Facebook is normal

I’ve been back in Toronto since late December working on my social web ethnography, which – surprise surprise – has quickly evolved into just being about Facebook because people in Toronto are completely nuts for Facebook.When I left Canada for Australia, Facebook was huge in Toronto (we had the largest network in the world, but we’ve been overtaken by London) but not as huge as it is now. My friends have been teasing me because I still get excited when I hear someone on the street or at a bar mention Facebook. “I can’t believe you’re still surprised by that! It’s totally normal.”

Anyway, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how and why I used Facebook before I started formally researching it. I deleted my “real” account a few months ago, but created a new account under a different name which is invisible to searches for research purposes. Even though I’m still technically on Facebook, I’ve noticed my use of it and the way I think about it has changed… I’m much more distant and self-aware of what I do on it… it seems far less normal to me but far more normal to everyone else. I realise how much my view has changed in reading something I wrote last year about Facebook, a few months before I deleted my account:

i use facebook as a social utility to keep in touch with my friends. but most people don’t use it this way. people i haven’t spoken to in years add me. people who wouldn’t say hi to me at the mall add me. people who have met me once add me. i don’t know what to do in these situations. i usually have nothing against these people, but they aren’t people i’d share my personal life with. but not adding them is considered rude.

the biggest one i struggle with is people i know professionally who add me. i see facebook as my personal, private leisure space. allowing people i know professionally into that space is like inviting them over to an intimate dinner party with my friends. i can’t relax, i can’t be myself because i feel like i have to constantly perform professionalism. but at the same time, i usually like the person and want to keep in touch. and obviously, its not good to offend people you work with. worse still, i can’t explain any of this, since there is no “reason” box to write a message when you decline someone’s add.

this is further complicated by the fact that i don’t have entire control over my identity…my friends can add wall comments, or tag me in photos that i didn’t take

i was talking to greg about this… why doesn’t facebook have different profiles for different contexts, like friends filters on lj? it would make so much sense. maybe its part of their plan to make things more drama-rama and thus more exciting, like those reality tv producers

I no longer see Facebook as a leisure space or as something personal. Using Facebook feels more like feeding some giant slightly evil marketing AI robot that we are all creating but have no control over. But that’s probably only because I think way too much about it. Like most things in the world that are “normal,” I think most people use Facebook without thinking about it. As a cashier said to me the other day after she overheard me talking about the evils of Facebook “Is it really all that bad? I mean if people want to write stuff and ask people when they want to hang out, what’s the problem with that?”

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply