[Air-l] Facebook protests

Amanda Lenhart alenhart at pewinternet.org
Thu Sep 7 08:56:25 PDT 2006

To build on what Nicole writes, and also what I think Mark touched on
earlier, I think there is another issue overlaying user frustration with
the Facebook changes in that there's still not enough nuance in the
"friend" designation.

In the past, "friends" could come to your page as often as they want and
comb it for whatever sort of minutiae interests them. For your
boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend, that might mean daily visits,
frequent perusals of your list of friends and wall posts. But for your
Chem. lab partner from last year, that might mean stopping by once a
month, or right after running into you at a party.  But now, everyone in
your network is forced to interact with any new information you post in
the same way. And you as the user have only one basic friend
designation. You can give more information ("worked together" vs.
"hooked up"), you can create a more limited profile to share with
certain people, but you're still relatively limited in how you can
designate friends.

Some of my former students have been calling the changes "stalkerish,"
but really they're almost the inverse of that -- the newsfeeds assume
that everyone in your network has the same level of interest in the
details of your life that a stalker might, and foists those details upon
them regardless.

At the root, I think it's because online social networks are so much
more of a blunt instrument when compared to the spoken and unspoken
nuances of offline social networks.


Amanda Lenhart
Pew Internet & American Life Project
alenhart at pewinternet.org

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Nicole Ellison
Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2006 10:39 AM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Facebook protests

Hi Nancy, 
I'm not sure this qualifies as "more thought out" but I think you've on
something. Yesterday my colleague Cliff Lampe and I spoke with a
from the Wall Street Journal
_promo_left) and this was a slant to the story they wrote: the fact that
facebook users were upset not only about the feature itself, but also
fact that it seemed to be implemented without any feedback from users.
seems to be the case, as this quote from the article suggests: "Ms.
said Facebook's feedback from users comes in the form of emails to its
customer-service email address, which the company's product-development
reviews weekly. But the company typically doesn't solicit feedback by
showing features to users before launching them."
Because these social network sites are built on user-supplied content,
feel more ownership over the site as a whole (compared to, say, a news
portal or e-commerce site). It may be that the reaction to this change
prompt deeper, better user research on the part of these sites (which I
agree is needed).
Following up on the earlier conversation: My sense from speaking with
students is that they dislike the feature not because it is pulling
available information, but because it is displaying profile changes that
otherwise would be hard to identify. If I have 150 friends on the site,
won't typically notice when someone de-friends me. But this feature puts
this info in my face, so to speak.  As the old saying goes: there are
things better left unsaid. This feature is articulating information we
necessarily want to hear. 

  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Nicole Ellison, PhD
Dept. of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media
Michigan State University
nellison at msu.edu

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