Facebook or Fakebook? The anti-social network

Matthias Ritters

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Digital Facebook Friends / Photo Credit: Amit Agarwal
Digital Facebook Friends / Photo Credit: Amit Agarwal & Matthias Ritters

Social Networks as Primary Source of News

More than 95% of Facebook users log into their account every day and  spent in average 21 minutes on the site. We can no longer do without this social network. Users post on it, read on it, discuss on it and believe it. But most people don’t consider that it is still a social platform and there is no guarantee to read the truth.

New media arises and with it the readership of the traditional media coupled declines. “The opportunities for media consumption have expanded dramatically and become fluid, entering all social spaces and becoming an intimate part of our daily lives” (Croteau & Hoynes, 2006). As a matter of fact most people are using Facebook and Twitter as a primary source of news and information these days.

A study by Pew Research says that one-third of Americans get news on Facebook, it is getting more and more popularity as a source of news. Users use their timeline for news feeds as well as get to know friends’ circumstances. That makes news, contributed by the news industry, similar to posts by Facebook friends.

And here it is getting dangerous. We receive well-researched news and simultaneously posts by our friends. For sure, we trust our friends – but there is no guarantee that everything we read on Facebook is true. I was interested in the credulity how Facebook users believe others activities and posts.

So I started an experiment… and lied on Facebook

I announced on Facebook that I am in a relationship with a good friend of mine. Our actual “first day as a couple” was the 1st March – I posted it three days later. I wanted to see how many people would believe the relationship-annunciation. It was clear to me that my closest friends and family members would be sceptical about it – at least I hoped so.

What I figured out surprised me more than I expected: Within two hours 50 friends liked the post being in a relationship. After half a day the post got almost 100 likes.

Likes after half a day
Likes after half a day

Most of them (like expected) didn’t really now about my current situation and congratulated me to my new girlfriend. Other friends wrote me a personal message to clarify the situation.

Beyond that something else surprised me: Almost no one was angry with me. But why? I expected that most of my Facebook friends would be angry because I didn’t talk with them about my new girlfriend. Instead I announced it on Facebook and everyone congratulated us for this relationship.

Comments about our Relationship
Comments about our Relationship

Where is the time we talked to each other in person, and when did it change that we post something before anyone even knows what happened?

Some of my friends said it is rude what I did. How could I jerk around with all my friends and my family (at least everyone who is my Facebook friend).  The answer is quite simple: My close friends and my family knows that I am not the person who would publish my relationship status on Facebook; and even more -publishing it, before I talked with them about it.

Facebook – a social network?

How social is Facebook really? I mean on one day your are a “Facebook couple”, on the next day you are “single again”. It is so easy to build up friendships and relationsships on Facebook, right? Just a few clicks. You read, comment, like, dislike (unfortunately it is not possible :/ ) and share with and to your digital friends.However, do profiles and recent activities tell you more about someone than the person himself?

A lot of us (me included) will have added someone on Facebook, after we met him for the first time. You might think: This could be the partner I was looking for such a long time. So you start talking with him, of course via WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapshot or whatever. The moment your mobile phones starts vibrating, your heart starts beating faster as well. The talks go on and on and you completely forget the best thing about getting to know someone new: to meet each other.

Social platforms are the common meeting places. Instead of that your counterpart touches your hand “by accident”, you will get a smiley. Instead of a wink, you will get a lol. Instead of a coffee in the city centre with people around talking about their lives and problems, you will sit in your bed, watching TV while you are writing with the person you should meet personally.

We don’t meet each other any more and that also means we don’t know each other anymore. Of course it sounds a little bit exaggerated. But to be honest: You can not get to know someone just messaging with him. There is so much more: Eye-contact, irony, touches and most important the feeling that something’s up.

I found an interesting statistic by Techno Captain about the average Facebook user. The average Facebook users makes 7 news friends per month, accepts 80% of their friend requests BUT has never met in person 7% of their Facebook friends. So who are these people, we accept, talk to, are “friends” with, but never meet in our lives.

Ramona Osburn, Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health at Texas Health Resources said “Our Providers often see individuals who have many friends on Facebook but feel very lonely because they can’t connect with people in real life.” This is a big issue. Facebook shouldn’t replace real-life encounters. Instead it can be used to plan get-togethers with friends or celebrations with family.

In the time of Web 2.0 Internet is an important part of our life and education. News gathering takes place online. We satisfy our needs for entertainment, current affairs, news, education via Facebook & Co. I do not want to say that it is wrong or unefficent –  but it is still important to have in mind that it is a social network. Verification is mandatory. Don’t just believe what people post…

What do you think? Did Facebook change you somehow?

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Matthias Ritters