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the Self: Identity on Facebook

Bachelor Thesis Name: Serena Westra Student number: 5879175 E-mail: University of Amsterdam Department: Media Studies (New Media) Date: May 2011 Supervisor: Geert Lovink

Abstract This thesis examines the construction of identity on Facebook and the kind of identity that is created. First the way users construct identity on Facebook will be examined. Several aspects will be taken into account: the software side (including database, interface and algorithm), and the different characteristics of Facebook (e.g. Status, Friends, Photos, Like Button and Profile). Does the software of Facebook constrain the construction of online identity? Furthermore, the kind of identity that is constructed is researched. In the second part of the thesis, the theory of Impression Management is applied on the results. The central question here is: are users being themselves or performing an act? It appears that most users are being themselves, but are not presenting their full identity. They only show the positive and public side of their selves. Besides, the software of Facebook constrains the construction of identity. In other words, users cannot express their full identity on Facebook. This has negative consequences for the new generation, Generation Y. Key Words Facebook, Identity, Software, Generation Y, Impression Management.

As a Facebook addict, I knew instantly that I wanted to do research about Facebook, but it was hard to choose a research question. I changed the literature and topic many times, even when I almost completed my thesis I decided to add the topic I was originally interested in: Generation Y. Ever since I saw the documentary Alles wat wij wilden it had my interests. It surprised me that I saw so many similarities between myself and the young people in the documentary which suffered form too high expectations and the ever present pressure to preform. I decided to examine this phenomenon and to combine it with the extensive use of Facebook to get some insights in the time we are living in and the consequences of Facebook usage. Aware of the fact that we might be in a Facebook hype, I want to grasp the conventions and usage of it before its too late. The experience of writing a Bachelor thesis was difficult and time-consuming, but I have learnt a lot and enjoyed it. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Geert Lovink for all help, feedback and guidance. I really appreciate it that he had shown his interest in my research and took the challenge of supervising a Bachelor thesis. I sometimes wondered if I could ever meet his expectations, but he pulled me through and pushed me to take new challenges. Furthermore, I would like to thank Michael Stevenson for his guidance and feedback - even when I was not his concern anymore - and the students of the course, especially Simon, for their feedback. Next, I would like to thank my colleagues at Schouwburg Amstelveen for their help with the interviews. Sofie en Marije for their interest, opinions, and time, Nike for her support and grammar check in the end. Without them, the hours I have spent in the library of the UvA would be far less enjoyable! Last, I thank my parents and Mart for their everlasting patience, help, love and trust in me. They never stopped believing in me.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction 1.1 Social Networking Sites 1.2 Facebook 1.3 Overview 2. The Software of Facebook 2.1 Interface 2.2 Database 2.3 Algorithm 2.4 The Influence of the Software 3. The Type of Facebook Identity 3.1 Real / Fake Identity 4. The Construction of Identity on Facebook 4.1 Feature Specific Statements 4.1.1 4.1.2 4.1.3 4.1.4 4.1.5 Profile Status Updates Photos Friends Like Button 4 6 7 8 9 9 11 14 16 17 17 20 20 20 24 28 29 31 32 36 36 37 42 42 43 46 46 51 58 62

4.2 General Statements 5. Impression Management and Facebook 5.1 Theory of Impression Management 5.2 Impression Management Applied on Facebook 6. Conclusion 6.1 Findings 6.2 Consequences and Prospective Appendix: 1. Oral Interview with Mark Jennings, Utrecht: 18-04-2011. 2. Oral Interview with Sanne Kersenboom and Maartje Stierenburg, Amsterdam: 27-04-2011. 3. Oral Interview with Sara de Boer, Annemiek van Eelst, Robin Zuiderzee and Vera Dutter, Amstelveen: 01-05-2011. 4. Screenshots of Facebook: 14-05-2011.



1. Introduction
Social networking sites like Facebook, Hyves and MySpace are getting more and more part of everyday life. According to Wikipedia,1 Facebook currently has over 680 million users, and this number is still increasing. But what are the consequences of this extensive use for society, especially for the new generation? This generation, called the Millennium Generation or Generation Y, started in the eighties and nineties and is marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.2 They are living in a society that has great expectations and is very competitive; writer Ronald Alsop even calls this generation trophy kids. They and their parents have placed a high premium on success, filling resumes with not only academic accolades but also a smorgasbord of sports and other extra curricular activities, volunteer work in their local communities, and exotic travels abroad (Alsop, 2008). The young people are trying their best to meet this expectations and keep up with the people around them. The desire to fit in, to be part of the group, which has always been present in youth culture, is especially important for Generation Y (Huntley, 2006: p.18). So, Generation Y is conformists and very selective in how to present themselves. They try to resemble to people around them, including friends on social networking sites. This is an interesting phenomenon. What if Generation Y is trying to resemble to an online identity that is not real? What if all the people around look perfect and successful, but in fact are not? Consequently, a close look at the types of identity constructed on social networking sites is necessary. This thesis will take Facebook as a case study, since the extensive use and popularity among Generation Y. Moreover, the identity on Facebook will be researched from inside. Since Facebook is a closed networking site you can only use it when you are signed in and you need to have friends in order to use certain tools, it cannot be researched as an outsider. Being part of Generation Y, and being a heavy 1 Facebook. Wikipedia Foundation. Daily revision. 15-05-2011 <> 2 Generation Y. Wikipedia Foundation. Daily revision. 10-05-2011 <> 4

Facebook user myself, I find myself capable of studying Facebook. Besides, I have done several interviews among other intensive Facebook users that e part of Generation Y too. With the answers of the seven users I have interviewed, I want to underpin the literature on Facebook and provide a broader view on the subject. Above all, I want to make an attempt to grasp the conventional thoughts about Facebook that are so obvious to many users, but hard to capture. Moreover, I have taken both media studies and sociology courses in my study; which will provide me with the insight and knowledge to make an adequate connection between society and Facebook. Currently, most studies examine the marketing side of Facebook, privacy issues, and participation subjects. Some research has been done about Facebook and identity, but in my opinion they do not provide a complete overview. First, the software of Facebook is left out. The algorithms, database and interface of Facebook have great influence on the way the site is used, so in my opinion this needs to be examined too. For this reason chapter two will examine the software of Facebook and the way it influences the construction of identity by users. Second, by applying sociological theory on Facebook, the study of online identity is taken into a broader scientific context. In my opinion, sociologic theory is not commonly used when it comes to Facebook and other new media subjects, although it can provide great insights. Research about identity is getting more important in a world where you can have several identities: an offline identity, an online identity, a Facebook identity, a professional identity, and so on. On one hand, (un)conscious self-presentation can be examined with the literature of Foucault or Freud. But on the other hand, it is less common to apply the literature of symbolic interactionism and impression management. According to Erving Goffman, actors are actively creating a performance with impression management. He made a distinction between two areas of performing: the back region and the front region. What happens in the front region [] is an attempt to manipulate the audience (Wallace and Wolf, 2005: p.239). Do Facebook users actively manipulate other users, or can we see Facebook as a back region or backstage? Backstage is where actors the actors do not need to engage in impression management; they can be themselves (Ibidem).

This thesis will examine the construction of identity on Facebook with the theory of impression management, software studies, and a look from inside. The main research question is: what kind of identity is constructed on Facebook and how are users presenting themselves? 1.1 Social Networking Sites Before having a look at the features and software of Facebook, it might be useful to have a clear definition of social networking sites (SNSs) and an idea of the context of Facebook. One of the first successful SNSs is Friendster, founded in 2002. After Friendster, many new SNSs were launched, like Facebook in 2004. Most took the form of profile-centric sites, trying to replicate the early success of Friendster or target specific demographics (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.9). With the appearance of social media and user-generated content, other websites that already existed on the Internet changed accordingly. Websites focusing on media sharing began implementing SNS features and becoming SNSs themselves (Ibidem). Nicole Ellison and danah boyd define social networking sites as web- based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.3). Although every site has it own characteristics, they are all focussed on the social network. In their definition, boyd and Ellison sum up five characteristics of SNSs: profiles, friends, comments, private messaging, features and user base. Almost every SNS uses the concept of personal profiles. After joining an SNS, an individual is asked to fill out forms containing a series of questions. The profile is generated using the answers to these questions, which typically include descriptors such as age, location, interest, and an about me section (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.4). In most cases, the user of an SNS can choose if his or her profile is public or private. Facebook takes a different approach by default, users who are part of the same network can view each others profiles, unless a profile owner had decided to deny permission to those in their network (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.4). The specific network that a SNS focuses on differs. However, according to boyd and Ellison most users are not necessarily

networking to find strangers, but are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their social network (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.3). In the social networking sites, one acts in the company of friends and acquaintances (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.76). Most SNSs require bi-directional confirmation for friendship, but some sites, like MySpace or Twitter, use one-directional ties. Although the form of friends may vary, this public display of connections has always been a crucial component of SNSs (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p. 4). After forming a network, users can communicate with other users. Most SNS have two types of messages: private messages that look like e-mail, and public messages that are more like comments or reactions. Facebook uses both forms of messaging: you can send private messages to users, even though they are not your friend, and you can send public messages as you post a message on someones Wall. Last, SNSs can also vary in features and user base. For example, some SNSs are directed to a specific user group, religion, languages or technology (like blogging). For example, Flickr is primarily directed to photo sharing and BlackPlanet is focussed on an African-American audience. However, all SNSs have one thing in common: SNSs are primarily organized around people, not interests (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.13). 1.2 Facebook Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Facebook is a site that allows for users to create profiles and articulate their social networks (Lampe ed., 2007: p.436). At first, only students with a email address could access the site, so the type of users was restricted to students only. After implementing Facebook to other universities and high schools, Facebook opened up for all audiences and the amount of new users on Facebook is increasing since. What makes Facebook different than other SNSs is the fact that, as mentioned before, by default only users who are part of the same network can view each others profiles and posts. The network of Facebook is closed and only accessible when you are a friend (unless the user changed his privacy settings). This is contrary to other with SNSs like Twitter, on which every user has access to all the messages or tweets on the site. Another typical aspect of Facebook is that it allows applications of third parties to have

access to certain user information. This is done by for example a quiz or game. Information is collected when participants use a tool and give permission to the application to use their personal information. Third, as mentioned before, Facebook was primarily directed to a small and specific audience, in contrast with SNSs like Hyves or Twitter. Unlike previous SNSs, Facebook was designed to support distinct college networks only (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p. 12). At this moment everyone can use the site: Facebook is not directed to a specific audience. This is in contrast with BlackPlanet and Flickr. Hence, Facebook differs from other SNSs like MySpace and Hyves in the limited freedom of expression users have in creating a personal front. The users of the Dutch SNS called Hyves can choose their own background and colours of their personal page, in contrast to users of Facebook, which have to stick to default settings. 1.3 Overview Now we have some insight in the context of Facebook and the characteristics of SNSs and Facebook, it is possible to have a closer look at the use of Facebook. The next chapter will take a look at the software of Facebook. Databases, interfaces and algorithms will be examined. In addition, in chapter three the type of identity that is constructed on Facebook will be characterized. Is this a real one or fake one? The way users construct identity on Facebook will be examined afterwards. First, five features will be researched: profile, status, photos, friends, and the Like button. Secondly, some general assumptions will be made about the use of Facebook thanks to the results of the interviews. These results will be combined with the theory of impression management in chapter four. Are the users really presenting themselves better than they are, or is this not possible due to the influence of the software? Finally, the conclusion will provide a recap and investigate the consequences of the findings.

