1.19 billion monthly active users on Facebook, and 728 million daily active users on average. The number of daily users is at an increase of “25% year-over-year” and monthly users at an increase of 18%. Thus, Facebook, which was only created in 2004, has a massive following and is still growing (Facebook Investors). Creator Mark Zuckerberg has come up with two five-year plans, the first of which was implemented in 2010. This plan came with the assertion that he would “eliminate loneliness” completely with the social networking site by 2015 (Keen 65). The second five-year plan, known as “Zuckerberg‟s Law,” states that by 2020, 1,000 times more information about each user will flow through Facebook (65). As it stands now, Facebook is deeply personalized and contains private information about its users. With the expansion of Facebook across the globe and the impending increase of information sharing, my study is relevant and time-sensitive. Facebook is said to be transitioning us into a world where loneliness does not exist. Moreover, by studying interpersonal relationships and personal perceptions in relation to Facebook, I will be able to see if this is in fact happening. Is loneliness decreasing amongst
  10. 10. 3 Facebook users in our society? Or, like I theorize, is Facebook actually having adverse impacts on our relationships and emotional wellbeing? Another reason why my study is significant is because it specifically studies the Facebook use of college students. Students use social networking sites in an effort to create and maintain relationships with their peers, along with upholding personal presentations. Moreover, in this study, I will observe how select students‟ behavior on Facebook influence their interpersonal relationships. My research is particularly unique in that it looks directly at the students of a small liberal arts school. The College of Wooster's students are different and important to study in comparison to those who encompass larger universities. With an undergraduate population of 2,000, most current students who belong to the “College of Wooster” network on Facebook know or are familiar with one another. Often times if students have not yet met, they recognize each other from Facebook. Moreover, my research will determine the impacts that a close- knit environment has on our conversations and attitudes with our fellow students both on and offline. Finally, my study is significant because while scholars have studied Facebook users and non-users, there appears to be a lack of scholarship about the impacts of deactivating one‟s account. Because our society is so internet obsessed, we have become part of a “cyberculture” (Ulfo 140). With a growing dependence on the internet, scholars are looking to see adverse results of such usage. While my study is not a psychological analysis of Facebook users, I will be studying the behavior and thoughts of those who have Facebook, deactivate their accounts, and then reactivate if they so choose. While this portion of my study includes only a short-term absence from Facebook, it will reveal the ways in which social networking sites might impact people on a daily basis.
  11. 11. 4 Definitions There are a few terms that are key to effectively understanding my study. First, the concept of presentation, specifically self-presentation. Self-presentation can be defined as the process of setting forth an image we want others to perceive (Wood and Smith 47). Sociologist Erving Goffman studied and wrote about how people work to present themselves in everyday life and compared self- presentation to a performance of sorts (53). Identity refers to the multiple parts that organize the “overall self,” and a person has an identity for “each of the different positions or role relationships” one holds in society (Stets and Burke 132). Identity relates to the notion of self-awareness, which is another manifestation of humanity's long struggle with identity. How we engage in self- presentation is a large part of what makes up our identity (Wood and Smith 52). Since ancient times humans have been manipulating their identities, and such changes in displays of self can even be seen in Shakespearean plays (53). Now with new internet technologies such as the social networking site Facebook, there is more of an ability to shape aspects of our identity for public consideration than any other time in history (53). A social networking site can be defined as “a web-based service” that allows individuals to formulate an online “profile,” connect with other users, and view their connections with others “within the system” (Boyd and Ellison 151). Facebook specifically is a highly convergent technology which consists of self-disclosures that can be displayed through autobiographical self-descriptions, status updates, group messages, comments, geo-tags, links to content elsewhere on the web, 'liked' pages and groups videos, and photographs (Lambert 16). Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and the site now has over four hundred million active users worldwide, with half of them logging in on a daily basis (Wittkower xxxi). Mark
  12. 12. 5 Zuckerburg attributes the success of the website because it gives its users the 'power to share and make the world more open and connected' (Wittkower xxxii). Methods In this study I will be employing ethnographic methods and autoethnography. Ethnography is the study of the socio-cultural contexts, processes, and meanings within cultural systems and is conducted with fieldwork and extensive interviews (Whitehead 5). I will be using the method of ethnography to study how the use and discontinuation of Facebook impacts different students at my school. Similarly, autoethnography is a “research method that utilizes the researchers‟ autobiographical data to analyze and interpret their cultural assumptions” (Chang 9). I will be using this method to assess my own Facebook use and how it relates to my own perceptions and relationships. Additionally, I will personally deactivate my own Facebook for an allotted amount of time and analyze my experience. I will take notes on my productivity, self esteem, social interactions, and overall wellbeing. Hopefully, with the combined interviews, field notes, and self-reflection in my ethnography and autoethnography, I will have clear depictions of the various impacts Facebook has on the thoughts and behaviors of Millennials. Furthermore, I hope to see how such notions are influenced by the deactivation and reactivation of the site. Conclusion In summation, I will be using the methods of ethnography and autoethnography in order to study the different ways in which Facebook influences the lives of other Wooster students, as well as my own. The specific aim of my study is to discover if and how Facebook plays a direct role in presentations, perceptions, and relationships, both on and offline, and to understand why this occurs.
  13. 13. 6 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW I’ve been a social networking fanatic ever since I got my hands on Myspace in middle school. However, my need for constant connection and interaction was not quite fulfilled due to my mother and father’s paranoia and strict parental controls. They assumed that if I disclosed too much information, I could potentially get stalked, kidnapped, etc. Thus, my name was merely Rachel L. and my profile picture was of Regina George (the antagonist in teen sensation movie “Mean Girls”). Despite my restrictions, I was completely enthralled with Myspace. I remember my neurotic concern regarding the “Top 8 Friends,” and obsessively looking at my peers’ pages. Were they talking about me? Were their lives extraordinarily fabulous? The answer usually seemed to be yes. Perhaps I was paranoid, but at the time I was insecure (and immature). Towards the end of middle school and upon my emergence into high school, Myspace was was no longer “cool” because a newer, bigger social networking site was on the rise: Facebook. I remember it seemed so exclusive and out of my reach, like a country club only for the rich and famous. Yet, with a simple online request to join the network of my upcoming High School, I would be allowed into that club. I would enter the world of the elite. In other words, I would be on the same social networking site as high school and college students. Nevertheless, this was an upgrade to the big leagues. Little did I know that with just a click of a button, I would join a virtual world which would influence the ways in which I view my friends, foes, and myself, for years to come. ************************************** Social Networking Before I introduce Facebook as a social phenomenon, it is important that I define and differentiate the terms that are associated with such social networking sites. “Social media” is
  14. 14. 7 defined as “a wide range of online, word-of-mouth forums” that encompass “numerous and varied” outlets (Mangold and Faulds 358). Social media covers six different types of online platforms: “collaborative projects, blogs, content communities, virtual game worlds, virtual social worlds” and most notably “social networking sites” (Park Calamaro 257). Social networking sites (SNSs) are specifically websites where users “create profiles, formulate connections with others, and view content made by others” (257). Moreover, the term “social network” is defined as “the connection and communication between you and the society” (Shah 7). However, as a result of “Web 2.0,” an “interactive, two-way vehicle for networked sociality,” people online have begun to network similarly to the way we do in person, hence the name (Van Deursen and Van Dijck 5). Social networking sites are the newest “platforms of social oriented activity” which allow users to display themselves publicly and engage in self-presentation to a public audience (Lambert 251). I will be discussing the notion of self-presentation and its relevance to social networking further in this chapter. Functions of Social Networking Sites When looking at the meaning of a social networking site, it is no surprise the term suggests that people use SNSs in order to socialize with others. However, people have different reasons and abilities of being social online, and often utilize different SNS platforms for other opportunities as well. For instance, the SNS Twitter is “centered around exchanging short messages that are mostly real-time status updates, so as to create an „ambivalent awareness‟ of issues” (Kietzmann et al. 244). Twitter‟s primary purpose is to promote instant conversation and gratification. Conversely, blogs “are less about staying connected synchronously than about facilitating rich,
