Facebook and Friends: What your network says about you

Dear Facebook. We need to talk.

I thought you were so much more
than an online yearbook. And I thought you and I had an understanding.
The formula is supposed to work like this: I upload the photos of
myself that are the most flattering (and remove the unflattering photos
that my friends tag me in), I select the music from my itunes library
that make me seem irreverent and counter culture, and I mention the
books that make me appear well-read and smart (even if I haven’t read
them). Are you really telling me that no matter how much I work to
construct the perfect profile, that my friends matter just as much as
me?

FacebookThis week, 505ers are diving into readings on computer-mediated communication, mobile phone use and online social networking.

One of our assigned readings, The Role of Friends’ Appearance and Behavioron Evaluations of Individuals on Facebook: Are We Known by the Company We Keep? investigates that which the title suggests: whether your
Facebook network judges your physical attractiveness by the
attractiveness of your friends. The answer, according to this
article’s authors, is a resounding YES.

Their research (using participant questionnaires based on mocked-up
user profiles) finds that your perceived physical attractiveness is
directly linked to that of your friends’.

So we’re judged by
the company we keep on Facebook? I’m not sure we needed a group of
scholars to confirm this theory. All it takes is a painful jaunt down
memory lane to the dynamics we all experienced in primary and secondary
school: your coolness is directly proportional to the coolness (or lack
thereof) of your friends. An online social network like Facebook is not
anonymous, therefore, the constructions on our individual profiles and
the expansion of our network of friends relies (somewhat) on the
reality of our offline selves.

If Facebook merely provides a vehicle for identity formation and, in
turn, peer-judgment in a sort of hyper-embodied space, are you more reticent to log on? Calling all Facebook users: you might want to get your friends to put on their best
profile picture forward; the state of your impression management
depends on it.

Lauren Alfrey

Lauren worked as the Managing Editor of gnovis in 2009 and graduated with an MA in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University in 2010. Lauren is currently a doctoral student in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Lauren joined gnovis and CCT after working for three years as an online fundraising and advocacy consultant for progressive nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to her professional work, Lauren graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she majored in Communication and minored in Art History with a focus on women's representation in print advertising and high art.