2. The Software of Facebook

The construction of identity cannot be examined by only taking the users side into account: software has great influence as well. As Lev Manovich rightfully claims: if we dont address software itself, we are in danger of always dealing only with its effects rather than the causes: the output that appears on a computer screen rather than the programs and social cultures that produce these outputs (Manovich, 2008: p. 4-5). Likewise, this thesis will examine Facebook in order to say something about society and Generation Y. Three areas of the software of Facebook will be examined: interface, algorithm and database. These studies are necessary to form a complete insight on the construction of identity by users. As boyd and Ellison mention: both social and technological forces shape user practices (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.14). 2.1 Interface Interface is an essential part of software - it performs as glue. In computing, interface links software and hardware to each other and to their human users or other sources of data (Fuller ed. 2008: p. 149). However, according to Matthew Fuller there is a (conventional) distinction between user interface and interface as a whole. In this chapter only the former will be taken into account. According to Fuller, the user interface can be seen as the symbolic handles that make software accessible to users (Ibidem). Moreover, preferences and settings of social networking sites software manipulate the very staging of the interface, its colours, language, interaction menus, file handling, auto functions, warning messages, security levels, passwords, cooperation with other software, peripherals, and so on (Pold in Fuller ed., 2008: p.218). However, Facebook users are not allowed to change the software. The user can only change plain text or add or remove certain information and aesthetics that are provided by the software. This is in contrast with MySpace, in which HTML and CSS can be changed by users. As former New Media master student Annewil Neervis puts it: the user-friendly interface of Facebook hides the technological (and for the user often inaccessible) backend, and creates a continuity in the interface that ensures a smooth overlap between using (e.g. creating, updating) ones profile 9

and browsing through those of others (Neervis, 2009: p. 26). Hence, users can only change what is prefigured and have limited freedom in expressing themselves. Thereafter Danish researcher Pold claims that the user becomes irritatingly aware of the fact that the interface is structured around principles set up by senders. Preferences regulate the contract between the producers, the machine and its software environments, and what I as a users prefer, thus my preference are not purely mine, but highly negotiated in this software hierarchy (Pold in Fuller ed., 2008: p. 219). In other words, when looking at the interface of Facebook, users are restricted and have to stick to the user interface the software of Facebook has created. As a result, the ability to create a unique online identity is limited, especially compared to MySpace, since users are not capable of creating a personal profile page with a unique interface. They can only change the information they put online, and even that is constrained since the user can only answer to questions are already there (e.g., see figure 1). Besides, users have to stick to the tools provided. An example that will be researched more deeply afterwards is the Like button. Users can only like something; a hate tool does not exist. Consequently, users will express themselves in words and photos instead of in the way the interface looks. So these will assumable have more identity value on Facebook than on SNSs like Hyves or MySpace.

Figure 1: Profile settings; the user can only fill in information, not change the settings


2.2 Database Next to the user interface, the database of Facebook cannot be ignored in researching the software of Facebook. The database stores all personal information of users: gender, age, interests, contact information, comments etc. In that way, the database is part of the construction of the online identity on Facebook. The users can choose what he or she wants to put on Facebook. However, as will be described in chapter three, the information has to be relatively realistic and similar to the real identity and the user can only add information when asked for. For example, one can only be a woman or a man on Facebook, not a transgender or something in between, see figure 2. Consequently, users are obliged to express themselves in categories even though they do not think of themselves in that manner. The only thing users can do if they want to avoid categories is to leave them blank. Consequently, the profile information is influenced by the software of Facebook.

Figure 2: The user can only choose between Female or Male

According to professor Richard Rogers, there has been a shift in the database. The old database was the site to derive the other (Rogers, 2009: p.31). Now, with online platforms, there are longer character limits, more fields, and far greater agency to author oneself (Ibidem). However, new questions may be posed; what does your form filling say about you, do you fill in the defaults only, and do you have many empty fields? In other words, not only the information in the database, but also the information that is missing, and the way it is showed tells something about the users. Though, leaving a field blank can both mean that the user do not wants to give this information by privacy or personal reasons, or as a sign of protest against the features of the database. Furthermore, Facebook has introduced a powerful and easy tool to gain information about the interests of users: the Like button. By clicking on the button, users can like a post, comment, page or item. The amount of likes is


listed, and an algorithm uses this information to recommend certain pages or things to other users, see figure 3.

Figure 3: Recommended Pages on Facebook

Facebook allows its member to actually champion an organization, a celebrity, or virtually any business on the site. From there they can proclaim their affirmation to all their friends via a Pages Like button (Dunay and Krueger, 2011). This is even shown by a thumbs up sign to emphasize the approval of the user. Users can also like an advertisement and approval about a product or company is collected through users for free. In fact, the influence of the Like button reaches beyond Facebook itself: other websites on the Internet can include the Like button as well. Web site owners are leveraging the Like button to drive traffic, build awareness and generate word-of-mouth buzz. Retailers are starting to add the Like button to every product in their online store (Dunay and Krueger, 2011). When a user is signed in on Facebook, he can even see how many of his friends liked the content of a certain website, see figure 4.
Figure 4: Example of a Like button

Additionally, as shown in figure 5, the New York Times even uses the recommendation function of Facebook as a way to categorize articles in popularity: What is Popular Now on Facebook?.3

3 The Tupperware Party Moves to Social Media. New York Times. 05-05-2011. 15-05-2011 <> 12

Figure 5: New York Times uses Facebook for recommendations

In other words, the Like button of Facebook created a whole new way of collecting information about users. As a journalist of Tech Crunch writes: Google spends billions of dollars indexing the web for their search engine. Facebook will get the web to index itself, exclusively for Facebook (Arrington, 25-05-2010). Not only is information collected for Facebook, it is also done for free. At this moment, it is still questionable what the implications are for the extensive use of the like button. For example, it will have great implications for Google since the likes are not public so unreachable for the company. Will the likes of Facebook become more powerful as the number of links, which Google uses now to select the best search results? Furthermore, third parties have access to the database of Facebook with applications. So with the Like button and third parties applications, a lot of information about Facebook users is collected. However, not all users are fully aware of this fact. The users who are aware are most of the time more conscious in putting personal information on Facebook, as also shown in a few of my interviews: Facebook is nice, but they can get to know everything about you in no time and abuse this information.4 Therefore, users are influenced by the database in constructing an identity because they do not want to fully express themselves in order to protect their personal information. Professor Joseph Turow examines the emergence of databases as marketing tools and the implications this may have for media, advertising, and society.5 With the intensive collection of information online, as with the Like button for example, advertisements are more directed to a distinct audience. This can only be made possible with personal user information. To be favoured with good deals and products in the new marketing words, a customer not only 4 Eelst, Annemiek van. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 5 Niche Envy by Joseph Turow. MIT Press. 09-05-2011 <> 13

must allow surveillance but also most show evidence of his or her value (Turow, 2006: p.7). As a consequence, niche envy emergences:

Niche envy has two meanings. One meaning pertains to competitors, who may envy the quality of other competitors costumers. The other pertains to consumers, who may envy what they believe are their friends better profiles, which may get them better treatment from media companies, from stores, or even form manufacturers. Both meanings suggest that somehow the marketplace is deeply involved in defining an important basis for belonging in society (Turow, 2006: p.3). Extending the idea that database marketing is beginning to engender new forms of envy, suspicion, and institutional distrust, Turow argues that it works against a sense of social belonging and engagement (Turow, 2006: p. 19). Put differently, the database has influence on the advertisements you see on Facebook and the special offers you will get, and people may create a feeling of envy about it. Consequently, the database can have control over your purchases since they control the advertisements shown on Facebook. The database of Facebook clearly reaches beyond the social networking site itself and has great influence in how and what kind of information users show on the site. 2.3 Algorithm Last, the algorithms of Facebook are playing an important part in constraining the activities of users. The term algorithm is used in computer science to describe a finite, deterministic, and effective problem-solving method suitable for implementation as a computer program (Sedgewick and Wayne, 2011: p.4). Princeton University lecturers Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne define algorithms as procedures for solving a problem in a natural language, or a computer program written that implements the procedure (Ibidem). Algorithms are indispensible when it comes to dealing with a lot of data. According to Sedgewick and Wayne, algorithms give the potential to reap huge savings, even to the point of enabling to do tasks that would otherwise be impossible (Sedgewick and Wayne, 2011: p.5). Facebook uses a lot of algorithms, however, it seems that only the producers of the software know the exact way in which they operate. Nevertheless the effects of the algorithm are visible as writer Devavrat 14

Shah points out: the social network of an individual now includes many more acquaintances than before thanks to online applications and algorithms (Shah, 2008: p.3). The algorithm of Facebook that recommends new friends to existing users is used a lot. Friendship suggestions are made on the basis of the network of other members, see figure 6.

Figure 6: Frienship suggestion on Facebook

This is different than the way a suggestion is made on MySpace, for example, where suggestions are not based on links but on matching interests (Rogers, 2009: p.34). Not only users who are using Facebook are getting friendship suggestions, even individuals who are not will get emails with the request to join friends on Facebook. The platforms continually encourage more activity, inviting commentary on everything posted, and recommending to you more friends (who are friends of friends) (Rogers, 2009: p.32). As a result, it is easy for users to have a large network, but the consequence is that it is harder to keep up with all friends. Even when users do not really want to have a large network, the algorithm keeps pushing them to befriend more people. Furthermore, there are algorithms that recommend pages and interests to users, and algorithms that select posts for the News Feed. This is a list with a number of activities and posts of friends, and is divided in two parts. The Most Recent News Feed selects items by the time an update, comment or action is been done. More interesting is the algorithm of the Most Important News Feed:


News Feed stories are selected based on Facebooks proprietary algorithm that takes into consideration a members action on the site, the privacy setting of everyone involved, your interactions, and your account and application settings. Facebook weights all these elements in deciding which stories to publish for each member. The key is relevance, which Facebooks News Feed algorithm is very good at delivering (Dunay and Krueger, 2010).