  15. 15. 8 often lengthy conversations that can be traced back on the blog itself” (Kietzmann et al. 244). Therefore, people have multiple reasons and motivations for using SNSs rather than “a single reason as the most important” (Brandtzaeg and Heim 146). The opportunity to reveal one‟s identity to the world is one of the main reason people use SNSs. With the ability to disclose personal information and preferences, users can portray themselves in particular ways (again, relating to the notion of self-presentation) (Kietzmann et al. 243). Another reason why people are enticed by SNSs is because such platforms provide a space where users can communicate with others. Whether one sends a tweet, posts on a blog, or composes a Facebook message, such actions lead to conversation (244). One exceptionally common reason for using SNSs is to remain in contact with those we cannot frequently see in person. It is now easy to “maintain off-line connections” with friends, family, and acquaintances, “regardless of where they happen to be situated” with these websites (Gustafsson 7). Because SNSs provide “new venues” for “relationship management,” individuals can now engage in important social relationship maintenance, such as development, support, and self-disclosure (Rice and Fuller 361). In addition to assisting with relationship management, SNSs allow individuals the opportunity to form new relationships online (Brandtzaeg and Heim 147). Virtual profiles serve as “safe” environments for users to seek out virtual friendships and relationships because they have the ability to “verify the person.” People who are in new relationships or seeking friendships in new environments, such as college, are likely to use SNSs because of the ease and accessibility of “meeting” people online (147). Many people use SNSs for the purpose of socializing in a variety of contexts. With the use of such sites, users can share their thoughts, make “small-talk” and even seek and provide
  16. 16. 9 “social support on different issues” (Brandtzaeg and Heim 148). Socializing online provides “self-confirmation,” allowing users to feel part of a bigger “community” (148). By gathering an audience, users can gain self-esteem and popularity, or at least the perception of it (Lambert 12). Also, SNSs are optimal because they allow users to communicate in “multiple modes” (Boyd and Ellison 159). In other words, individuals have the choice to communicate “one-to- many” or “one-to-one,” with “textual and media-based” content, and either in public or private (159). These options allow users not only the ability to engage in sociality, but to do so according to their personal preferences. Besides socializing, people use SNSs with other intentions in mind, such as receiving information, debating with others, free messaging (SMS), “time-killing” content sharing, profile viewing, and “unspecified fun” (Brandtzaeg and Heim 148). Additionally, users often engage in social activism and politics, especially since the elections in 2008. Also, users can stay up to date on world affairs, with “news sharing, fundraising for causes,” and even global revolutions such as during the Arab Spring (Kassim n.pag.). Facebook Facebook is a social networking site where users create their own personal “profiles” and join different “networks.” Facebook allows users to provide personal information, post photos, list their hobbies and the “electronic groups” they belong to, publicly “record comments about their feelings or activities,” send private messages to their Facebook friends, “like” what their friends‟ post, and “tag” their friends in photos (Yang and Brown 405). To clarify, a “Facebook friend” does not necessarily stand for someone a user is friends with in real life, but merely with whom they are connected to online. Yet, “Facebook friends” usually also consist of “real-life friends, relatives, and colleagues,” however, the term “friend” is a metaphor (Wittkower 18).
  17. 17. 10 With all of these options and abilities to connect and share, the way we “communicate and interact” has changed (Kirkpatrick 15). We have been affected on a consumer level in relation to “how marketers sell products,” on a political level via “how governments reach out to citizens,” and on a professional level with “how companies operate” (15). Although Facebook was only created about a decade ago, as of the end of 2013, there are about 1 billion users on the platform (Smith n. pag.). Moreover, out of those users, about 86% of the users live outside of the United States, and 29% of users log on from Asian countries (n. pag.). Another staggering statistic is that Facebook is the “second- most- visited site” on the internet, after Google, with 20% of all 1.7 billion people online worldwide using the platform (Kirkpatrick 16). It has been theorized that this social networking site is “the fastest- growing company of any type in history,” and Facebook continues to progress in popularity. History of Facebook Before I explain the current state of Facebook, I must first discuss the making of the platform and recent history behind the site. The story behind Facebook‟s creation has been discussed, debated, and even made into a feature film. Different assertions have been made regarding whether or not former Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, was the sole creator and mind behind Facebook. Yet, despite a lawsuit and settlement, Mark Zuckerberg remains the CEO and founder of the Facebook organization. Facebook started off as merely one Harvard student‟s “college project” at only nineteen- years- old in 2003 (Kirkpatrick 15). A computer science major, Zuckerberg first made a website for the Harvard community called “Facemash, a „Hot Or Not‟ clone” comparing the attractiveness of different students (Carlson n. pag.). While controversial, Facemash was an “instant hit,” making him somewhat of a campus “celebrity” (n. pag.).
  18. 18. 11 With Zuckerberg‟s “knack for making software people couldn‟t stop using,” he continued with computer projects and collaborations, and registered a website called “Thefacebook.com” a few months later (Kirkpatrick 25-27). The site was similar to his “Facemash” project, along with the already created Friendster network which allowed people to make personal profiles about themselves for the specific intention of dating (27). However, Friendster‟s quick success led to technical difficulties that made it “slow and difficult to use,” and thus was pushed to the side as Myspace emerged (27). Zuckerberg‟s initial intention was to “help people share more at Harvard,” explaining that his desire was to create a platform where everybody “could get access to information about anyone” and share anything (Kirkpatrick 29). “Thefacebook.com” went live February 4, 2004, and only four days later, over 650 students signed up. Initially, only those with Harvard e-mail address could join the platform, however the website quickly grew to include other university students as well (Boyd and Ellison 218). Just over three months after it‟s creation, Facebook had grown to 100,000 users at thirty- four schools (Kirkpatrick 34). Facebook‟s growth led to the inclusion of “high school students, professionals inside corporate networks, and, eventually, everyone” (Boyd and Ellison 218). Zuckerberg succeeded in building a “technological powerhouse with unprecedented influence across modern life” (Kirkpatrick 15). As a result of the massive growth and opportunities associated with Facebook, there are clearly several opportunities available that users can take advantage of. However, with opportunities comes risk and controversy as well, such as with the notion of privacy. Infringements on Privacy
  19. 19. 12 While Facebook is known for it‟s various functions and abilities to connect the world, it is also infamous for risking users‟ privacy. There have been criticisms of Facebook for being a place where we reveal too much about ourselves. The Onion once wrote a humorous article about Facebook, referring to the site as being a “CIA conspiracy” since it is so easy to spy on one another with the mass amounts of information provided (Keen 28). While the Onion is a satirical news source, the article indicates a real concern; our information on Facebook is easily accessible. Creator Mark Zuckerberg once said that as a result of social networking, “privacy is no longer a „social norm‟ ” (Clemmitt 83). Privacy is defined as “the idea that all people have the right and should have the ability to determine for themselves who can see their personal information” (89). While the creator of Facebook may see this privacy as a concept from the past, others have reacted differently towards this new reality. Some analysts have argued that “privacy protections are critical,” yet now SNSs such as Facebook are promised financial compensation for selling users‟s “information for targeted marketing efforts and the like” (83). Most users remain painfully unaware of how much their online activity is tracked despite the growing abilities of companies to do so. In fact, a majority of Facebook users “perceive benefits of online social networking as outweighing risks of disclosing personal information” (Tello 207). A majority of users are unaware of the fact that their information is “stored and used without any consent or knowledge.” This is called “Information Monitoring” (207). Several “social media and data- analysis companies” collect data about everything users do on Facebook, ranging from the articles they read, when they log online, and which events they attend to (Clemmitt 89). Statistical analysts collect such data in order to “aggregate that information into profiles” which different businesses can target with ads and campaigns (89). Politicians have
