From the start, social networks have been focused on friendships and maintaining offline relationships. As social networking sites have continued to become more developed, that focus has not changed. But have the nature of those relationships changed as a result?
According to an article on ScienceDaily.com, “a large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive but, according to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.” Are these social media websites helping friendships by making them easier to keep and maintain, or adding stress to our already stressful lives? As Malcolm Parks puts it, “perhaps the fault lies not in our sites but in ourselves” and our “unrealistic expectations for the level of social connection.” Do social media sites actually help form and maintain relationships, or is that just something that we tell ourselves in order to justify the massive amount of time we waste on sites like Facebook on a daily basis? These are the questions we hoped to address and demonstrate in our project.
The goal of the project was to present different aspects that social media websites, in particular Facebook, have changed in our interpersonal relationships. In order to present a compelling argument that social media sites really do change relationships, it became clear that creating and combining both a video and an interactive example would be the most efficient method in getting the message across. This project was intended for anyone who uses social media websites such as Facebook, especially people who value their online relationships as much as they value their offline personal relationships.
The video presented both facts and the two sides of Facebook interactions, the first showing the interaction on Facebook and the second showing what that would look like in real life. The facts consisted of things such as “according to one study, 56% of Americans think it’s irresponsible to friend your boss on Facebook.” The video portrayals showed the thought process and actions people have while on Facebook and then followed that with a more humorous but thought-provoking examples of what that would look like in real life. For example, Facebook has made it extremely easy for one to say “Happy Birthday” to someone; you don’t even have to visit their Facebook page to do it. This leads to many people writing a “Happy Birthday” to people they hardly know, so in the video we presented the thought-process of writing it on Facebook and then how awkward that would be to do in person.
The second part of the presentation had everyone in the class “like” a Facebook page in the class. Danah Boyd argues that the reason for friending people on social networks has more to do with the political and social implications of being their “friend” and less to do with an actual close and, well, “friendly” relationship. Boyd and Nicole Ellison go on to argue that “these relationships may be weak ties, but there is some common offline element among individuals.” That common offline element could be that they took the same Informatics class last semester or that they’re family – and that range is indicative of how the title “friend” has been compromised by social networks. The goal of this was to show how easy it was for everyone to go onto Facebook and “like” a page based on having us just ask them to. By “liking” the page you are expressing to everyone in the class how easy it is to “like” something without even knowing what you actually like.
Creating a video instead of making any other projects gave us room to present the information in both a funny and informative way. It was crucial to show people how ridiculous some of the actions, such as “poking” someone, can be in person, yet people do this type of thing on Facebook all of the time. Since the visual aspect was so important to our project, video was the clear choice. We wanted to vary some of the shots, and tried to include some “tracking” shots. The scene depicting the home invasion was also a great opportunity to play with sound as the screen was black, yet we were still hearing people talking, walking and breaking in.
If given an opportunity to do this project again, we probably would have had everyone like the Facebook page the day before. On top of that, we would have included more facts with the video, and perhaps added more but shorter clips to the video itself in order to give a better understanding of how social media websites are ruining relationships. Creating a video that was meant to be seen instead of read was actually easier to do in a case like this. The video gave the audience a feel for daily interactions on Facebook, like telling someone “Happy Birthday” and then showing that in a real face-to-face situation.