In other words, the algorithm decides what is most relevant and appears on top. But can the algorithm decide what is most important for the user? Apparently the users have no choice. They cannot select most important posts themselves so they have to stick to the selection made by the algorithms. Thus algorithms have influence on users, since they decide what they will read, whom they become friends with, and always want to enlarge the network of users. 2.4 The influence of the software Concluding: interfaces, databases and algorithms have all influence on the actions of users. Former New Media master student Annewil Neervis claims that both the users input and the form of the SNS itself control the extent to which a persona is created within SNSs (Neervis, 2009: p.47). Although the user is free in what he wants to fill in, the only freedom for the user when it comes to intentional limitations lies in his decision not to participate or to be dishonest. Besides, the user can only answer the questions on the profile page that are asked, as shown with the user interface. Neervis claims that the creation of an online persona therefore is not just a reflection of ones actual being; it is the outcome of a number of conscious decisions in combination with a predefined set of both intentional and intentional limitations (Neervis, 2009: p. 47). The user is not able to change something the senders have not prefigured; one cannot change the user interface, as is possible on Hyves and Myspace. Danish professor Soren Pold states that users are by instinct fighting against being standardized according to typical functionalistic values (Pold in Fuller ed., 2008: p. 222). However, the only option they have on Facebook is to stop using the SNS. So if the preferences, information and interface on Facebook cannot be fully the choice of the user, can the identity shown on Facebook be? Just as Neervis, I do not think so. The software is of great influence in the performance of the user. 16

3. The Type of Facebook Identity

According to researchers Cliff Lampe, Nicole Ellison and Charles Steinfield, individuals form impressions of others in order to decide whether to pursue or continue a relationship (Lampe ed., 2007: p. 436). In other words, it is crucial for a person to have a good image in order to form a network. The question is: how exactly do users create a good image of themselves on Facebook? Before having a close look at the construction of identity on Facebook, there are some general assumptions to be made about the type of identity. Lampe, Ellison and Steinfield pose: Individuals attempt to manage these impressions, strategically emphasizing some characteristics while de-emphasizing others. [] However, online self-presentation is more malleable and subject to self- censorship than face-to-face self-presentation due to the asynchronous nature of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and the fact that CMC emphasizes verbal and linguistic cues over less controllable nonverbal communication cues.6

Put differently, they claim that individuals have more control online in expressing themselves and in making up an identity than offline. According to boyd, the reason for this is that unlike everyday embodiment, there is no digital corporeality without articulation. One cannot simply be online; one must make ones presence visible through explicit and structured actions (boyd, 2006: p. 18). So, it is quite easy to form a fake identity online according to them. But do Facebook users construct a fake identity too? Is this online identity different or similar to the offline identity? 3.1 Real / Fake Identity boyd claims that profiles could never be real (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p. 14). She did research about profiles on Friendster, one of the first SNSs. Friendster had a lot of fake profiles about imaginary or famous people: Fakesters. One of the Fakesters pointed out that theres no such thing as an authentic performance on FriendsterNone of this is real. (boyd, 2006: p.28). boyd explains this 6 Citation of Walther (1996), cited in Lampe ed. (2007): p. 436. 17

statement: Through the act of articulation and writing oneself into being, all participants are engaged in performance intended to be interpreted and convey particular impressions (boyd, 2006: p.28). So she states that no profile on Friendster is similar to the real identity of the users. Although her study is about Friendster, one could make the same statement about Facebook. However, if you define an identity on a SNS as fake by the fact that it is written, no identity can be real on the Internet. I think we passed this way of looking at the Internet years ago, since the influence of it on real life is more than present. The Internet is not a virtual, fictional reality, but an extended part of real life. Besides, how can users of Facebook construct an online identity that is completely different from their offline identity, when their online network is in most cases similar to their offline network? As mentioned before, users are primarily communicating with people who are already part of their social network (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.3). In other words, when using a different identity online than offline, it will not take long before people will get caught. Moreover, users are asked to fill in a lot of personal information on the profile page. Subsequently there are many ways to get authentication so users are more tended to use their real identity, name, connections, and personal information. This is in contrast with for example dating sites or games, in which it is accepted to use pseudonyms or imaginary persons. As a result, these persons are more likely to act rude, since they have no connection to real life. Poor behaviour is a problem in many on-line discussion forums, where pseudonyms and disconnection provide cover for angry or malicious postings (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.76). Since the social network of Facebook consists of familiar people, the identity users create on Facebook is more reliable. Donathan and boyd draw the same conclusion and explain: The use of ones real name and the network both imply that if one were to prevaricate extensively in ones profile, real acquaintances would see this and presumably, make some rebuke - or at least, one would be embarrassed to be seen exaggerating accomplishments in front of ones friends (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.74).


In that case, you can expect that most identities on Facebook are similar or just slightly different to the offline identity. Furthermore, the online identity on Facebook is, in most cases, a better version of the real identity, because a good reputation is of great value. According to Donathan and boyd, users benefit from continuing to act in ways that enhance that good reputation (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.76). Besides, most people interviewed argue the same: generally you put positive things on Facebook because negative posts will give a negative image of yourself, and some other persons will think you are a whiner.7 Summarizing, users of Facebook tend to create an online identity that is similar of slightly better than their real identity. As Donathan and boyd point out, it is easy to create a false persona but the costs lie in building the network, and this network generally knows who you are in real life (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.74). The next question is, how exactly do individuals use Facebook to construct this real, positive online identity?

7 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 19

4. The construction of identity on Facebook

There are many assumptions made when it comes to describing the way people use Facebook to construct an identity. For example, they can show who they are by the information on their profile, the content of their status updates and messages, the use of pictures and videos, or the network of friends they have. I made a distinction between feature specific assumptions and general assumptions to make it comprehensible. The features of Facebook and the ways users apply them are examined first. 4.1 Feature Specific Statements 4.1.1 Profile My Penguin Student Dictionary describes the word profile as following: 1. to produce a profile of (somebody or something), e.g. by drawing or writing. 2. to shape the outline of (something), esp by using a template (Allen, 2006: p.703). Interestingly, the use of the term as describing an outline of anything dates from 1650s, but the use of it to summarize a person in writing dates only back to 1948.8 The latter is intended when speaking of profiles on Facebook. In a profile on Facebook, users can express their interests, personal information and experiences. The profile is divided into several parts, and appears in two different versions: one for non-friends as illustrated in figure 7, and one for friends as illustrated figure 8.

8 Profile. Online Etymology Dictionary. 09-05-2011. <> 20

Figure 7: How a Facebook profile page looks to strangers

Figure 8: How a Facebook profile page looks to Friends


Hence, the user is in control of who will read their personal information The users can choose to whom he will expose this by changing the profile settings: Everyone, Friends of Friends, Friends Only, and Other (e.g. Only Me).9 Through this, Facebook made a more accurate distinction in privacy than to let the user choose between public or private. The profile information is divided into nine parts (Figure 9): Basic Information, Profile Picture, Featured People, Education and Work, Philosophy, Arts and Entertainment, Sports, Activities and Interests, and Contact Information.10 For Example, the Basic Information section of the Edit Profile page looks like figure 10.
Figure 9: Facebook Profile - Table of Contents

Figure 10: Facebook Edit Profile - Basic Information

9 Privacy Settings. 08-04-2011 <> 10 Edit Profile. 08-04-2011 <> 22

According to boyd and Heer, users are expected to perform and interpret identity through profiles; they represent individual embodiment. (boyd and Heer, 2006: p.6). So the profile is an important part of the online identity. Profile owners [] express an online persona through pictures, words and page composition, as well as through data fields where information ranging from favourite books and movies to sexual orientation and relationship status (single, in a relationship, etc.) is indicated (Tufekci, 2008: p.3). Although the users can choose what they want to fill out and how many information they give about themselves, they have to stick to the profile settings as shown in chapter two. For example, the section Arts and Entertainment allows the users to name their favourite music, books, movies, television, and games, but they cannot name their favourite piece of art or artist. Again, the software controls the user by limiting the possibilities.

Figure 11: Limited Profile settings on Facebook

The information shown on the profile is in most cases neutral or positive. Negative information does not often appear. For example, when one is unemployed, he or she can leave the part where you have to fill in your work experience blank. So instead of giving negative information, users can just say nothing at all. Similarly, participants of the interview argue that most information on their profile is neutral, interesting to others, or slightly better: I do not put a lot of details of myself on the profile; I do not think that is necessary. I only give information about special things, so maybe I am trying to present myself better.11 In sum, the information on the profile is neutral, interesting, or better compared to the real identity of users. Users can influence the information

11 Kersenboom, Sanne. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 23

on the profile to a certain extent: they can only decide if and in what way they want to fill out the fields that are provided by the software.

4.1.2 Status Updates Although the profile seems to be the most important way users construct an online identity on Facebook, there are other ways too. One way is by posting a status update. The Penguin Student Dictionary describes the term status as following: 1. The condition or standing of a person, territory, etc in the eyes of law. 2. Position or rank in relation to others in a hierarchy or social structure. 3. High social position; prestige. 4. A state of affairs; the situation in regard to something (Allen, 2006: p. 875). The latter definition seems to be most in line with the meaning of status on Facebook, since status updates do not necessarily contain references to hierarchy or prestige. In a status update, users can post a small amount of words about how they feel or what keeps them busy at that moment. Examples are: Studying for an important test, I really enjoyed the party last night! Cant wait to see the pictures, or Going to Paris tomorrow :D. When the users of Facebook post a status update, this will appear on the personal page of the user and in the News Feed, see figure 12.

Figure 12: News Feed and Status updates on Facebook

The News Feed is a list of all the status updates and actions, like writing on a wall, making changes in the profile or befriending with some one, and is categorized into Top News and Most Recent news. The status updates of


Facebook contain a lot of personal information and emotions. In my opinion, the updates are more focussed on emotion than action or opinion, like the case is on Twitter. Essential to all the posts is that they are about, or have something to do with the user of Facebook. Whereas the status bar asks the user: Whats on your mind? and not Whats on the mind of person sitting next to you? Users can talk about themselves since the network knows the user in person since all of them have accepted the friendship request. But on Twitter it is more likely that a stranger will read the status update too due to the public network - and therefore would not understand personal postings. It is common to use emoticons, like J for happy feelings or L for sad feelings in status updates. You can also use these emoticons to show if you like something or not. Other signs, like <3, symbolise a specific icon, like in this case a heart. Most users write these symbols because it is easier and faster than to describe the feelings in words. I divided the status updates of Facebook into four categories of expressing. First, there are a lot of updates about the activities of the user. They write about what they did or currently doing. For example, see figure 13. Compared to Twitter, the updates are covering a bigger period of time; it is more common to write about your activities of the whole day than of the last two seconds: most of my status updates are prospects or retrospect of activities, for example about the next day.12 The updates contain a large time frame since most users of Facebook do not update their status very often compared to Twitter. Second, a lot of users are sharing content with other people, like YouTube videos, links, or photos. As one of the interviewed persons mentions: Facebook allows you to share more; you can give a friend something. This is in contrast to Twitter. Twitter is fleeting and Facebook stays.13 For an example, see figure 13. Especially pictures made with mobile phones are common. Compared to Flickr and YouTube, users of Facebook are more tended to post personal images and videos: most often I post photos with myself on it, like when I am making music or hanging with friends.14 This is assumingly caused by the fact that Facebook is 12 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 13 Eelst, Annemiek van. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 14 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 25

a private network and YouTube and Flicker are public, and they do not want to share their personal pictures with the whole world. Another difference is that it does not really matter whether the quality of the images is good; it is the message that counts. The picture can count as evidence: look, this really happened and I was there. It is a form of authentication. With the video, link or image, users can put their status update in context and give their opinion about it.

Figure 13: Example Satus update incl. picture

Third, quite a lot of status updates are directed to reactions of friends. An example is: Today graduation. Having drinks tonight in the pub (just for fun, not a wild party). Who is joining me?!15 Since the network of Facebook consists for a large part of offline friends, people are using their status updates to let them know what they are doing so they can join them. Instead of calling all your friends one by one, you can just ask all your friends by one action. However, the whole network can read the post, including friends that would otherwise not be called. Compared to Twitter, users of Facebook are more directed to participation with friends than with strangers: I am always aware of the fact that friends can read my posts and can react to it; I use Twitter more

15 Status update of John Verbeek. Daily revision. 06-04-2011. Translated

from Dutch: Vandaag diplomauitreiking gehad. Vanavond ff wat drinken in the pub (gewoon gezellig, niet te bont maken), wie doet er mee?! <>


superficially.16 This awareness of readers is also shown in this status: Booking for a holiday in June. Any ideas?! :), see figure 14. In only one hour already fourteen persons gave a reaction.