  20. 20. 13 been known to use such techniques, such as Barack Obama, who used social media effectively with his 2008 and 2012 online campaigns (86). Privacy is also challenged when users apply for schooling or jobs. While in the past, college admissions officers were only able to gain information “provided by applications or available from public sources, such as schools or government agencies,” students are now subjected to having their SNS profiles judged upon entering college (Clemmitt 89). One survey studying medical school and residency admissions officers revealed that 9 percent routinely used content from these sites to make decisions regarding administration, a staggering “53 percent said evidence of unprofessional behavior found on such sites could jeopardize a candidate‟s spot” (89). In relation to job- applications outside of school, there have also been numerous incidents of “people losing their jobs because messages they had intended to be private turned out to be public” (Wittkower 19). The information that we post online is available for everyone to see, not only possible employers or college admissions officers. Many news organizations do have “ethical guidelines” for the material they find on SNSs; however, others treat “private individual profiles as equivalent to press releases” (Wittkower 20). Therefore, anything a user may post online could end up being covered by the news. There is no way to ensure that anything one posts online will not be shared with others, no matter who the person is. Therefore, while users may not literally be CIA agents, “everyone can become a secret policeman” in the world of Facebook (Keen 29). Loneliness Besides threatening our privacy, another growing concern with Facebook is it‟s negative impacts on users‟ interpersonal relationships, concept of self, and identity, particularly in that it can create loneliness. Mark Zuckerberg has stated he has instilled the second part to his five-year
  21. 21. 14 plan so that by 2020, there will be a thousand times more information about each Facebook user flowing through the site (Keen 65). Additionally, he claims that users will have a “device” with them at all times which can automatically share such personal information. This has been referred to as “Zuckerberg‟s Law” (66). While this may initially sound appealing, such a plan could hurt us rather than help us. While Mark Zuckerberg stated his plan was to completely eliminate loneliness, he may be contributing to it instead by giving users a false consciousness. The internet and ability to converse online can cause loneliness because users become desensitized to the fact that the relationships that exist on social networking sites are quite different than those that take place in “real life” (Turkle 288). Because we are able to control our interactions and always create new connections online, there is less consistency and overall a quicker “pace” of relationships, exaggeration of stories, and a continual “adrenaline rush” (288). Such agency to put our attention wherever we choose, the reassurance that our voices will always be heard, and the assumption that “I share, therefore I am” can be detrimental (288). This logic has led to an inherent sense of urgency to define all our thoughts and experiences, and always have something to share. With so many people thinking this way and comparing their posted experiences to one another, internet users sometimes even fake experiences just so they can contribute (The Innovation of Loneliness). Relationships that are developed and experienced in-person are not so one-dimensional and nonsensical. Thus, the consequence lies in the fact that users try to “make life with others” resemble cyberspace (Turkle 288). Online, it is very easy to “lose confidence that we are communicating or cared for,” and therefore attempt to connect even more. We assume that if we are connected, then we are not alone. However, this constant need and search for connection makes us feel uncomfortable when we are actually by ourselves. Without realizing it, we become
  22. 22. 15 “intolerant of our own company” (288). As a society, we have become disillusioned into thinking that an increase in communication leads to a decrease in loneliness. However, this puts us at “risk” because if we are not able to be alone with ourselves, “we‟re going to be more lonely” (TEDTalks). ******************************* As I reflect upon my Internet use, an array of memories and emotions come to mind. I think of my ridiculous screen names I made as a child on Kids AOL, such as “soccericecream” and “AmericanDude101.” I recall joining themed chat rooms, once conversing with people who claimed to be witches and warlocks. I look back on my attempts at seeking support on message boards when I was suffering from severe stomach problems in middle school, and finding the solidarity in the public posts comforting . Even more recently when I studied abroad for a semester in Denmark, I relied on Facebook, Skype, and E-mail to stay connected with my family and friends. When I had emergency surgery, it was a reassurance seeing my mother and father’s faces on my computer screen, even if they were thousands of miles away. And with Facebook, my thirst for gossip was quenched as friends gave me updates that seemed newsworthy, helping to quiet my insecurities that I was missing out on any extreme excitement at school. Yet, when I think about the Internet, I also get a tinge of anxiety as I remember the days in middle and high school when I felt targeted on social networking sites. The memories of seeing public posts clearly referring to me on Myspace and Facebook are all too clear. Additionally, some of my darkest memories regarding my social life consist of horrible conversations I had in online messaging platforms.I got into arguments and misunderstandings with friends who became foes, and even worse, I was even bullied in certain instances. It seems
  23. 23. 16 like just yesterday when an anonymous account messaged me in eighth grade and drew me into a downward spiral of drama as they tricked and then harassed me. I remember crying to my mother in my room unsure of what to do. I wanted to know who was behind the screen, and felt a need to solve all of my problems online. What I did not realize at the time was that the internet was the root of such middle school evil. ******************************* Cyberculture Before cyberculture can be defined, I must explain cyberspace and its dynamic history. Originally, cyberspace was referred to as the “the world wide web,” a space where users could find documents with hyperlinks, and send e-mails to one another (Dutton 76). However, over the years, cyberspace has transformed to “Web 2.0” with the inclusion of social networking sites and various online search engines (76). While cyberspace is a virtual dimension rather than a concrete physical location, this does not take away from its validity. Cyberspace had been previous described as being specifically a “virtual reality” as opposed to “real life,” yet as of the early 1990s, scholars began to see its direct intertwinement with daily life (Shah 6). Thus, cyberspace was seen as being interconnected with users‟ lives rather than a separate entity, making the discourse regarding the “virtual-physical” dialectic irrelevant (6). As users have become more reliant and connected to cyberspace, its impact and relevance has grown over the years. Thus, our society has become part of a “cyberculture.” Cyberculture‟s definition is a “world consisting of humans and machines where documents and images are created by computer interaction” (Ulfo 140). However, cyberculture has become a much more colloquial term used to describe the mass influence that both cyberspace and the digital world has had on various aspects of our lives. “Critical cybererculture studies” looks into
  24. 24. 17 the different facets of cyberculture, including “the social, cultural, and economic interactions” occurring online (Silver n. pag.). Cyberculture consists of digital media, digital film-making, film production, along with distribution and consumption (Silver and Massanari n. pag.). However, more recent technology that has pervaded our culture include chat rooms, message boards, instant messaging, video chats, blogs, online search engines, gaming sites, podcasts, and social media networks (Ulfo 140). While the world wide web was only developed in 1991, cyberculture has still managed to spread rapidly on both a national and global scale. This is not because of coincidence, but partially due to its convenience. For instance, “the spreading of telephone networks and computer use” has allowed people across the globe access to the internet (Ulfo 140). Such growth can be contributed to aspects such as low costs, a way to communicate “based on conceptual straightforwardness,” instant gratification, complete with the ability to remain anonymous (140). Digital Divide While it is true that “today‟s „digital society‟ is comprised of those from every social, cultural and age group,” some have easier access to cyberspace than others (Ulfo 140). The term “digital divide” was initially defined as “gaps in access to a computer” and physical access was key (Van Deursen and Van Dijk 893). However, while the “have and have nots” relate to having “basic hardware and connectivity,” lacking tools such as digital skills and understanding also contributes to digital inequality (Hargittai and Hsieh 131). The issue of having basic computer technology and equipment is a relevant problem with 37% of low income households not having regular Internet access (Pskowski n. pag.). On a domestic level, one‟s living environment can strongly affect their ability to use the internet
  25. 25. 18 simply because of broadband access, or lack thereof. For instance, rural communities do not have nearly as much broadband access as suburban and urban regions (Caumont n. pag.). While Americans go without Internet access because of their specific living situation, this compares only minimally to the stark disproportion on a global scale. In fact, “only a minority of the population on our planet have access” (Graham, Hale, Stephens 1010). As early as the 1990s, researchers noted the “unequal international spread” of the Internet, with less developed nations having lower “rates of diffusion” than more developed nations (Dutton 133). The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) studies such Internet diffusion trends across the world, with recent findings in 2010 that certain European countries, specifically those in Scandinavia, and Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, have Internet access in over 80% of the households (133). Conversely, this figure drops a staggering amount in several South Asian, Latin American, and African nations, even to under 5% (Dutton 133). The ITU also found that there are “notable gaps” in broadband dissipation across countries, with under 1 broadband subscriber per 100 inhabits in under developed nations, but 41 broadband subscribers in develope countries like Sweden. Such inequalities and disparities can be contributed to the different costs of Internet subscriptions in certain countries. For instance, while broadband access is affordable to most in America, the monthly fee “can amount to large portions of people‟s earnings” in many African nations. Overall, the global digital divide is a result of a country‟s wealth, the education and literacy levels of its inhabits, governmental system, and “telecommunications policies” (133). In addition to the domestic and even greater global imbalances based on geographical location, other factors play a role in the digital divide as well. Over the years, there is growing concern regarding the digital divide pertaining to the possession of different “digital skills,” or
