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The Facebook Community

The Facebook Community: A New Place for Friends, Sharing Stories and Changing the Way People Communicate

Juan Carmona Sociology 571 Qualitative Methods of Research 25 April 2013

The Facebook Community

INTRODUCTION For thousands of years humankind has gathered together to form communal groups based on mutual needs and interests. By forming interpersonal relationships, individuals are able to create exclusive bonds that collectively form what scientists call a community. The conceptualization of this term is important for sociologists trying to uncover the meaning by which members of a society interact and find inclusion in a particular milieu. Since the systematic study of communities began, people have been linked to immediate friends, family and acquaintances that reside in propinquity of each other (Schnettler 2009). We look to these individuals to form social bonds and to sketch a meaningful conception of ourselves (Copeland 2012). Historically, these community ties have been established in villages and neighborhoods where individuals frequently see each other and can formulate interpersonal relationships. However, in contrast to todays society, interactions of the past were restricted by time and place; it was virtually impossible to maintain such associations outside ones own proximity. It was not until technological advancements in communication came along that people had the ability to network without the constraint of geography. The spatial limits by which relationships were bound vanished when the telephone was invented; this consequently resulted in the transformation of how members developed and maintained relationships with one another. Years later, the advent of the Internet once again changed the status quo. Like the telephone, the Internet had the ability to sustain relationships across vast distances and time zones (Wellman 2001). However, despite their similarities, these two mediums of communication had one major difference. While the telephone freed people from the limits of geography, it continued to rely on real-time conversation.

The Facebook Community

The Internet did not have these restrictions; in fact, this new technology embraced a virtual culture characterized by a timeless time and a placeless place (Stalder 1998:30). Nevertheless, the question remains whether information transmitted through the Internet can foster quality relationships that support community ties. Some observers argue that contemporary methods of communication are weakening relationships by inhibiting face-to-face interaction (Wellman 2005) and exploiting individual privacy (Houghton and Joinson 2010). It is disputed that the ease by which people communicate in todays world is making people indolent, thus creating far-flung relationships that result in inauthentic forms of communication (Fisher 1992). The relationships formed through these methods may harbor a more open society that is no longer limited by the four walls in which social interaction took place. However, the disappearance of spatial boundaries has created issues concerning the privacy of individuals. The rise of the Internet revolution has thereby resulted in an ambiguous setting that continuously blurs the lines of privacy. The following study argues how modern methods of communication are a supplement to real world interaction that are connecting communities rather than unraveling them. Using the results from a systematic study of the social networking site Facebook, this research looks at how theories from Castells (Social Network Theory), Homans (Social Exchange Theory), and Goffman (Face-work) can be used to understand the interactions that occur in this virtual world. New modes of communication that are less personal, such as Facebook, were found to perpetuate community ties in the offline world because of the increased accessibility to information, a phenomenon originally exposed by Castells. Nevertheless, while relationships infrequently based on face-to-face

The Facebook Community

meetings are reinforced through this new mode of communication, the ease by which information is relayed on Facebook diminishes the presence of more personal interactions, and debilitates the quality of stronger relationships. Furthermore, because individuals are innately social they have become dependent on these massive, albeit impersonal, bits of information; users of the Facebook community are willing to sacrifice their own privacy in exchange (Homans) for the opportunity to have more access to others. Lastly, results from the study found that a substantial amount of information shared on Facebook is often manipulated to show a specific form of oneself, a paradigm that Goffman termed Facework. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted using a convenience sample of undergraduate and graduate students from a northeastern university in order to analyze these issues. In a collaborative process with the participants, a grounded theory approach is taken in order to determine how new methods of communication, such as Facebook, can establish new forms of community structures, and how these communal ties have the uncanny ability to positively, or negatively, extend themselves onto the offline world. WHAT IS A COMMUNITY? In order to effectively comprehend how changes in communication have transformed communities, it is important to take a closer look at the characteristics that define a community in the first place. In the most general sense, a community is considered a network of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging and social identity (Timms 2002:1). One of the imperative features that are necessary to fulfill these requirements is shared interests. These connections have

The Facebook Community

been historically established in neighborhoods where families and close friends are more likely to congregate and share experiences. It is here where emotional connection and integration is formulated, and where boundaries are established, thereby separating those who are included into a community and those who are not (Reich 2010). Nevertheless, as the methods of communication progress in society, the limits that once restricted communities to set boundaries has slowly dissipated; this has led to new generalizations by which we can define this intricate concept (Wellman 1999). By the middle of twentieth century it became apparent that developments in communications technology were rendering obsolete the concept of community as physically bounded by neighborhood parameters (Kerckhove 1991). The degree and complexity of relationships expanded to limits that society had yet to experience, thereby causing changes in community formation. Nonetheless, despite these expansive transformations in communication, the same robust and universal laws that govern natures webs continue to define communal ties throughout society (Schnettler 2009:170). THE ABSENCE OF TIME AND SPACE One of the key changes to the community as a result of the changing culture of communication is the relinquishment of time and space. For most of human history daily interaction with others has been confined to those sharing the time and space to interact (Timms 2002:1). These exchanges occurred in a members neighborhood or village; they also transpired in a variety of social settings such as bars, clubs, supermarkets or church. However, as a result of technological advances in communication, network relations are no longer confined to these venues (Wellman 2005). Giddens (1990) argued that the most important development of the new historical moment was the intensification of world-