Figure 14: Status update on Facebook directed to participation

So through Facebook, users can get a quick opinion of what their friends think. However, these reactions are generally different than reactions on the phone for example, since the user has to stick to a small text field and the whole network can read it. A lot of participants of the interview mention they solely post status updates when they think they are interesting to others: I only put interesting things on Facebook; actually with the purpose to get a reaction.17 So users are very aware of the visibility of their actions and adjust them to their friends. Last, status updates with good achievements and positive content. It is more common to post a status update about something you are proud of than about something sad that happened, for example: two weeks ago I bought my first running shoes. Right now I ran my first 10 km in 1:00:14! Great, but those 14 seconds are a bit of a shame ;-). 18 Users want to get recognition for their efforts, and can achieve this rather easy by posting it on Facebook. I guess they have the feeling that an achievement has more meaning when other people know about it too. And as mentioned before, users rather post positive than negative content. Summarizing, most status updates include a form of participation: sharing content with friends, or asking for reactions of friends. The content of the update is personal and positive, just like the profile information, and contains a lot of pictures.
16 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011.

17 Stierenburg, Maartje. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 18 Status update of Mart Jeninga. Daily revision. 30-03-2011. Translated

from Dutch: 2 weken geleden kocht ik mijn eerste hardloopschoenen. Zojuist mijn eerste 10 km gerend in 1:00:14! Te gek, maar beetje jammer van de 14 seconden ;-) <>


4.1.3 Photos Users are also forming an identity on Facebook through photos, as already became clear when discussing former subjects. Photos are the most noticeable component of Profile identity performance and active users update their photos regularly to convey various things about themselves (boyd and Heer, 2006: p.8). The profile photo is very present on Facebook; it is visible in every post as a thumbnail, and on the profile page it appears in full size, see figure 15. They [photos] become a part of the performance of that individual (boyd and Heer, 2006: p.8). Although some users are using non-realistic images as profile picture- arguably for privacy reasons -, most users have a profile picture of themselves. The profile picture is important because they are a substitute for the body. In real life interaction people can look at gestures and facial expressions in communication, on Facebook they have to do it with only words and pictures.

Figure 15: Thumbnail of profile picture next to a status update

However, profile pictures are not the only pictures on Facebook. As mentioned before, users are tending to use a lot of images in their status updates: Facebook users predominantly claim their identities implicitly rather than explicitly; they show rather than tell (Zhao ed., 2008: p.1). Secondly, users can create photo albums on Facebook to show and share a big amount of pictures. With tagging there appears a tag on a picture with the name of a Facebook user, so you can see who is in the picture. It is common to create albums with holiday or party pictures on Facebook. Likewise as the status updates, most users are tending to post only nice and positive pictures. They selectively choose what they want to show the world: the photos of which I am in control, are pictures in which I look at my best. If I do not like a photo, I remove it from my Wall.19 In a way, by posting a holiday picture you are indirectly telling your friends look where I have been to! and by posting party pictures, the users is subtle saying I go to 19 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 28

cool parties, so I must be cool too. An image usually has more impact than words. The conscious selection of pictures in order to form the wishful online identity, is also clear in the image bar on the profile page, see figure 16.

Figure 16: Bar with images on a profile page

These five images are the newest pictures with the users tag, and appear automatically on the top of the users profile page. The user can select which he wants to hide, but cannot add pictures to the bar and again the software constrains the actions of the user. These images and the profile pictures are a very central part of the profile page and form a large part of the online identity. 4.1.4 Friends Furthermore, users of Facebook can show who they are by their network of friends. Profiles have been extended to include explicitly social information such as articulated Friend relationships (boyd and Heer, 2006: p.1). This network consists of all other users of Facebook who have accepted a friendship request of a specific person; all friendships are bi-directional. In most cases the network is visible to friends, and is some cases even to strangers (this depends on the personal privacy settings). It is called the public display of connection: Public displays of connection serve as important identity signals that help people navigate the networked social world, in that an extended network may serve to validate identity information presented in profiles (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.14). Put differently, the network is part of the online identity; it is an integral piece of their self-presentation (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.72). Donathan and boyd conclude in their research about Friendster that impression management is


one of the reasons given by users of Friendster for choosing particular friends.20 They explain why the network is so important for identity:

Seeing someone within the context of their connections provides the viewer with information about them. Social status, political beliefs, musical taste, etc., may be inferred from the company one keeps (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.72). The kind of friends a user has is important for online identity; a user can look more interesting when he or she is befriended with interesting persons. Besides, Donathan and boyd argue that name dropping is used to position oneself in a status hierarchy. People may claim connections to celebrities or other high-status people to raise their own status (Donathan and boyd, 2004: p.76). Moreover, the amount of friends users have is valuable too. This amount is visible on the profile page, see figure 12. Generally, it is a positive sign when some one has a lot of friends. However, too much or too little friends could be a sign that the users is befriending everyone, or that there is something wrong with him or her so no one wants to be friends. Therefore, a user should not accept every friendship request. Furthermore, users can show if someone is more than a friend: a family member or a partner. With this users can create a small hierarchy, but it is not possible to differ between friends, close friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and so on. As you can see in figure 17, the In a relationship with information is positioned on a central place of the profile, and even above the friends list. Therefore, one can claim that the relationship of users is more important for the construction of identity than the amount and type of friends. 20 Citation of Donathan and boyd (2004), cited in boyd and Ellison (2007): p.14. 30
Figure 17: Friends on a profile page

4.1.5 Like Button Last, users can express their feelings and interest with the Like button. Users can use this button when they comment on a status, photo, link, video or wall post. When they click on the Like button the text likes this appears right underneath the post, see figure 18. You can like your own post and comments on posts too.

Figure 18: You can like a post on Facebook

When more than one friends like a post, the number of likes and the names of users that used the tool is shown. The button can also be used as a way to follow a page or group on Facebook, see figure 19.

Figure 19: Rolling Stones Page on Facebook with Like button

By liking a page the user can become a fan and is in some cases provided with more information. Interestingly though, there seems to be no dislike or hate button. Users can only like things, but cannot express their negative feelings about something. Are they not allowed to express negative feelings on Facebook? Users have three options if they do not like something: write a comment about the negative feelings, completely delete the post from their Wall or News Feed, or mark the post as spam or abusive. In other words, disliking something on Facebook has more radical consequences than liking something. However, the Like tool provides users with an alternative way to show their interest. It is a powerful tool, not only because it is easier and faster to just click on the Like button than to write a comment in which you want to say the same, but also because it collects information, as examined in chapter two. 31

Taking the former findings about constructing an identity on Facebook into account, there are a few assumptions to make. First, users of Facebook are creating an online identity that is similar or slightly better than their offline identity. Second, they construct this by selectively choosing the information they place on the profile, give nice and personal status updates, choose good looking photos, make selection of representative friends, and use the like button. In other words, they are presenting a positive self. Next to these specific findings about the characteristics of Facebook, there are some general statements to make with use of the interview results. 4.2 General statements about Facebook The seven users I have interviewed made several statements that seem obvious for them, but caught my interest. First, the participants argue that they rather just read posts of friends, than providing content and posts themselves. I use Facebook particularly to see what others do, not mainly to present my own identity. I do not post a lot of photos or status updates, except when I explicitly want to tell something. It is not my main reason to express myself, I rather watch others, see what parties are planned, and who is attending.21 Why would users rather watch other people? Arguably because users are very concerned with their image on Facebook. Before they post something themselves, they want to be sure that it fits in with the other posts. As seen in former paragraphs, users are always aware of the fact that friends can read their posts. This claim matches the general characterization of Generation Y made by expert Rebecca Huntley: Paradoxically, whilst this is a generation that values freedom, flexibility and choice, it is also far more conformist than its X predecessors (Huntley, 2006: p.18). They have the desire to fit in, in real life and on Facebook, thus are very selective in their postings. Furthermore, most of participants of the interviews use Facebook a lot, but are not a big fan of the SNS. They feel like meaningless spending a lot of time: 21 Kersenboom, Sanne. Oral interview, Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 32

I actually use Facebook too much. The first thing I do when sit behind my computer is checking Facebook, especially for meaningless looking at other users.22 Why would they use it when it is a waste of time? Participants response by claiming that although you gain information in a not very social, time-wasting manner, it is nice to know things about people you would otherwise not know.23 A lot of users, including myself, have the feeling that they miss something when they are not checking Facebook. Checking recent status updates is becoming a daily habit, like checking your email or the latest news, and heavy users are always afraid of missing something. Third, users stick to certain unwritten rules. As mentioned before, it is not appreciated when users post too personal information on Facebook. I find it embarrassing when someone puts everything, including stupid things, on Facebook. They are really asking for attention.24 Besides, some things are not appropriate for Facebook, but are for other social networking sites: I use Twitter for more general content. I dont post any information that has an inside value; information that is only clear to people who know me.25 And furthermore: It is not normal to show your whole rsum on Facebook, thats more LinkedIn style.
26 Thereafter, it is not conventional to accept friendship requests of people you

do not know. I only accept requests of friends I know personally; I do not add friends just to have friends.27 For most users, real friends and acquaintances are more important than a large number of friends. Ellison and boyd explain this as they argue that the network of friends serves as important identity signals (boyd and Ellison, 2007: p.14). Since the network reflects the identity of the user, the network has to be representative and give a good image. Another claim the participants make is that Facebook has great influence on their social life. Some even complain that Facebook is a bad substitute for real life interaction. 22 Stierenburg, Maartje. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 23 Stierenburg, Maartje. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 24 Eelst, Annemiek van. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 25 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 26 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 27 Zuiderzee, Robin. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 33

It is not natural interaction between people anymore. You read something, but dont talk. In fact, it is half communication: you are posting things individually and read things individually. For that reason it is not social; there is no personal contact.28

They even describe the communication on Facebook as artificial and use less often old ways of communication, like the telephone. Social contacts are managed by the Internet now, and I like it less than the way we used to communicate. I used to call people quite a lot, but now I only call them if necessary.29 One of the participants mentions that this changed in a year time: she used to call someone if she wanted to know how a friend was doing, but know she can read it just as easy on Facebook.30 On other hand, the upside implication for your social life is that it is easier to get in contact with old friends and forgotten acquaintances and to stay in contact with them through Facebook. It is sometimes hard to speak with your friends when you are busy, but when you post and read messages on Facebook you can get know what everyone is doing.31 So, Facebook has a lot of influence on the social life of users. They use it partially as a substitute for old communication, but it is not satisfactory. Facebook may extend the social network, but the friendships appear to be less intense than they used to. The fifth thing I noticed when talking to users was the concern about privacy and lack of knowledge of the software. A lot of participants mention that they do not put certain personal information and pictures on Facebook for privacy reasons: they dont know where they will end up and who can view them. I dont really understand how applications work and who can use your personal information. For that reason I already removed a lot of content, like the pictures of myself in high school. We are only interested in the things that interest us, like how to share videos, but we are not interested enough in privacy issues.32 28 Kersenboom, Sanne. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 29 Kersenboom, Sanne. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 30 Stierenburg, Maartje. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 31 Zuiderzee, Robin. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 32 Eelst, Annemiek van. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 34

Another interviewee even suggested that young users should get Facebook lessons in order to learn that they should not place everything on Internet. My own findings correspond: I found it hard to find adequate information about the software of Facebook since not much information is public. For that, it is not hard to image that users are getting suspicious and very selective in uploading content to the site. What does Facebook has to hide? However, the most interesting assumption I have found concerns the overload of information and positive images of others. Many participants mention that they know too much of friends and people they barely know.