  26. 26. 19 lack thereof (Van Deursen and Van Dijk 894). As a result of the widespread growth of Internet use and cyberculture, our society has an increasing demand for users to skillfully navigate the web. As the amount of information online grows, so does the dependency, thus such skills are “vital assets” (894). The term “digital immigrants,” can be used to describe people new to the Internet (Shah 24). These users have a type of “analogue „accent‟ ” in that they are in a “state of permanent transition into the digital world,” not very comfortable with new media technology and lacking fundamental skills (25). Different skills necessary for Internet use include “operational skills,” which is basic knowledge of how to type and operate a computer, “information skills” which is the ability to use the computer as a tool, and then “strategic skills” which are the applications of basic skills in order to solve personal questions (Brake 11). There are also three types of digital immigrants: The “avoiders” who live a lifestyle with minimum technology, the “reluctant adopters” who attempt to use digital technology but are not comfortable with doing so, and the “enthusiastic adopters” who embrace internet culture and “have the potential to keep up with natives” (Zur and Zur n. pag.). According to Pew Research, factors that contribute to the digital divide include age, with adults over 65 consuming almost half of the non- Internet users (Caumont n. pag.). As mentioned above, income and educational attainment also greatly affect one‟s internet usage. For instance, only 4% of undergraduates do not use the internet as compared to 41% of those who do not graduate high school. Finally, research indicates that adults with disabilities lack presence on the Internet, along with native Spanish speakers, although various language options are often available on computers. Interpersonal Relationships
  27. 27. 20 While I have discussed the various ways and reasons in which people lack Internet access or skills, I must note that this information does not take away from the strong impact cyberculture has on Western societies. In fact, users rely on cyberspace at such a high magnitude that cyberculture is impacting many interpersonal relationships. The dependence and devotion people give to the internet can affect their social lives in both a positive and negative manner. Studies have shown that compared to those who do not go cyberspace, Internet users reportedly are more involved in the community and extracurriculars, and thus are more “socially active” (Wittkower 67). Additionally, with the widespread use of social networking sites and e-mailing, it has become easier for people to stay connected and in contact, and thus can be correlated with improving “strong tie relationships” (67). However, the increasing reliance on the Internet can negatively affect one‟s social life as well. Often times users are online so much that they become “suburban hermits,” choosing to stay at home rather than engage in any other activities. One study, conducted by Nie and Erbring, found a negative correlation between the hours people spend online and the time they spend with other humans (Wittkower 66). Their findings, which included a random sampling of household users, concluded that in addition to a lack of social engagement, their interpersonal relationships were challenged because if people are seemingly always on their computers, they are not going to spend time or communicate with their family and friends face to face (66). One platform that can be particularly destructive to users‟ relationships is Facebook, because all of the interactions and updating solely exist online. This is a cause for concern because such dependencies on social networking sites might make “face-to-face interactions obsolete” (Wittkower 75). Moreover, if people feel so comfortable with Facebook that they rely on the site as their main way of communication, their social lives could eventually dissipate (75).
  28. 28. 21 For example, a 2009 Pew Research Report regarding “Social Isolation and New Technology” found that members of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc, are “26 percent less likely to spend time with their neighbors” (Wittkower 67). Another study from MIT‟s Initiate of Technology and the Self found that “perpetual networking activity is actually undermining many parents‟ relationship with their children (67). Cyberbullying Another growing issue with cyberculture and its impact on relationships is the prevalence of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can be defined as “deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or hostile information about another person” (O‟Keefe 801). Different types of cyberbullying include ignoring, disrespecting, name-calling, threatening others, and often times cyberbullies resort to spreading rumors or harshly picking on their victims (110). Cyberbullying is often associated with youth and teenagers, and is now being viewed as more detrimental than regular bullying. When victims are targeted by “traditional bullying,” they are aware of who the perpetrators are. Additionally, such bullying often times occurs on or around school grounds, making it easier to alert a member of authority (Erdur-Bake 111). While I am in no way condoning traditional bullying or undermining its pernicious effects, I am simply emphasizing how such actions have now escalated with cyberculture. Because cyber bullies can be anonymous, often time perpetrators feel a sense of “safety” because they do not fear getting caught (111). Such perceptions of immunity can cause bullies to be particularly ruthless and cruel. Another large problem with cyberbullying is the difficulty in ceasing it. Because cyberbullying is often “associated with computer literacy,” any skilled Internet user has the potential to be an online bully (111). Additionally, cyberbullying generally goes unreported to
  29. 29. 22 school administrators or parents for several reasons. Victims often fear “retribution” from bullies and peers worry about their friends getting in trouble, like any other sort of bullying (Cassidy, Jackson, and Brown 392). However, the difference lies in the fact that cyberbullying exists outside of school property, so victims may question the school‟s responsibility and competence in handling the issue, or even worry about having their internet access restricted at home (392). Thus, this remains an unsolved problem primarily among young Millennials. ********************************************** Clearly I have had both positive and negative experiences in my recent years online. Yet, despite any dark memories that remain thanks to our lovely cyberculture, I believe I am still a “social medialite.” In fact, I have even been appointed the “social media guru” of my Greek group on campus (I am not sure if this qualifies as a legitimate leadership role, but I am proud to hold this position). However, despite my capabilities, I am still often the brunt of jokes for being such an active users. It is not rare that I will get a message on Facebook from a friend in the library, telling me to get offline and do my homework. While I am proficient in my ability to navigate the web, perhaps my friends have a point in that I spend too much time in cyberspace. I seem to always be connected online to various platforms, constantly multitasking. If I am on Facebook (which I probably am), it is likely I’m also logged into Twitter, my school and personal e-mail accounts, with several other tabs open on my browser. Such tabs could include news platforms and blogs, while I simultaneously listen to music, and of course, attempt to do my homework. While often I brag about my abilitiy to multitask, I also realize that such behavior is more than likely not efficient. My aforementioned behavior has me wondering if am a product of my environment, or a rarity. And moreover, am I
  30. 30. 23 inhibiting my productiveness in being so incredibly connected, or am I as skilled as I would like to think? ********************************************** Millennials Digital Natives While “Digital Immigrants” exist, those who are new to cyberculture or are negatively impacted by the digital divide, so do “Digital Natives.” Digital Natives describe anyone born after the 1980s, and therefore, have had computer access their whole lives (Shah 25). While I previously explained that cyberspace is an environment which connects the online and offline world, digital natives have trouble differentiating their true identity as a result. Because such users “spend most of their lives online,” the lines between being on and offline become blurred (Shah 26). Another term for Digital Natives is the commonly used phrase, Generation Y, or Millennials. Generation Y People are fascinated with the current “Millennial generation,” also referred to as “Generation Y” or the “Internet Generation” (Stein and Sanburn 34). There are dozens of websites and sections of news publications devoted to Millennials, yet there is still confusion on who actually makes up the population. While the term “Millennial” has several connotations, the general consensus is that the generation consists of those born between 1980 and 2000 (34). Due to cyberculture and social media, along with imperial globalization (the global expansion of technology), Millennials around the world are quite similar to each other. As the “biggest age grouping in American history” at “80 million strong,” my generation is truly influential over
