Monday, October 4, 2010

Facebook "Friends" and Overshares

Meet “Amy.” Amy and I have “known” each other for about six years but have spoken maybe once in our lives. Amy was a year behind me in high school and our only interaction was playing varsity soccer together my junior and senior years. However, I feel like I know every bit of her life story through her Facebook use.

Amy’s Facebook page is like a car accident, you don’t know if you really want to see and know what is going on, but you just can’t seem to look away. Amy is 20 years old living in Madison, WI working full time in a restaurant/bar to support herself and her one year old daughter. She loves to broadcast the changes in her personal life and her daughter’s daily achievements. Over the past few months, Amy has entered and exited 3 relationships and been in “love” with each one of them (or so say her status updates). However, in the end, she consistently posts things like this:

“Why girls are bitches: One guy leaves out of no where going to florida, one knocks you up and leaves with a child on your own, and one makes you spend all your money to go see them then tells you that you cant come anymore. Well s***, I know why I'm a f****** bitch. F*** guys. They are ALLL A**HOLES. Yesterday 2:02AM ·

Ahh, maturity. Amy uses these sorts of updates to get all the “you go sister” responses. I think it serves to reinforce her decisions and use her Facebook friends as shoulders to lean on. In this way, there is nothing Amy won't say. She wants to air her feelings and get feedback and reinforcement from her friends. It's a self-esteem boost for her.

However, Amy has also used her Facebook in another way which I find to be an interesting application of the technology. Amy sold her car through Facebook Marketplace and held bidding wars in a string of comments on one of her status updates last week. From here, Amy asked for feedback from friends on what type of new car to buy, where to look and how to get the best deal. In this way, Amy is using her Facebook page as a sort of consumer review of products and services. The use of social media in this way is extremely important to advertisers and marketers. Not only is it possibly detrimental to a product/service/brand, but its use is also a huge market advantage if used properly.

I find Amy’s Facebook use fascinating as I would personally never post as many intimate details about my personal life as she does. She updates friends and family on her whereabouts, her actions, her achievements and her disappointments all from this one portal. To me, there is a point that a person should stop sharing, but to some people, the internet serves as a place to air all of your feelings and vent to the world. Is there a line? Is there a Facebook etiquette for sharing?


  1. I think we definitely all have Facebook "friends" like "Amy." I myself have followed the drama of a friend from high school's custody woes with her ex-boyfriend over their 1 1/2-year-old daughter. I haven't talked to this friend in a year or two, yet I know a lot of intimate details. No matter what the medium, however, I think there will always be people who feel the need to air a lot of personal details about their lives. The people who put up their life story on Facebook were doing the same thing back in the days of IMing (remember those middle schools days on MSN and AOL?) Social networking can be a useful communication and business tool, but people will use it for whatever purpose they personally want it to serve for them. For some, this just happens to be a place to vent or rave about whatever is happening to them.

  2. I think knowing things and people that we may not otherwise know is what draws a lot of people to facebook. I will personally attest that I am not an avid-Facebooker. I dont put any information up, have no photo albums and am very proud of it. However, I do spend a fair amount of time on Facebook wandering from page to page. Sometimes I'll find myself almost in a trance on it and, once interrupted, wondering how I ever got to that person's page. Then I'll find myself fascinated by yet another thing and 20 minutes later go through the same realization. I think basic instincts, at least for me, thrive off that gossip and knowing things about other people and facebook allows us to do that. However, it only goes so far. Knowing someone or something on facebook doesn't mean you actually know everything and this leads to a lot of social implications of facebook when you're not on the computer. I.e. that person's my facebook I say hi?

  3. I don't think the purpose of this assignment is to shit all over someone's life...

    I think you should check the assumptions you are making about this girl before you claim that you have her all figured out.

    We are living in a male-dominated society that makes it acceptable for man after man to leave her unsupported, with child, and alone. Amy is clearly very lonely, and in her own way is trying to reach out to feel some social connection with the world around her, to lift her up again.

    Her healing process is none of your business. Her "decisions" that you have placed a value judgement on are also none of your business. Hide her from your news feed if you think her life is a car wreck. If you are just reading her updates so you can feel better about your own life, you need to take a step back and recognize your connectedness, especially as a fellow woman and former peer.


  4. I never said I disagree or look down on her life decisions. I'm sorry if it came off that way. What I meant by the car accident reference is just that I constantly find myself looking at her page whether I actually want to or not. Like Carly said, it's almost a trance that people get into on Facebook. That you start looking through people's pages for hours without meaning to.

    I don't know "Amy" well and am in no way judging her. I am simply stating that she shares a LOT about her personal life through her facebook. If I was not facebook friends with her I would know nothing about her personal life. That is the only point I am making. Attacks on her or me are not necessary.

  5. I have many similar friends on Facebook who share a great deal of their personal (and sexual) lives on Facebook. I think sometimes people forget how easily accessible their profile is and that people do see (and often judge) their posts, whether they want to or not. Whether one uses Facebook as an outlet to vent, get attention, or uses it for their personal diary, it needs to be noted exactly how public Facebook is. Some of these "Amy" types on Facebook may not realize how many people are following their lives, whether they want them to or not.

    After utilizing Facebook for many years, and acquiring many coworkers, family members, etc as "friends" I try to censor what I write or what my friends post on my wall or pictures. In my opinion, I like to keep a level of censorship on my profile, so if a friend posts something I think would be inappropriate for my mom to see, I delete it right away! But not everyone has the same usage as Facebook as I or many of you do.