The image I have of others is influenced by Facebook. I have changed too, in person and life style. I have become more jealous by it, and that is one of the biggest downsides. Maybe jealousy is not the right word, but now I know so many people it is hard to get the same level as others. You put your standards higher, you know more about others than is healthy, you even know more about your best friends than before.33 In other words, it is hard to perform just as good as the rest when you know more people. Besides, knowing a lot also means that users can read about parties they were not invited for and things they have missed out: I really like Facebook and find it very useful because you can see and share activities with others, but on other hand you see also the nice actions of others you didnt participate in. You dont really want to know such things. You actually know too much. What should you do with all this info? You cant really think for yourself what is important and what you want. In fact, you can feel real bad by it.34 So by knowing much about others, people can feel bad about themselves. They get the feeling that are lying behind and have to do better. It is hard to keep up with so many friends. But are friends on Facebook really perfect, or is this just an image? To answer this question, the next chapter will take a close look at the identity of users on Facebook with use of the theory of impression management by Erving Goffman. 33 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 34 Kersenboom, Sanne. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 35

5. Impression Management and Facebook

Do users of Facebook try to look better than they really are? Are they performing an act? And is this performance constrained by the software and algorithms of Facebook? The literature of impression management by Erving Goffman can help to find answers. 5.1 Theory of Impression Management Impression Management is a sociological theory with Erving Goffman as one of the leading figures. The theory focuses on the ways in which the individual guides and controls the impressions others form of him or her (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p. 238). In other words, how can individuals present themselves in the best light? When an individual appears in the presence of others, there will usually be some reason for him to mobilize his activity so that it will convey an impression to others which it is in his interest to convey (Goffman, 1959: p.16). Goffman defines performance as the activity of a given participant on a given occasion, which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants (Goffman, 1959: p. 26). This performance takes place on and behind the stage, and this way of looking at individuals is called dramaturgy. His dramaturgy is concerned with the lives of ordinary women and men as they act out their daily roles on the stage of life (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.239). Goffman divides this imaginary stage in a front and a back stage. The front is that part of the individuals performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance (Goffman, 1959: p.22). This front stage exists of two parts:

Front includes setting (furniture and other items supplying the scenery and stage props) and personal front items of expressive equipment, like insignia of office or rank, clothing, gender, age, racial characteristics, size, posture, speech patterns, facial expression, and body gestures (Goffman, 1959: p.24). When applied to Facebook, the setting could be the software and user interface. The personal front is the way an individual uses setting for constructing an 36

identity. So on Facebook this would be the information on the profile, the posts on the Wall and News Feed, the amount and type of friends, and the (profile) pictures. Individuals on the front stage are standing right before the audience. They avoid anything that is inappropriate according to the script, and are not improvising when they are on front stage (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p. 239). What happens in the front region [] is an attempt to manipulate the audience (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.239). The performer is aware of the audience and want to present himself right. The individual will act in a thoroughly calculating manner, expressing himself in a given way solely in order to give the kind of impression to other that is likely to evoke from them a specific response he is concerned to obtain (Goffman, 1959: p.17). By contrast, back stage the individual can drop its masks and step out of character. Since there is no audience present, the actors do not need to engage in impression management; they can be themselves (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.239). Above that, the techniques of impression management are practiced in the back stage to be used in future conversations and roles (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.239). However, his basic question is: arent we all con artists, after all? (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.241). 5.2 Impression Management applied on Facebook Even though Goffman probably never imagined it, his sociological theory dating from 1959 could be applied to Facebook. By drawing our attention to the backstage region, Goffman helps us understand all of the hidden work involved in accomplishing successful presentation of self in public (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p. 240). This attention to the backstage region can helps us to understand the formation of a successful presentation on Facebook as well. Goffman was fascinated with discrepancies between appearances and realities, and with deception and manipulation as Wallace and Wolf mention (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.245). One could say the same about this research that also draws the attention to this discrepancy. Besides, it is not hard to imagine Facebook as a theater, when you think of users as actors and friends as audience. Just like actors, users only appear when they have something to share with the audience. Facebook does not display the whole life of users, only selected fragments.


However, the theory of Goffman differs in the fact that he examines face-to-face interactions: where two or more individuals are physically in one anothers presence.35 This in contrast to Facebook where no face-to-face interaction is possible, since the communication is mediated by the computer and the body is not present. Consequently, gestures and facial expressions cannot be examined on Facebook, even though they are an important part of the performance according to Goffman. Of the two kinds of communication expressions given and expressions given off this report will primarily concerned with the later, with the more theatrical and contextual kind, the non-verbal, presumably unintended kind, whether this communication be purposely engineered or not (Goffman, 1959: p.16). It is impossible to examine solely non-verbal and unintended communication on Facebook since users can only express themselves purposely; they have to write themselves into being or there would be no performance at all. In contrast to Goffmans study, this research examines the other kind of communication: expressions given. A small amount of researchers already made (unconsciously) a connection between impression management theory and SNSs. Although the theory does not provide an easy fit and is written about half a decade ago, interesting results can be found. Looking at the dramaturgical perspective and Goffmans ideas of impression management in online communication offers rich new opportunities for application of classical sociological insights to our interactions with others (Kendall, 2010: p.135). According to sociologist Diana Kendall, many people are today concerned not only about the impressions they make in face-to-face encounters but also in cyberspace (Kendall, 2010: p.134). Now that first impressions are often made in cyberspace, not face-to-face, people are not only strategizing about how to virtually convey who they are, but also grappling with how to craft an e-version of themselves that appeals to multiple audiences co- workers, fraternity brothers, Mom and Dad (Rosenbloom in Kendall, 2010: p. 135). Like in the theater of Goffman, users of Facebook are presenting themselves in a certain way and are aware of the present audience. They hide parts and control the impressions they receive from the situation and are 35 Citation of Erving Goffman (1983): p.8, cited in Wallace and Wolf (2006): p.244. 38

presenting themselves in a manipulating way: they are applying impression management. There are some researchers who have examined the use of impression management by SNSs users. For example, researcher Keith Kenny poses that impression management and Goffmans theater analogy could very well be applied to social networking sites (Kenney, 2009: p.19).

When people present themselves on Facebook, they talk about themselves and they show visuals of themselves. They carefully write self-descriptions about their political and religious affiliations, likes and dislikes, values, and accomplishments in life. People publicize their social connections with talented friends, successful sports teams, media role models, and popular musicians. They also use lots of photographs and videos (Kenney, 2009: p.19). In sum, he claims that users carefully create an online identity. Professors Soumitra Dutta and Matthew Fraser agree with Kenney that online identity on Facebook is consciously created by users by using impression management. According to them, people make up who they are on Facebook with a keen eye on what kind of impression they wish to create(Fraser and Dutta, 2008: 40). However, it is not strange that users are applying impression management, since they do not really have a choice: all communication is purposely done instead of unintended. Subsequently, can users be seen as performing in the front stage, or in the back stage? Although there are few, there are arguments to claim that users of Facebook are in the back stage. First of all, the back stage functions in the theory of Goffman as the place to practise future conversations and roles (Wallace and Wolf, 2006: p.239). Facebook can be seen as this place: users can practise chatting with someone before meeting them in real life. Several persons I have interviewed mention that it is easy to make, and stay in contact on Facebook; especially with people they do not know so well. When I have a new friend on Facebook, I start making contact by wall posts. I don not send a private message right away, just like you dont ask some ones phone number when you just met.36 Users can also practise future conversations in the sense that they dont 36 Eelst, Annemiek van. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 39

have to react instantly, as with face-to-face interactions. They get some time to think about posts and messages before they comment on them. Furthermore, another characteristic of the back stage is that actors are being themselves. One of the interviewed persons says: I am not perfect. When you do certain things in real life, like being drunk on a party, you should not be ashamed of yourself when you find a picture of it on a website.37 This user is in a part representing his true, unpolished self on Facebook. However, most participants told me that they find it annoying and even embarrassing when a friend puts too much personal information on Facebook. For example: I prefer more abstract posts; I dont want to know that a friend just went to the toilet.38 For that reason, most users are not showing an unpolished, true reflection of the self. One could rather see the performance on Facebook as front stage actions. The main characteristic of the front stage is the use of impression management. The conclusion that users apply it was already drawn. The way researchers Fraser and Dutta look at identity on Facebook has similarities with a role on the front stage; both are invented. In the real world the self is presented; in the virtual world it is invented (Fraser and Dutta, 2008: 40). This reassembles gets more clear in the way they argue that social networking sites are like a virtual catwalk. Impression management involves constantly changing identities, much like fashion models switching outfits. Except that, in the virtual world, the curtain never comes down on the ritual of identity fabrication and self- exhibition (Fraser and Dutta, 2008: 40). Clearly they claim that social networking sites are the front stage, because users are presenting themselves in the best light or in the best role by using impression management. This is in addition with my own results in the former chapters: users are presenting themselves positive on Facebook and are selective in how they present themselves. Besides, there are more reasons to characterize the actions of Facebook users in the front stage. Like in theatre, the users only come on stage when they have something to tell the audience. Users 37 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 38 Dutter, Vera. Oral interview. Amstelveen, 02-05-2011. 40

are aware of the fact that friends can see their actions, as a lot of the persons in the interviews mention: I only put information on Facebook that I think other people find interesting too, so in a way you are making yourself more interesting and nicer. 39 Embarrassing information is left out and entertaining content comes in place. Users adjust their performance to the audience. Besides, the user is acting on stage and not behind it because he intentionally wants to get a reaction. Like someone said in the interview: sometimes I post certain content with the main goal to get reactions. In fact, that seems to be the thing of Facebook: finding out if friends are responding and how they feel about it. 40 This is not an extraordinary statement, because what other reason could there be behind placing content on a (semi) public place? If the content is not directed to an audience, users might as well keep a dairy or personal blog. So, most Facebook users are aware of the presence of an audience. In addition to this, they are presenting themselves in the best light. However, even though the user is performing a certain role, this role is part of a biographical play: the user is always playing himself with his real, own identity in addition to the previous findings about the kind of identity on Facebook. Concluding, there are more arguments propositioning users in the front stage than in the back stage. It seems that users are trying to look good and positive on Facebook and applying impression management. Their performance is purposely given off, and users are always aware of the audience. Users are not fully being themselves; they select how they present themselves on Facebook. For that reason, there is a discrepancy between the offline, real identity and the online identity. The online identity might be real, but it always purposely given off and selected. In correspond with previous findings: Facebook presents a better version of the individuals real identity.