  31. 31. 24 others worldwide. The “Baby Boomers” were often called the “Me Generation,” and thus they “produced the Me Me Me Generation” (Stein and Sanburn 34). Millennials are said to always be interacting. However, most of the time these interactions occur “entirely through a screen,” no matter where they are located (Stein and Sanburn 3). More than 8-in-10 of Millennials say they “sleep with a cell phone” by their bed (Malikhao and Servaes 68). Millennials also often experience anxiety about “missing out on something better,” which is why 70% “check their phones every hour,” an even experience “phantom-vibration syndrome” (Stein and Sanburn 3). They have a constant desire for approval and fear of “missing out” (7). However, the constant need and search for “a hit of dopamine” has been said to “reduce creativity” and the lack of face-to-face communication has caused low “scores on tests of empathy” starting in 2000. Additionally, “higher degrees of narcism” have been found, which I will touch on later. Tech Savvy Compared to previous generations, such as the Baby Boombers and “Silents,” Millennials and Generation X are much more likely to rely on the Internet for news, as opposed to the television or newspaper. In fact, according to a Pews Research study in 2010, they use the Internet as a news source equal to or more than their elders used a combination of all other platforms (Holcomb 39). Another staggering statistic revealing the contrast in generational usage of the internet is the fact that Millennials are also 62% more likely to use the Internet “when not at home or work” than the three previous generations (39). The Millennial generation is obsessed with social media, with 75% of my generation reporting to currently have a social networking “profile” (Crappell 2). While people have different reasons and motivating factors for having social networking sites, whether it be purely
  32. 32. 25 for “personal social interaction” or for a “personal/ professional hybrid mode,” the ability to stay connected is a growing necessity for the business world, which is always becoming more technologically dependent (Crappell 12). Thus, the millennials have a possible advantage on the career front in this sense. While Millennials are not the only people using social networking sites, they are the group of people who are most familiar with potential risks. Despite younger Millennials being victim to cyberbullying, a majority of Generation Y users are adept at protecting themselves online. For instance, Millennials are well versed in using the various available privacy controls for their profiles, and their knowledge of privacy infringement has created a useful “deep-seated mistrust of the intentions” of these sites (Keene and Handrich 40). In fact, the tech savvy millennial generation is considered more “diligent” than other older users in monitoring their privacy whether it be with “controlling access to their profiles” or “deleting unwanted posts” (40). Being born in the digital era has potentially given Millennials a leg up because they are consumed with cyberculture, and thus can effectively navigate it. Overall, Millennials are a condition of their society in that they have been bred to skillfully use the internet. However, because there are so many millennials who are so adept at this, they are also raising the bar and making such skills a necessity for other generations, who may be at an automatic disadvantage. The Classroom Millennials are changing the ideas and practices surrounding college life. The first of the millennial generation went to college in 2000, and ever since then, “they have flooded into the highest student reaches of academe” and “every aspect of university life has begun revealing a new young- adult mindset” (Howe and Strauss 32). With a whopping 85% of millennial college students saying that their degree is more important today than it was for their parents‟
  33. 33. 26 generations, the pressure is on to stay successful and utilize all tools available (75). Thus, because millennials are “coming of age at a time of unprecedented technological change,” colleges have begun to take advantage of digital options. For instance, many universities are putting course material online and establish “bandwidth access” to other academic institutions, research bases, and government agencies (188). However, the most indicative sign of the times is the less structured changes in university policy and perspectives; professors are increasingly using social networking sites like Facebook to allow connections with their students. College students use social networking sites for several purposes, such as connecting with classmates, working on assignments, and now increasingly to connect with faculty (Hrastinski and Aghaee 452). Universities and colleges have been working to enhance “relationships between students” and also “support staff through repeated interactions,” particularly with the use of academic advisers (Amador and Amador 9). As a result of student demands increasing “through interactive mediums” rather than “in-person advising appointments,” many professors have begun to embrace “distance advising” (10). Such advising uses “electronic advising delivery,” which has “less time constraints” for both staff and students (Amador and Amador 10). Because millennial students “were born in the digital age and have been interacting with digital technology from an early age,” it has become necessary to transform the “traditional-teacher centered approach to learning,” to one that is more focused on the learner (which is the goal of a liberal arts institution, like Wooster) (Sánchez, Cortijo and Javed 139). Thus, because students respond well to cyberspace and social networking sites, these platforms can be used to enhance “learning outcomes” (139). For instance, when advisers interact with their students on Facebook, students can easily ask questions relating to their courses. This helps bridge the gap between the student-
  34. 34. 27 teacher relationship, increasing “comfort” and “efficacy” (Amador and Amador 13). Thus, because Millennials are familiar with digital technology and communication, professors can effectively use websites like Facebook as a “tool” to communicate “interest and concern for their students” (Sánchez, Cortijo and Javed 139). However, while Millennial students can be positively affected by our cyber culture, many professors also find the mass dependence on the internet as disadvantageous. David Ellis, Director of Communication Studies at York University, finds that Millennials are “hyperconnective” which makes “young adults „less productive‟ ” (Anderson and Rainie 28). Teachers are also worried about the younger children of Generation Y, finding them harder to teach because they seem to have difficulty with “connecting ideas” and “critical thinking” (23). Millennials are often quick to rely on initial information they find online rather than extensively doing research, because they can be quick to assume the internet has provided them an instant “correct” answer without even checking the context (Anderson and Rainie 13). This hyper reliance on the Internet has lead to a decline in reading, and instead an increase in merely article skimming (23). Thus, students have learned that they can find whatever they need online instantly, and therefore do need to apply effort or skill. Focus is also affected for Millennials because they are so hyper-connected that their “human attention and depth of discourse” has come into question (Anderson and Raine 11). Many “young people tend to use home computers for entertainment” rather than homework and learning purposes (Richtel n. pag.). Moreover, when they are using the internet for education, “half of students from 8-18” have been found to be “watching TV or using some other form of media” either “most” or “some” of the time they are working (n. pag.). Thus, their attention is
  35. 35. 28 not undivided towards their homework. Overall, it can be concluded that millennials are more concerned with instant gratification than being well-informed. While many millennial students allow themselves to be distracted by all that cyberspace has to offer, there are others who are aware of the risks associated with the internet. In particular, many college students “opt out” of using Facebook and other social networking sites out of fear of “academic failure” and viewing SNSs as “too time-consuming and distracting” (Turan, Tiinmaz and Goktas 140). Narcissism Besides seeming too connected and less attentive, Millennials are often also associated with being narcissistic. Narcissism can be defined as “the fascination with oneself,” with narcissists usually thinking they are “better than others, inflate praise of themselves, and believe that they are unique and special” (Leung 997). Typical behavior of narcissists include “self- promotion, emotional coldness, duplicity, and aggressiveness” (2). According to the National Institutes of Health, “the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder” is almost three times higher for those in their 20s compared to those 65 or older (Stein and Sanburn 1). Additionally, “58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale” in 2009, compared to in 1982 (1). College students with high narcism scores have been found to be “masters of promoting themselves” online, gathering many “friends” and “highlighting their best qualities” (Twenge and Campbell 110). Millennials have “replaced blogging as their dominant mode of online self- expression” with SNSs such as Twitter, Facebook, and even YouTube. Such platforms for self-expression are used to promote and gain attention (Stein and Sanburn 120). Millennials display traits on social networking sites that reflect narcissism, such as posting pictures that “only feature themselves”
  36. 36. 29 and that are “negatively related to the extent to which they post pictures that feature others” (Bergman et al. 707). Such vanity and self-promotion is highly indicative of narcissism. SNSs are perfect platforms for narcissists because these platforms “allow one to have almost full control over self- presentation and afford the ability to maintain social network bases” (Leung 999). However, while Millennials are very self-centered, it it must be noted that Millennials may have such “perceived entitlement” because they have adapted to “a world of abundance” (Stein and Sanburn 4). The Internet has “democratized opportunity for many young people,” allowing them easy access to information that only the wealthy used to have. Thus, while millennials do feel entitled, they are also likely to be more innovative with the available technologies (5). Scott Hess, who presented “Millennials: Who They Are and Why We Hate Them” at the TedX convention, made an an analogy stating, „Can you imagine how many frickin‟ Instagrams of people playing in the mud during Woodstock we would‟ve seen?” (6) He noted that perhaps Millennials are merely being blamed for the technology that they've had their whole lives. *************************************** Every time I change my profile picture, I do so with my intended audience in mind. I realize that my mother, professor, best friend, and romantic interest view me differently, and thus I must find a way to appeal to them all. Yet, often times it is a matter of weighing what (or who) is more important for me to impress. Do I truly care if my mother doesn’t find a picture humorous that all of my best friends love? But what about future employers? Such depictions of college-shennanigans may not be appear so amusing… That’s where privacy settings come in.
  37. 37. 30 I would be lying if I said I’ve never posted a particularly flattering picture of myself to get the attention of someone I was interested in (or even in a petty attempt to make one regret wronging me.) A ploy to send the message: “You missed out! Take that! I don’t need you! Really, I’m fine!” Everything I post on Facebook I do so strategically. It is not uncommon for me to delete pictures and statuses minutes after I post them after reconsidering how people may view them. I second-guess myself a lot. I even think about what to post on Facebook when I’m not online. When my father sends me an interesting article via e-mail, I immediately wonder if my Facebook friends would enjoy it as well. If so, I’m likely to post it. Not only am I able to share something I find special with those I care about, but I also get the opportunity to appear intelligent and well-informed. Bonus! In all seriousness though, I do enjoy posting articles about issues I am passionate about. It is a way for me to display what is important to me and tell the world what I value. And I can do so on a platform without being silenced. Yet, my openness regarding my personal beliefs stems from pride and confidence. There are other parts of my life I am less certain or proud of, and thus less willing to share. I am unlikely to post about a bad day, unless there is a way I can spin the experience into a positive lesson. If only my life was a fable... *************************************** Self-Presentation Facebook and other social networking site usage is heavily related to self presentation. Self- presentation can be defined as “the process of setting forth an image we want others to perceive” (Wood and Smith 47). In other words, we display an idealized version of ourselves and act the role we want others to see.
  38. 38. 31 Manipulating our identity is not new to western culture. In Fact, Shakespearean comedies and tragedies represented these notions centuries ago (such as in Oedipus, which revolves around the theme of misrepresented identities, or A Midsummers Night Dream with the presentation of gender swapping). However, notable sociologist, Erving Goffman, extended on this idea of self- presentation and theorized that “everyday life was a performance of sorts” (54). According to Goffman, our behavior can be described as a “theatrical metaphor” (Goffman cited in Wood and Smith 54). Moreover, we adopt “roles” when we know others are watching, and the attempt to maintain those roles is called “face- work.” (54) Whether or not we engage in face-work is determinant on who we are performing for and what side of the stage we are on. When alone, we are at “back stage,” free to be ourselves without fear of judgement. Usually, “access to the backstage” is limited to only “a very select and small group” who are assumed to observe and not interrupt (Peluchette, Karl, and Fertig 293). When we are out back, we, the “actors,” are permitted to “loosen some of [our] self-imposed restrictions, relax, and be themselves” (293). However, once we are “onstage,” we interact in public or professional settings, and thus must perform the roles we so desire others to see. Self-presentation can be described by two different types of behavior, “acquisitive and protective” (Rui and Stefanone 111). When people have a desire to be liked, they present themselves by participating in “ingratiating behavior” (Sadler, Hunger, and Miller 623). Such behavior is acquisitive and is used for approval seeking, and thus presenters attempt to “emphasize attractive aspects of themselves and construct desirable images” (Rui and Stefanone 111). The other type of presentation, protective self- presentation, “is aimed at avoiding disapproval” (111). Thus, presenters want to save “face,” and instead of enhancing
  39. 39. 32 certain characteristics, they make “neutral expressions,” conform, and only engage in “modest self- disclosure to avoid rejections from the audience” (111). Often times, there is a tie which is between “self-presentation tactics” and “problematic personality features” such as low self- esteem, self-consciousness, anxiety, and fears of “negative evaluation” or even failure (Sadler et al. 623). Moreover, the manner in how one presents his or herself can be affected by their personal concern with “public appearances, private identities, and social anxiety” (Lee et al. 703). Thus, self-presentation is not dependent based on any on characteristic or situation. Instead, it is “an activity that is shaped by a combination of personality situational, and audience factors” (Schlenkler 498). Self-Presentation in Cyberspace Facebook and other SNSs are opportune spaces for engaging in self-presentation. For instance, the ability to post photos, update profile information, and write public messages all serve as opportunities to work on one‟s “face” (Seidman 402). Users who seek popularity and approval will engage in “strategic self presentation” with the desire of enhancing their online profiles (402). More often than not, identities that are “produced” on social networking sites like Facebook are considered to be relatively “realistic and honest” (Chen and Marcus 2092). This is a result of the extensive and unknown visibility of such sites, because if users fabricate their online identity, they could easily be called out and “questioned” by their peers (Chen and Marcus 2092). However, many users “tend to stretch the truth” at least somewhat in the online portrayals of themselves, such as by only posting flattering pictures of themselves (2092). While this is not an active act of deceit, it is still an act of withholding truth. While social networking site profiles are usually representative of one‟s true self, such platforms can also be used to express “alternate” selves as well (Seidman 402). The Internet
  40. 40. 33 allows users to “express hidden self-aspects” that they might not feel comfortable revealing in everyday life (402). In fact, individuals are more likely to disclose information on the Internet than any other communication platform (Chen and Marcus 2092). However, the Internet also provides an opportune environment to display one‟s possible or “ideal” self (402). This often times leads to deception, whether intentional or not. Deception Deceptive self- presentation is more likely to occur as the “function of the pressure to engage in self- presentation” increases (Guadagno, Okdie, and Kruse 642). Individuals are more motivated to present themselves in a certain way when interacting with others they are attracted to, or when they perceive that their image has been threatened (642). One context where deceptive self- presentation has been revealed to be prominent is with online dating (Guadagno, Okdie, and Kruse 642). Research indicates that men are more likely to deceive when seeking a potential date, however, both men and women engage in deceptive self- presentation to enhance certain traits (642). For instance, of surveyed college students, men have been willing to deceive in order to appear more dominant and resourceful online than they inherently are. On the other hand, women are more likely to use deception for the purpose of presenting their “physical appearance as more favorable than it actually was” (643). In typical self- presentation, women have been known to alter their “self- reported sex role attitudes to match the gender role values” of a perceiver they believed was a desirable man (643). Unlike face-to-face communication, where an audience consists of individuals who “interact with and can directly observe [our] behaviors,” on SNSs, an audience refers to one‟s “online network members” (Rui and Stefanone 111). Different attributes of one‟s audience can influence how they present themselves. For instance, users with larger networks are more likely
  41. 41. 34 to be subjected to “other- provided” information, OPI, and thus must engage in more “protective self- presentation to manage unwanted OPI” (112). Another factor includes “audience diversity,” because if a user has a social network comprised of several types of relationships, such as “close friends, family members, acquaintances and strangers,” this makes self- presentation more complicated. Often times people present different sides of themselves to different people. Family members may find posts inappropriate that friends deem acceptable (112). A way to engage in protective self-presentation with a multiplicity of audiences is to “only disclose the information acceptable to everyone in their networks, termed the lowest common denominator” (112). Regarding a more extreme form of limited self-disclosure, there are people who engage in drastic deception on Facebook and completely fabricate their identities. Such a phenomenon has been represented in a documentary and MTV series called “Catfish.” This exposé depicts people in virtual romantic relationships who have never physically met, however one person in the dyad is secretly lying about their identity. The show seeks to expose the person who is essentially presenting his or herself completely differently than how they exist in reality. For instance, one episode features a young man talking to whom he thought was another, beautiful young woman. Yet, she is actually a middle-aged woman lying behind a computer screen (Kaufman n. pag.) “Catfish” has been criticized for being exploitative, however the show “raises a number of incisive questions about social media, privacy and identity in the era of Facebook and Google” (Kaufman). While instances of being “Catfished” are rare, there are severe implications behind the occurances. “Catfish” reveals not only Facebooks‟ ability to connect people and infringe upon users‟ privacy, but also depicts how people can lie in how they present themselves online. Such deception may not be common, but alarmingly it does exist. Recent Developments