39 Stierenburg, Maartje. Oral interview. Amsterdam, 27-04-2011. 40 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 41

6. Conclusion
In a time when the use of Facebook is enormous e.g. today 25% of the population of the Netherlands has a profile41 - a close look at the use of Facebook is necessary. This thesis combines a media studies perspective with software studies and sociology to examine the construction of identity on Facebook. This research was needed in order to know if Generation Y is reflecting themselves to imagined, perfect selves and thus has to high expectations and standards. Several conclusions were drawn. 6.1 Findings First the software of Facebook was examined. It was shown that the software is of great influence on the performing of Facebook users. Users have to stick to the default settings and interface prefigured by the software, and the information shown on Facebook is controlled by it. Personal information is used for marketing and can cause niche envy. Moreover, algorithms have great influence on the content users view and the people and amount of people they befriend. Yet users have no choice: they have to stick to the features of the software, or not use it at all. On other hand, the user side was taken into account. First the conclusion was drawn that users are reflecting their real, authentic identity. They do not use a fake one since their network of friends on Facebook is similar to their offline network. Seconds, statements about the construction of identity where made by looking at the different features of Facebook and at the results of interviews among users. The examination of the features resulted in the conclusion that users are very selective in how they present themselves. They generally post positive content, use a lot of pictures and other content, like to have representative friends, and are very accurate in the content they show on their profile. Participants of the interviews come to the same conclusion. They argue that they are being themselves, but are very selective in what they show of themselves: I am being myself on Facebook, but in a certain way so that I look 41 Facebook Statistics Netherlands. 05-05-2011. <> 42

good. Although I sometimes remove a picture I dont like, I am not trying really hard to be perfect.42 Moreover, they have the feeling that they know too much about other users. For that, they find it hard to keep up with the rest, become jealous and sometimes feel bad. In sum, users are being themselves in the sense that they dont make things up and use their real identity, but are performing an act in the sense that they only show half of their real identity: the positive and public side. This statement was underpinned with the theory of Goffman in the last chapter. Users are applying impression management and are preforming an act on the front stage. Their identity is purposely given off and there is a discrepancy between the real, offline identity and the identity on Facebook. Concluding, both the results of the software, users and impression management theory examinations prove that users are not preforming an identity similar to the real identity, but a better and public one. Instead of being fully who they are, they are selecting and filtering their performance. Users are showing a better version of themselves on Facebook. 6.2 Consequences and Prospective What are the implications of these concealing identities? With the extensive use of Facebook, there might be a lot. One consequence is an increase of depressed Generation Y members, as documentary maker Sarah Domogala points out in her film. She made the Dutch documentary Alles wat wij wilden (Everything we wanted; Sarah Domogala, 2010) about young people who are using antidepressants since they got the feeling they are not successful or happy enough. In this documentary, four Generation Y individuals are followed in their strive to perfection. As they discover it is hard to fulfill their goals and even suffer from panic attacks, they come to the conclusion that they have too high expectations of themselves.43 They name Facebook as one of the reasons for this high pressure. By knowing what other people do and have accomplished, they get anxious and raise their standards. I am comparing myself to other people a

42 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 43 Alles wat we wilden [Everything we wanted]. Dir. Sarah Domogala. 3Doc, 2010. 43

lot.44 This same tendency was shown in chapter four as a finding of the interviews: because you know so many people, it is harder to gain the same level as the people around you. In addition you put the standard really high.45 As the documentary shows an image of Facebook, the girl in the video mentions that she is very concerned with constructing a good virtual image of herself.46 On Facebook everyone seems to have amazing party pictures, and then I think: why am I sitting here on the couch?47 They admit that Facebook is not reality, but yet the influence is. They cant help it. According to this documentary and journalist Coen Damberg, Facebook friends are constructing a virtual identity in which one friend is even more successful than the other. It makes users insecure, restless and anxious (Damberg, 2011). According to Damberg, these people see themselves as the cause of their failure, wrong choices and bad results. When they dont succeed, they are disappointed in themselves. These high expectations are caused by the increased individualism in society. This individualism is psychological and hedonism, and makes personal performance the most important goal in life (Damberg, 2011). In other words, the pressure for Generation Y to perform well is increased by Facebook. Especially since the conclusion is drawn that identities on Facebook are a better version of the real identity of users. The new generation puts their standards real high and found it hard to succeed. This offers a negative perspective on the future of Generation Y and the implications of the extensive use of Facebook. It makes the new generation feel anxious, restless and insecure. Subsequently, I recognize myself and my friends in this story too. I do get the feeling that I have to preform better, go study abroad like others, do an internship, work next to my study, join a student sorority, and finish my study in the shortest amount of time possible. Preferable all at the same time. You can 44Alles wat we wilden [Everything we wanted]. Dir. Sarah Domogala. 3Doc, 2010: at 19:30. 45 Jennings, Mark. Oral interview. Utrecht, 18-04-2011. 46 Alles wat we wilden [Everything we wanted]. Dir. Sarah Domogala. 3Doc, 2010: at 19:47. 47 Alles wat we wilden [Everything we wanted]. Dir. Sarah Domogala. 3Doc, 2010: at 20:24 44

always do more and better. And I can tell you: it is exhausting. However, I think that my generation eventually will come to the insight that Facebook is not real, and as already mentioned is partly nice and useful, but can also be meaningless and a waste of time. I believe face-to-face interaction and a small amount of close friends are more valuable than a large network on a social network. Facebook is complementary, but not a substitute for friendship. Consequently, I hope that Generation Y will lower their expectations and always keep in mind that identities on Facebook are not real. In that way the negative influence of Facebook on society will be limited. Further research can be done about identities on Facebook. For example, how do these identities differ per nationality, gender, or educational level? Besides, Goffmans theory was just one sociological theory applied to Facebook; more interesting results can be found when sociological theory is combined with media studies. Positive consequences of Facebook can be examined, or the influence of Facebook on other generations. It is still not clear what the consequences of the extensive use of Facebook are for society and the future generation.


1. Interview Mark Jennings, Utrecht: 18-04-2011 Ik: Hoe gebruik je Facebook? Mark: Ik gebruik het om te kijken waar vrienden mee bezig zijn en collegas, maar dat zijn ook vaak mijn vrienden. En ik gebruik het om contact te hebben met vrienden. Dat is wat ik passief doe. Actief laat ik zien waar ik mee bezig ben, zoals optredens of dingen wat ik noemenswaardig vindt. Ik zet er dingen op waar ik trots op ben. Ik: hoe gebruik je Facebook als je er wat algemener naar kijkt? Mark: Je zet voornamelijk dingen erop die positief zijn, omdat negatieve dingen een meer negatief beeld van jou geven. Misschien vinden mensen je dan een zeurpiet. Je bent positief naar jezelf, of naar anderen. Actief zet ik dingen erop zoals waar ik ben, bijvoorbeeld: ik zit nu in het park, wie heft zin om langs te komen?. En daarnaast leuke dingen die ik tegenkom op internet of fotos, een leuk YouTube filmpje. Dat is ook wat je kijkt bij vrienden. Ik: Wat voor informatie over jezelf zet je op je Facebook profiel? Mark: Ik zet zoveel mogelijk muziek gerelateerde informatie erop, dus niet zoveel priv-fotos. Volgens mij staat alles van mij erop. Wel mijn studie, maar geen werkervaring want dat zou te veel zijn. Je gaat niet je CV op Facebook zetten, dat is meer LinkedIn stijl. Verder staat er wel wat ik voor muziek leuk vindt, dat is redelijk wat. Bij de algemene info staat een mijn werkervaring, gender, relatie, telefoonnummer en e-mail adres. Ik wil dat mensen kunnen weten wat voor school ik zit, wat mijn interesses zijn. Maar ook niet veel, alleen de dingen waaraan onbekende mensen kunnen zien wat ik leuk vindt. De mensen die mijn vriend zijn moeten op mijn profiel persoonlijke info kunnen vinden. Het is een kleine opsomming van dingen die ik doe. 46

Ik: Is je profiel op Facebook representatief voor wie je bent? Mark: Ja, mijn profiel is representatief voor wie ik ben. Maar het is niet zo boeiend eigenlijk. Ik: Wat voor dingen zet jij in je status updates? Mark: Ik zet er vaak een terugblik of vooruitzicht van een optreden op, zoals: het optreden gister was een leuke avond. Anders zet ik er een overzicht op van wat ik de komende dag ga doen. Bijvoorbeeld een hele dag, zoals morgen. Verder plaats ik ook andere dingen zoals een aanrader van een mooie CD. Of gewoon een stomme opmerking. Soms plaats ik gewoon dingen die ik kwijt wil, maar ik ben er wel bewust van dat mensen het lezen en er op kunnen reageren. Soms plaats ik iets om bewust reacties uit te lokken. Dat is ook wel een beetje het ding eigenlijk, kijken of mensen erop reageren. Ik: Hoe verschillen je status updates je het vergeleken met andere SNSs? Mark: Ik gebruik Twitter veel algemener. Daar zet ik geen dingen op met insight waarde, dingen waarvoor je mij zou moeten kennen. Ik gebruik Facebook persoonlijker dat Twitter. Ik zie Twitter niet als vriendenkring. Facebook is meer een dialoog dan Twitter. In FB kan je dingen of in de ruimte plaatsen, of een bericht direct tegen een persoon zeggen. De andere kunnen dat wel horen, maar je staat wel naast die persoon. Bij Twitter heb ik meer het idee dat iedereen gewoon een beetje aan het schreeuwen is. Soms wel tegen bepaalde mensen, maar die staan dan wel aan de andere kant van de zaal. Op Facebook zou je bij wijze van spreken naar iemand toe lopen. Twitter is veel groter. Je weet nooit of het wel aankomt. Twitter is wel goed voor het eerste contact, op Facebook heb je altijd de blokkade omdat je eerst iemands Friend moet zijn. Ik: Ja, ik kan goed voorstellen dat je het zo ziet. En verder, wat voor fotos plaats je op Facebook?


Mark: Het zijn of fotos van werk, of fotos van wanneer ik met vrienden ben. Ik plaats voornamelijk fotos waar ik op sta. Dat is waar het om gaat toch. Die fotos die je zelf in de hand hebt zijn de fotos waar je op probeert om ze leuk mogelijk in beeld probeert te komen. Maar dat is net zou als de fotos die je in de huiskamer zou zetten, daar zet je ook geen fotos van toen je ziek was. Als ik een foto niet leuk vindt, haal ik hem van mijn Wall af. Dat vindt ik genoeg. De eerste blik van wie je bent, je Wall bedoel ik, daarvan haal ik de stomme fotos weg. Je komt ze dan wel tegen als je dieper gaat spitten, dat is geen probleem als je die tegenkomt, maar ik vindt het niet nodig als je dat dan op je Wall terug vindt dus haal ik ze eraf. Ik: Vertel eens wat meer over je profielfoto. Mark: Mijn profielfoto zegt over mij dat ik muziek maak. Meestal is mijn profiel foto een foto van mij waar ik op het podium sta, omdat dat is wat ik doe en waar Facebook voor mij om draait: het netwerk van muziekkanten. Maar ik heb ook een tijd een profiel foto gehad die daar niets mee te maken had, dat was gewoon een leuke foto. Ik gebruik die foto omdat ze dan gelijk snappen dat ik muziekkant ben. Ik: Geven al jouw fotos een positief beeld van jou? Mark: Ik heb eigenlijk wel een paar fotos waar ik niet goed naar voren kom, vooral de party fotos. Maar ik vind het niet erg dat ze erop staan. Het getuigd wel van humor vind ik. Als je dat soort dingen in het echte leven doet, moet je je er niet voor schamen als je het terug vindt op een website. Maar je moet er dan wel aan denken dat de meeste fotos geposeerde fotos zijn; het is mijn eigenschuld dat ik er belachelijk op sta. Ik: Dus je bent niet bezig met jezelf zo goed mogelijk neer te zetten op Facebook? Vindt je het niet erg als er negatieve dingen van of over jou op de site staan?