  42. 42. 35 While some users do engage in deception or present themselves inaccurately, others desire to portray themselves in accordance to how they identify in real life. One key aspect to one‟s identity is their gender and sexuality. According to Judith Butler, gender is a performative act (Butler 519). On Valentines Day 2014, Facebook provided its users with over 50 new gender options, allowing a more diverse population to present themselves comfortably online (Griggs n. pag.). While users previously could only be “male” or “female” online, the new options include a greater array of descriptions. For instance, users can identify as “intersex,” “gender-fluid,” and “transgender,” as well as “neither” (Griggs). Additionally, while Facebook previously would assign feminine or masculine pronouns to users based on their names, Facebook now allows users to choose. In other words, all Facebook users now have the option of being referred to as “he” or “she” depending on their preference. These new options help Facebook appeal to a larger audience, and has received wide acclaim. TIME Magazine refers to Facebook‟s new plethora of options as a “Gender Labeling Revolution” (Richards n. pag.) This “Revolution” can be tremendously helpful for transgenders and those questioning their gender and sexuality. Even if one does not “check any gender box,” viewing the options is comforting and “less [isolating]” (Richards). Conclusion Overall, I have discussed many significant themes that relate to my study. Facebook cannot be understood without knowing the history behind the site, and the concept of social networking as a technological phenomenon. Additionally, concepts such as cyberculture are key to understanding Millennials, who are unique in many ways, particularly in that they are the only generation who have always had Internet access. Finally, the notion of self-presentation is highly important to understanding my independent study, because performances of self are given
  43. 43. 36 constantly both on and offline. By writing narratives that correlate with different aspects of my literature review, I hope that I provided not only information about my topic, but some insight into why I believe each subsection is important. In the next chapter, I will expand upon my methodology of ethnography and autoethnography, and explain the manner in which I will conduct my study.
  44. 44. 37 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY I will be using two main methodological approaches in my study on Facebook; ethnographic methods and autoethnography. By employing two qualitative methods, I hope to get a multidimensional scope on both the perspectives of my participants and myself, in contrast to not only one another, but to my scholarly research as well. Ethnography Ethnography can be defined as the study of people in naturally occurring settings or 'fields' by methods of data collection which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities (Brewer 6). To clarify, ethnography is largely associated with social research as a qualitative method (Hammersley and Atkinson 1). Specifically, ethnographic methods entail the researcher engaging directly with the participants for an extended period of time, making observations, conducting interviews, and collecting data (3). Typically, ethnographers utilize various data sources, which in my case will be the interviews and online behavioral observations (3). A key component to ethnography is that the focus is usually on a few cases, generally fairly small- scale in order to conduct a conduct a comprehensive study (3). Accordingly, I will be studying four College of Wooster students extensively, as well as carrying out a study of myself. Ethnographic Interviews Ethnographic interviews are unique in their construction compared to other types of interviews. Ethnographic interviews should be primarily concerned with questions that seek to discover the meaning individuals make of their experiences (Ortiz 36). Moreover, the reasons and implications behind behavior. Ethnographic interviews often contain exploratory questions that may not be well researched, with the researcher's intention to gain insight from his or her
  45. 45. 38 participants that can provide critical information otherwise neglected from quantitiative research, such as standard surveys (36). When choosing participants for ethnographic interviews, the researcher must engage in “purposive sampling” which entails selecting specific participants “who represent a broad spectrum of experiences in the setting” (38). Doing so ensures that the researcher can “meet the goals of the study and answer the research questions” (38). Autoethnography Similarly to the method of ethnography which studies others, autoethnography is the study of oneself. Autoethnography is another qualitative approach which allows the researcher to analyze their own “personal experience” in the context of greater cultural phenomenon (Ellis, Adams, and Bochner 273). Simply put, autoethnography uses a researcher's personal accounts and perceived reality to reveal data and themes about a certain topic. This method is invaluable because it provides the researcher the opportunity to produce “meaningful, accessible, and evocative research” (274). While this approach obviously denotes subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher's influence on research, these aspects should not denounce the credibility of autoethnography as a method (274). Rather, such a personal methodology provides honest depictions and organic perspective which can be found in no other study. Justifications for Methods I submit that ethnography is the appropriate method for my study for the following reasons: First, the nature of this type of research allows me to closely study a small number of participants regarding their Facebook usage. This method enables a more comprehensive and specific analysis compared with a quantitative approach, which would require more time- consuming data collection from a greater number of individuals. The quantitative approach
  46. 46. 39 would fail to allow an individualized examination of my participants, which is fundamental to discovering the meanings behind their Facebook use. I am not interested in simply finding common trends, but instead the meanings behind such trends. Next, ethnography is apt for my study because the method allows me to employ different tools in order to truly get to know my participants. First, ethnographic research entails observations, and because I am currently “friends” with each of my participants on Facebook, I have been able to access their pages. Thus, I have been taking notes on their posts and behavior online, which has given me some background information regarding my participants before even interviewing them. Additionally, since I have a limited time stamp to collect my data, it is important that I use all of my available resources effectively to gain a thorough picture of my participants' behavior. The ethnographic interviews allow me to not only characterize my participants‟ Facebook usage, but analyze any implied meanings behind their thoughts and actions. My interviews will give me the opportunity to grasp these implications in addition to my observations of their behavior online. By combining in- person interviews and online examinations of their profiles, I will be able to conduct a thorough analysis of my participants' behavior. Finally, an expansive outlook on self- presentations and perceptions warrants the additional method of autoethnography. Benjamin Franklin once said, “observe all men, thyself most.” I chose this topic because I am very passionate and curious about Facebook use, especially among Millennials, and I propose that there is no better subject for this study than myself. By providing personal, honest pieces about my experiences online, I reveal a valid perspective on how a millennial college student uses and is influenced by Facebook. Additionally, by employing both ethnographic methods and autoethnography, I can compare my
  47. 47. 40 experiences to those of my participants. Thus, providing me the opportunity to determine any common themes in our behavior and thoughts, (or if I am in fact, an anomaly). I must note that I was also inspired to use this research method because it granted me the creative freedom to present my experiences as narratives. Doing so allows innovative and original, as well as pragmatic. Participants For my ethnography, I will be studying four College of Wooster students, two male and two female. I am intentionally choosing my participants based on the amount of time they are online with Facebook messenger, the frequency of their profile updates, as well as the nature and content of their postings. I have chosen my participants based on observing the behavior of several peers on Facebook, and these four seem to use the various functions of the website with different frequency. I am also purposefully providing a diverse selection of participants in regards to academic major, personal interests, political views, race, gender, and sexual orientation in order to reveal any possible overarching themes in regards to usage. If nothing else, this guarantees a wide array of views and interpretations from my participants. In order to maintain confidentiality, I will change the names of my participants so that their identities remain confidential to all that read my study. Additionally, I will leave out any details that would make my subjects easy to identify, either in person or online. In every one of my interviews, I will record the conversations on my phone‟s “Voice Memo” application, and transcribe each recording. The recordings and document will be stored on my computer until the completion of my study. Thus, I will ensure that my participants‟ privacy is protected. My hope is that this study will provide the research subjects insight into their own Facebook use and how it may be impacting their relationships and perceptions.
  48. 48. 41 Methodological Steps In order to cary out my ethnography, I will conduct an in-depth interview with each participant about their Facebook use. I will ask questions about their actions and preferences online, such as how often they use certain functions, spend time on Facebook, etc, and then open up the conversation for more perspective into the way they view and use the site. After my initial interviews, I will request that my participants deactivate their Facebook accounts for one week, unless there are any extenuating circumstances that require reactivation. After the one week deactivation, I will conduct shorter, follow- up interviews asking about their experiences offline. My intention is to discover how my participants responded to life without Facebook, and what implications lie behind their responses. In addition to conducting two interviews for each participant, I will be observing their presence on Facebook. I will take notes about their usage before our interviews, to see how they use Facebook without any influence or second thought. Then, after their deactivation and reactivation, I will visit my participants‟ pages and record their online behavior. This will enable me to notice if there are any obvious changes in their usage. With my interviews and online observations before and after the deactivation, I will be able to see if their lives change even with a brief absence from the social networking site, and by providing an array of portraits, I will be able to compare and contrast the results of their thoughts and actions before deactivating, during, and after. Finally, as a part of my autoethnography, I will also deactivate my Facebook account. However, I will change the requirements of my deactivation to include the deactivation of all social media, not just Facebook- this includes my two other primary social media accounts, Twitter and Instagram. For my week without social media, I will keep a journal documenting my
  49. 49. 42 thoughts, experiences, productivity, and overall wellbeing. I will complete this portion of my study before I make any initial contact with my participants. This guarantees that my reflections are based solely on my own perspectives and not influenced by my peer-interviews. After I conduct all of my ethnographic interviews and record the observations of my participants on Facebook, I will look back upon my online behavior post-deactivation as well, allowing me to observe myself. Then, I will reflect upon my journal entries in combination with my new notes, and compare my deactivation and reactivation experience with those of my participants.
  50. 50. 43 CHAPTER IV: ANALYSIS Upon looking at my interviews and observations, I noticed some common themes among my participants. While I only interviewed four students at the College of Wooster, they each revealed varying patterns regarding Facebook, as relayed in their usage and discussion of the social networking site. By conducting extensive interviews, I was able to compare and contrast my four participants not only with one another, but with myself. Since I combined ethnographic methods with autoethnography, I was able to look at my own notes about the deactivation after I interviewed my participants about their usage and deactivation. Thus, I could see where the similarities and differences exist. Accordingly, I have split up my analysis into four parts. First, I will provide portraits of my participants, in addition to myself, giving some background information. Second, I will examine what I learned about my participants in terms of how they use Facebook, and incorporate the scholarly work that explains such actions and rationalizations. Third, I will discuss the deactivation process among my participants, and analyze how their experiences matched up with their predictions. Last, I will reveal writings from my own deactivation experience, and tie the overarching similarities of my experiences with theirs. Portraits Ted Ted has around 450 Facebook friends, and has had his account since the beginning of high school. While a self-proclaimed very active user, the frequency and intensity to which he uses Facebook has varied throughout the years. Ted is impressively self aware and describes his
  51. 51. 44 own usage with incredible sagacity. He recognizes his media consumption and is conscious towards not only what he does online, but the implications of those actions. As of recently, he describes Facebook as being benign, but admits that this is only a recent change as a result of an improvement with his social life and state of mind. Ted struggled emotionally last semester, and consequently spent more time on Facebook. He attributes his copious usage to the fact that he had gone through a breakup and all of his closest friends were abroad. The sense of alienation kept him active on Facebook as he sought connection with others, but now that he has a new partner and his friends are back at school; therefore he has lost the compulsion and need to go on the site. Like many others, Facebook allures Ted because of the ease that comes with being removed from the physical context of communication; that is, the ability to speak without being bodily present. Ted is much more comfortable sharing certain parts of himself on Facebook, and believes this relates to having dealt with mental illness and social anxiety. Ted explains that Facebook provides an environment where its easier to express oneself compared to offline environments, which can be awkward. When Ted is on Facebook, he usually posts status updates about mundane tasks with a humorous and ridiculous twist. He confesses that if someone only knew him by his Facebook identity, they would probably find him very bizarre. He admits to being more relatable in real life, but finds humor and amusement in his creative hum drums, many times regarding food. Besides the occasional Facebook stalking, (a colloquial phrase used by many millennials to describe obsessive viewing and searching of peers‟ profiles), Ted currently uses the majority of his social energy for spending time with his inner circle of friends.
  52. 52. 45 Thus, Ted no longer goes to Facebook in times of loneliness, and admits that Facebook has contributed to it in the past. Ted believes that going on Facebook in times of loneliness is a self-fulfilling prophecy: If he is online and making himself available, and people do not contact him, negative feelings only grow. He has realized that sometimes it is better to just turn off the computer and acknowledge the fact that if somebody wants to reach him, they will. As a result of this realization, Ted has few qualms about deactivating his account for a week. Kyle Kyle currently has almost 2000 friends on Facebook, which he has accumulated since the beginning of high school around 7 years ago. He too describes himself as a heavy user. Kyle primarily uses Facebook for the purpose of staying connected with friends via Facebook Chat. Although Kyle uses the other functions available on the site, it is mainly the messenger function keeping him on the website. Unlike most, Kyle rarely updates his profile, and can be seen having the same profile pictures for months at a time. Likewise, he only changes his status once in a blue moon. Kyle is not too concerned with his privacy as a result, because he does not have much posted content to filter through. In Kyle‟s opinion, Facebook and the reasons why one uses it are personal. He agrees with Mark Zuckerberg in that privacy is no longer a social norm because while he may not post much about himself, others post pictures of him regardless. Additionally, while Kyle does not use Facebook much for stalking or for FOMO (fear of missing out), he appreciates the convenience and ease in communicating with those he might not otherwise be able to, particularly those he met abroad. Because Kyle is a very sociable and popular person, he is often engaging in multiple conversations with different people. However, because Kyle has a girlfriend, he is aware of the complications that can arise with communication through Internet. He is very conscious of who
  53. 53. 46 he contacts and how, and does so with an obvious intention of not being creepy. In this day in age of technology, Kyle recognizes that saying hello randomly to someone in person vs online often has different implications and suggests different intentions. Because Kyle does not have much about his personal life presented on Facebook, this includes his romantic life as well. He does not have himself listed in a relationship on Facebook- he does not want to worry about any awkwardness that could ensue if they were to break up for some reason. Kyle is wary because he has actually dealt with the drama and ramifications that go along with Facebook relationships before. Upon entering college, he had already broken up with his girlfriend. Yet, because he was the first one to make the breakup Facebook official, drama erupted as he learned this upset his ex girlfriend greatly. Additionally, because Kyle does not typically post pictures of himself or with friends, he does not post photos with or of his girlfriend either. According to Kyle, solely displaying pictures of his romantic relationship online would be qualifying it as superior to his other relationships. Kyle is acutely aware of the differences that occur in communication styles between online and offline environments. He believes that social media communication allows users extra time to plan out what they are going to say, making the conversations more calculated, and thus less natural. He considers this a downfall to Facebook which plagues Generation Y. Kyle does not believe his profile is an accurate representation of who he is, but instead a very minimal and vague protrayal. He is also cognizant that profiles of others do not signify their entire character either. However, Kyle stands out in this respect in that while he may be a minimalist in terms of Facebook postings, others seem to make posts and updates that, according to Kyle, make them seem larger than life. Erica

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