Mark: Ik probeer mijzelf zo goed mogelijk te profileren op Facebook, maar ik doe er niets tegen als andere mensen er iets op zetten waar ik niet zo goed op sta. Ik ben niet perfect. Tuurlijk staat er een keer een maffe foto op, maar dat zijn ook niet onaardig bedoelde dingen. Dus dan is het niet erg. Als iemand echt iets gemeens erop zet, dan zou ik wel vragen of ze het eraf halen, zoals: Doordat Mark zich verslapen had, ben ik nu te laat. Het gaat om de intenties vind ik. Ik: Ok. En hoe denk jij over Facebook vrienden? Hoeveel heb jij er en wat voor soort contacten zijn dit? Mark: Ik heb 717 vrienden op Facebook en ik ken ze allemaal. Dit is ook andersom zo. Als ik een verzoek krijg van een onbekende, accepteer ik deze wel als deze persoon veel gemeenschappelijke vrienden heeft. Dan vraag ik wel waar ik deze persoon van ken. Ik negeer mensen die ik niet ken. Ik: Altijd? Mark: Als een hoog persoon [in dit geval een beroemde Nederlandse muziekkant] je toevoegt, accepteer je dit natuurlijk, want dat betekend dat dit persoon interesse in je heeft. Je bent dan wel benieuwd waarop die gene genteresseerd is. Andersom werkt het ook wel. Als je bijv. Benjamin Herman toevoegt en hij accepteert dat, is het interessant omdat je dan kan zien waar hij mee bezig is. Ik maak mij er niet zo druk om dat zij dan foutjes van mij kunnen zien, omdat dat vaak mensen zijn die niet zo snel verder kijken dan je Wall. Als je Wall representatief is voor hetgene wat representatief is voor wie je wilt zijn, maakt ik mij daar niet druk over. Ik: Een belangrijke vraag in mijn onderzoek is: ben je of speel je slechts jezelf op Facebook? Hoe denk jij hierover? Mark: Ik ben mij zelf op Facebook. Ik: Leg eens uit?


Mark: Als je het vergelijkt met het podium, zet ik een pokerface op, maar ik accepteer het wanneer mensen doorhebben dat het er niet bij hoort. Dan ga ik niet zeggen: hee wil je dat niet verder verspreiden, want dat verstoort mijn reputatie. Ik speel mijzelf op Facebook, maar het neigt meer naar zijn. Ik ben mijzelf, maar wel op een manier dat ik er positief uitkom. Maar ik doe niet mijn best om alle vlekjes weg te poetsen. Ja, tuurlijk haal ik wel eens een foto van mijn Wall, maar dat is niet wat ik versta onder mijn best doe. Pas als je aan andere gebruikers gaat vragen of je het wil verwijder vind ik pas dat je je best doet. Dat is echt te veel moeite. Ik: Kun je liegen op Facebook? Een neppe identiteit creren? Mark: Er is te veel sociale controle; mensen houden niet van liegende mensen. Wat heb je eraan dat mensen je waanzinnig tof vinden om iets wat niet waar is? Ik zet geen dingen op Facebook die niet waar zijn. Ik: Wat is de invloed van Facebook op jou? Mark: Het beeld wat ik van andere mensen heb wordt benvloed door Facebook. Ik ben zelf veranderd door Facebook, in persoon en in mijn leven. Ik ben jaloerser geworden door Facebook, dat is een van de grootste nadelen. Jaloers is een groot woord. Omdat je nu zoveel mensen kent, is het moeilijker om hetzelfde niveau te krijgen als de rest. Je legt de lat veel hoger. Je bent veel meer op de hoogte dan eigenlijk gezond is. Je krijgt zelfs van je beste vrienden meer te weten dan vroeger. Ik kijk ook vaak naar Most Recent omdat je de kans dat er iets nieuws op staat dan hoger is dan bij Most Important, aangezien ik zo vaak op Facebook kijk dat ik die informatie al gelezen heb. Ik: Komt dit doordat iedereen positief is op Facebook? Of zijn er ook negatieve mensen in je netwerk?


Mark: Je hebt mensen die alleen maar aan het zeuren zijn. Dat is irritant, daar lees ik gewoon voorbij. Het is niet dat je daardoor een slechte identiteit hebt of zo, maar je creert wel het idee dat je wat negatiever in het leven staat. Dan kom je dus niet zo positief over. Tuurlijk zijn er geen mensen die hun best doen om een zo slecht mogelijk beeld te creren. Dat zou best een leuke opdracht zijn! Ik: En de laatste vraag die ik je wil stellen: wat zijn de gevolgen van de overvloed aan positieve identiteiten op Facebook? Mark: Onzekerheid en jaloezie denk ik Ik: Dank je wel voor je mening! Hopelijk vond jij het ook leuk. Mark: Graag gedaan. Door jouw interview ben ik bewust over Facebook gaan nadenken, wat ik eigenlijk nooit zo deed.


2. Oral Interview with Sanne Kersenboom and Maartje Stierenburg, Amsterdam: 27-04-2011. Ik: Hoe gebruik je Facebook? Kun je er wat algemeens over vertellen? Maartje: Eigenlijk gebruik ik het teveel. Het eerste wat ik doe als ik achter de computer zit is op Facebook kijken, vooral om doelloos te kijken wat andere mensen doen. En daarnaast gebruik ik het om contact te houden met mensen die ik in het dagelijks leven zie. Nieuwe vrienden maak ik niet echt op Facebook; ik praat eigenlijk alleen met vrienden die ik al ken uit het dagelijks leven. Sanne: Ik gebruik het vooral om te kijken wat andere mensen doen, niet zozeer om mijn eigen identiteit te representeren. Ik post ook niet echt veel fotos of status updates. Behalve als ik iets echt kwijt wil. Het is niet mijn hoofddoel om mijzelf uit te drukken op Facebook, ik kijk meer naar anderen, wat voor feestjes er zijn, wie er naar bepaalde events gaan. Ik kijk ook vaak op de Facebook site van mijn werk voor de werktijden. Ik: Wat zet je op je profiel en wat laat je weg? Maartje: Bijvoorbeeld wat voor talen je spreekt heb ik weggelaten. Wat hebben andere mensen daar nou aan? Dat zien ze vanzelf wel aan mijn posts, dus dat heb ik weggelaten. Ik zet er niet zo veel fotos op. Ik had mijn e-mail aders erop staan, maar dat heb ik weggehaald omdat ik rare mailtjes kreeg voor vriendschapsverzoeken voor Facebook via mail. Er staat wel op waar ik werk, wat voor opleiding ik doe, waar ik woon, en waar ik geboren ben. Mijn verjaardag staat er volgens mij ook op, maar misschien niet mijn geboorte jaar. Ik ga er geen hele rare dingen opzetten, zoals feestjes waar je niet al te helder op staat. Vroeger stonden die wel op mijn Hyves, maar nu ben ik wel zo slim om die er helemaal niet op te zetten. Toekomstige werkgevers zullen je waarschijnlijk toch even gaan opzoeken. Ik: Is alle informatie op je profiel echt, of heb je bepaalde dingen mooier gemaakt dan ze eigenlijk zijn?


Maartje: Alle informatie die erop staat is wel echt, ja. Dingen die ik verzwegen heb zijn mijn e-mail adres en ik had eerst ook niet de dag van mijn relatie erop staan, mijn nu wel omdat mijn vriendje dat wil. De dingen die ik er niet opzet zijn vooral uit privacy. Het is niet zozeer dat ik mijn identiteit wil beschermen, het zijn meer dingen die niet iedereen hoeft te weten. Ik: Sanne, wat zet jij op je profiel en wat niet? Probeer je jezelf beter voor te doen? Sanne: Ik zet de dingen die ik relevant acht op Facebook, zoals mijn naam en verjaardag omdat mensen je dan kunnen feliciteren. Net als Maartje niet mijn talenkennis. Eigenlijk zet ik alleen dingen erop die speciaal zijn, ik vind mijn talenkennis is niet echt interessant. Misschien probeer je jezelf dan toch een beetje in goed daglicht te stellen. Ik zet er niet op dat ik uit een klein dorp kom. Of dat ik op mannen val, dat vind ik vrij voor de hand liggend. Ik: Waarom zet je die dingen er dan niet op? Sanne: Omdat ze daar zelf achter moeten zien te komen. Ik vind het niet nodig om teveel informatie te geven. Mijn werkervaring zet ik er wel op omdat dat voor mensen handig kan zijn om te weten, maar ook omdat ik het leuk vind. Ik zet dingen erop omdat ik ze er zelf op wil, maar ook omdat andere mensen die bepaalde informatie dan van mij weten. Het is toch een soort van uitdrukken van wat je doet in het dagelijks leven in algemene zin. Ik zet geen details van mijzelf op Facebook, dat vind ik niet nodig. Alleen de mensen met wie ik afspreek hoeven dat te weten, Facebook is toch een vrij oppervlakkig platform waarop je kan zien wat andere mensen doen en wat jij doet. Ik denk dat niet veel mensen heel erg in detail gaan in wat ze doen of wat ze voelen; dat hou je toch meer bij jezelf.


Maartje: Er zijn mensen die dat wel doen, alles erop zetten. Ik ken iemand die heel erg persoonlijke details op Facebook zet, en dan denk ik: Dat zet je toch niet op Facebook? Dat is toch beschamend? Sanne: Ja, ik heb toch een beetje het gevoel dat de scherpe kantjes ervan af zijn. Ik: Heb je het gevoel dat je op Facebook jezelf bent, of dat je een toneelstukje op voert? Ben je wel jezelf? Sanne: Dat is misschien een beetje zwart wit. Ik ben echt niet helemaal mijn zelf, met alle gnante dingen, maar aan de andere kant ga ik niet mijzelf beter voor doen. Daarom zet ik er ook niet zoveel op en blijft het een beetje oppervlakkig. Aan de ene kant speel je dus wel, je zet vooral de positieve dingen neer. Ik zeur wel tegen mijn moeder, maar niet op Facebook. Ik zet de leuke dingen erop. Ik vind het niet nodig om mijzelf er expliciet op te zetten en dat hoeft ook niet want ik gebruik het voornamelijk om andere mensen te bekijken. Het zit ook niet echt in mijn systeem om mij daar volledig uit te drukken, het is meer iets voor erbij om contact te hebben met mensen die je niet zo vaak ziet. Ik voel mij dus ook niet nep op Facebook, omdat het voor mij niet per se daar voor bedoeld is. Maartje: Aan de ene kant kan je het wel zien als jezelf spelen op Facebook. Als je echt jezelf zou zijn zou je ook alles erop moeten zetten wat je zou doen. Ik zet alleen dingen erop die voor andere mensen interessant zijn om te weten. Aan de andere kant ben je wel jezelf. Ik zet er wel op dat ik verkoopmedewerker ben bij de Hema, dat is niet echt cool. Maar toch is het wel interessant omdat je er dan sarcastisch over kan zijn. Het is natuurlijk wel een beetje een dom baantje, ik ben er ook niet heel serieus over op Facebook. Ik plaats sowieso niet zulke serieuze dingen. Ik zet alleen interessante dingen erop. Eigenlijk om reacties uit te lokken. Ik: Dus wat is nou precies je antwoord? Maak je jezelf leuker dan je bent op Facebook?


Maartje: Ik zet er alleen dingen op die andere mensen ook interessant zouden vinden, dus eigenlijk maak je je leuker dan je bent. Maar ik ben wel mijzelf in de zin dat ik er geen onzin dingen op ga zetten. Ik: Ok. En hoe denken jullie over Facebook in het algemeen? Sanne: Ik zie het als een extraatje naast je real life/echte leven. Maartje: Ik denk dat heel veel mensen niet meer zonder Facebook kunnen. Ik was laatst bijvoorbeeld de hele middag weg zonder telefoon, en toen had ik de hele tijd de neiging om toch op Facebook te kijken! Sanne: Ik vind Facebook heel handig en leuk omdat je kan zien en meedoen met activiteit van andere, maar aan de andere kant zie je ook leuke dingen van andere waar je niet altijd aan mee doet. Die informatie hoef je eigenlijk niet te weten. Je weet eigenlijk te veel. Wat moet je met al die info doen? Je kan niet meer zelf nadenken wat je nou wil en wat belangrijk is. Je kan je er best slecht van voelen. Waar is de essentie? Wat doe je nou eigenlijk als je de hele dag op Facebook zit? Ik: Dat is niet erg positief. Maartje, ben jij ook negatief over Facebook? Maartje: Ik denk dat het vooral heel slecht is voor oude kinderen, omdat zij geen idee hebben dat fotos nog jaren lang op Facebook kunnen blijven zweven. Ik vind dat het slecht is voor jongere mensen. Ze weten nog niet dat je niet alles van jezelf op internet moet zetten. Eigenlijk zouden ze een soort van les moeten krijgen in het gebruik van Facebook. Ik: Dus jullie zeggen dat Facebook best veel invloed heeft op het dagelijks leven, toch? Sanne: Ook als je dagelijks een uur op Facebook zit, het bepaald een te groot deel van je dag, van je leven. Wat heb je er eigenlijk aan?


Maartje: Vroeger wisten mensen ook niet alles. Ik: Hoe heeft Facebook het contact met vrienden en je sociale leven benvloed? Sanne: Facebook verbrokkelt een beetje het echte leven. Sociale contacten worden nu op internet onderhouden, en dat vind ik toch minder. Vroeger belde ik nog mensen, nu alleen nog maar als het nodig is. Maartje: Als ik wil weten hoe het met iemand gaat, ga ik niet meer bellen. Dat is echt in een jaar tijd veranderd. Sanne: Het word toch iets kunstmatiger, iets minder echt. Dat vind ik wel jammer. Iedereen heeft toch behoefte aan sociale contacten. Dit word dan voor een deel bevredigd door Facebook, maar eigenlijk is dit veel minder dan vroeger was via afspreken of bellen. Je weet dingen van elkaar, maar je weet niet van elkaar dat je het weet. Je deelt het wel, maar je praat er niet over. Alleen soms in reacties, maar dat is dan toch anders dan in echte interactie want nu zie je ook geen expressies bijvoorbeeld. Het is niet meer de natuurlijke interactie tussen mensen. Je leest iets, je praat niet meer. Het is eigenlijk halve communicatie. Terwijl je toch weer blij bent dat je dingen weet, terwijl je er achter bent gekomen op een a-sociale, onnatuurlijke manier. Het is niet sociaal, want je bent toch individueel met iets bezig. Je plaatst het individueel en leest het individueel, er is geen persoonlijk contact. Ik: Heb je dan wel een echte identiteit op Facebook? Maartje: Ik denk wel dat je een echte identiteit hebt op Facebook, maar alleen voor de mensen die je kent want zij zijn de gene die weten wie er achter de Facebook pagina zit. Je kijkt heel anders naar een Facebook pagina als je iemand kent, dat maakt het veel echter. Ze hebben voor mij dus wel een echte identiteit, ik ken al mijn Facebook vrienden in het echt. Als mens, niet alleen als pagina. Als je iemand alleen via Facebook kent, ken je niet iemands identiteit. Je weet dan


alleen de dingen van iemand die dat persoon op Facebook zet. Vaak is achtergrond nodig voor het gevoel van identiteit op Facebook. Anders blijft het oppervlakkig. Als iemand die mij niet kent mij zou zien op Facebook, zou die er niet echt wijs uit worden. Ik: Dus wat is nu jouw conclusie? Maartje: Je bent jezelf voor de mensen die je kennen, en speelt jezelf voor mensen die je niet kennen. Maar je kan maar tot zeker hoogte jezelf spelen omdat je niet dingen kan verzinnen door de sociale controle van vrienden.


3. Oral Interview with Sara de Boer, Annemiek van Eelst, Robin Zuiderzee and Vera Dutter, Amstelveen: 02-05-2011 Ik: Hoe gebruiken jullie Facebook? Wat hebben jullie er op staan en wat niet? Sara: Ik zet er minder op dan dat ik lees. Ik heb bijna niets aan informatie op mijn profiel staan. Geen hobbys, maar wel welke bands ik leuk vind. Ik vind het niet nodig om alles op mijn profiel te zetten. Robin: Ik ben er ook selectief in. Ik let op wat ik erop zet vanwege mijn werk in de politiek. Ik heb geen dingen te verbergen, maar behaalde party fotos wil ik niet openbaar hebben. Die fotos kunnen tegen je werken aangezien mensen zo een bepaald beeld van je krijgen. Ik bepaal wat mensen kunnen zien. Ik ben mijzelf, maar selectief in wat mensen mogen weten. Het is niet zo dat mensen alleen de mooie dingen mogen weten, maar ik ben gewoon selectief. Ook in hoever ik iets deelbaar maak, zoals voor vrienden voor vrienden of alleen voor mijn vrienden. Ik: Hoe gebruiken jullie status updates en wat staat er in? Robin: Ik gebruik mijn status updates maar soms, dat ligt eraan wat ik aan het doen ben. Ik gebruik het niet om te zeggen nu aan het slapen, straks lekker wijntje. Ik vind dat niet nuttig om te delen. Er staan niet alleen vrienden in mijn Facebook, die andere mensen hoeven niet te weten dat ik op een terras zit. En mijn vrienden weten het dan toch wel. Annemiek: Bij een post gaat het om het creren van een beeld van jezelf. Vera: Ik hou meer van abstracte posts. Ik wil niet weten dat je nu naar de WC gaat. Annemiek: Ja, je wilt nog een beetje ruimte krijgen om je eigen invulling te geven. Ik gebruik daarom liever plaatjes dan woorden. Het is vooral voor muziekkanten leuk. Zo kan je heel makkelijk een groot netwerk maken, of flirten.


Het is alleen beetje jammer dat het openbaar is. Ik stuur niet zomaar een priv bericht als ik iemand nauwelijks kent, net als dat je ook niet gelijk iemands telefoonnummer vraagt. Dat is ongeveer hetzelfde. Je moet eerst iemand wat beter leren kennen. Vera: Ik vind het leuker om dingen te zien, dan om statussen te lezen van wat mensen aan het doen zijn. Dan denk ik, die mensen ken ik niet eens, waarom moet ik dit weten? Annemiek: Op Facebook geef je antwoord op dingen, zonder dat er antwoorden zijn, het is improvisatie. Ik: Hoe gaan jullie om met vriendschapsverzoeken en wie heb je allemaal toegevoegd als vriend op Facebook? Robin: Ik accepteer niet alle vriendschapsverzoeken. Het moeten wel echt mensen zijn die ik ken. Het moeten niet mensen zijn waarvan ik niet weet wie het is. Ik voeg geen vrienden toe om vrienden te hebben. Ik: Hoe denken jullie over Facebook in het algemeen? Annemiek: Facebook voegt echts iets toe aan je leven. Je kan er je ei kwijt. Robin: Ik denk er anders over en ik gebruik het anders dan Annemiek, aangezien zij een zangeres is. Maar Facebook kan nuttig zijn om makkelijk contact te maken of om contact te hebben. Helemaal bij mensen die je anders nooit meer zou zien. Het is ook lastig soms om je vrienden te spreken als je heel druk bent, maar als je dan een berichtje op Facebook plaats kan je toch een beetje weten waar iedereen mee bezig is. En de deel functie vind ik heel handig, zoals het taggen en dingen delen. Hyves was een voorloper, maar is echt stil blijven staan. Dat was heel rommelig.


Annemiek: Facebook is leuk, maar ze kunnen zo alles van je weten en het misbruiken, zoals bij Twitterfitties. Ik: Hoe denken jullie over het delen van content of over het plaatsen van filmpjes en videos? Vera: Je kan heel makkelijk een event regelen. Dat is een tool om sociale dingen te regelen. Annemiek: Op Facebook ben ik een chaotische ADHDer omdat ik alles wil delen met iedereen. Fotos en filmpjes delen vind ik heel leuk. Ik vind het ook heel leuk om dat tegen te komen, en dat vinden mijn vrienden ook leuk. Ik ben een verzamelaar. En ik dring dingen aan mensen op. Ik hoop dat ze dat waarderen, en anders ont-vrienden ze mij maar! Ik: Zetten jullie veel informatie op Facebook, of alleen de dingen die een goed beeld van jezelf geven? Annemiek: Ik laat mijn verdrietige momenten achterwege op Facebook. Het is een beetje mijn wegdroom wereld. Niet zozeer dat je jezelf mooier maakt, dat doe je natuurlijk wel, maar vooral de wereld om je heen maak je mooier. Maar op een gegeven moment moet je wel de echte wereld in, om dingen te gaan zien. Alles op Facebook plaatsen, ook de stomme dingen, vind ik een beetje gnant, echt om aandacht vragen. Ik: Hoe kijken jullie naar Facebook vergelen met Twitter? Annemiek: Op twitter leer je mensen makkelijker kennen dan op Facebook, op Facebook voeg je mensen toe die je via Twitter kent. Daarnaast kun je bij Facebook meer delen, je kan iemand iets geven. Bij Twitter niet. Twitter is vluchtig en Facebook blijft. Ik: Gebruiken jullie veel Facebook applicaties?


Annemiek: Vroeger speelde ik CafeWorld, Farmville en Bingo, maar daar ben ik nu een beetje klaar mee. Na een level of 10 wordt het saai. Mijn tante ging haar hele dag plannen rondom Farmville, bijvoorbeeld: ik kan geen boodschappen doen nu omdat ik in Farmville de sla moet plukken. Maar dat is wel een beetje gek hoor! Ik: Hoe denk jij over die applicaties en privacy? Annemiek: Ik snap er zo weinig van, hoe applicaties werken en wie bij je gegevens kunnen. Daarom heb ik al aardig wat informatie weggehaald, maar fotos niet. Zoals mijn middelbare school staat er niet meer op. We interesseren ons alleen in de dingen die we leuk vinden, zoals hoe je filmpjes kan delen, maar niet hoe het staat met de privacy.


4. Screenshots of Facebook, 14-05-2011.

Figure 20: Screenshot of a profile page of Facebook

Figure 21: Screenshot of a News Feed on Facebook


Figure 22: Tagging a photo on Facebook

Figure 23: Actions shown in a News Feed


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