The Facebook Community

wide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa (64). New forms of communication allowing the constraints of time and space to be overcome have absolved individuals from these limitations, and have provided a new basis for both community and identity (Timms 2002). Furthermore, the separation of community from the immediate constraints of physical geography reduces [the] pressures to conform to one set of group expectations (Timms 2002:5). These new structures for interacting encourage the formation of more heterogeneous groups that are still based on shared interests, but collectively embroider society with more diverse alternatives, irrelevant of space or time. The changes to the community as a result of these transformations have not been small. Community is rarely based on local neighboring anymorenor do we find as many densely knit and organized groups in public places (Hampton 2003). Instead, modern communities more often interact in private settings where they have the individual freedom to communicate at the time and place of their choosing. People are now more likely to congregate in each others homes or use modern modes of communication to meet their relationship needs from a distance (Wellman 1999). The degree of complexity that has formulated from these interrelationships makes it more difficult to define the boundaries on which community ties sit (Schnettler 2009). Castells (2000) called this new type of community a network society: a society whose composition is no longer structured by the restraints of space and time, thereby leading to a less hierarchical and centralized world (Ampuja 2011). As a result, we end up with communities that are more loosely knit but more feasibly connected; however this is the

The Facebook Community

basis for an opposing argument that modern communication is weakening relationships and destroying communities. WEAKENING RELATIONSHIPS? Critics wonder whether relationships between people who never see, smell, or hear each other can be a basis for a true community (Wellman 2001). The decreasing relevance of time and place in relationships is said to have made people more isolated, resulting in the deterioration of substance based relationships, or interactions that are more personal in nature. A survey conducted in the United States to monitor social relationships found that the average number of people with whom Americans discuss important matters decreased from 2.9 in 1985 to 2.1 in 2004 (Wang 2010). Robert Putnam described this phenomena as Americans bowling alone; as a result of modern communication methods, they are much less involved in voluntary organized groupsbe they bowling leagues, churches or unions (Wellman 1999:5). Putnam was not the only scientist who felt this way. Early Sociologist George Simmel (1922) believed that society was headed in the direction of a new individualism, which would ultimately lead to more superficial relationships. Opponents also argue that the inability to communicate face-to-face can lead to misleading interpretations that could otherwise be avoided. Scheff (2005) believes that confusion over the context in which words are articulated can arise in the absence of body language. Commonly used words can have more than one meaning and their interpretation can be quarrelsome. Goffman (1955) believed these types of interpretations were often the result of Face-workindividuals who present a front stage persona as a way to manipulate their true (backstage) selves (in Lemert 2010). Furthermore, Timms

The Facebook Community

(2002) argues that the absence of face-to-face interaction and the blandness of communication can cause people to read more or less than what is intended. It forces people to be alert and creates a lasting feeling of tension that further alienates individuals from more solidified community ties (Fisher 1992). Despite these anomalies, research has shown that interpersonal relationships have continued in abundance, and have vitalized despite modern methods of communication (Wellman 1999). Albeit his initial criticism, Simmel believed that these new communities were the product of individuals [who] were no longer totally enmeshed in one social circle (Wellman 1999:4). Instead, the populace has become a component of a much more diverse and heterogeneous pool of communitiesembracing a kind of culture that Kerchov (1991) called transinteractivity, in which they have the ability to extend [their] powers, thought, feeling and action across the ocean or across any distance (133). As a result of disappearing spatial boundaries and temporal limits, societys ability to mitigate relationships has become more manageable (Tufekci 2008). These changes in communication have continued to harbor a way for people to sustain social ties on the basis of the same shared interests that held them together once before. Communities are no longer formed within a physical set of boundaries; therefore, there is no longer a need for a community to be based on a homogenous group of people from a single location. Nevertheless, the facility to overcome time and distance is not a catalyst for diminishing communities. In fact, it can be duly noted that just as not all groups of people that communicate from a distance can be considered communities, neither can all groups in the same geographical location be considered a community either.

The Facebook Community

New technologies have thereby fostered a new way of communicatingone that is more informal and superficial, but also one that could enforce weak ties and reinforce strong ones. Weak ties are particularly important because information can reach a larger number of people, and pass through a greater social distance, when passed through weak ties rather than strong (Granovetter 1973). Because stronger ties are more close-knit, information has a more difficult time of escaping these enclosed social circles and is less likely to reach larger populations. David Brin (1998) believes this is important because as information is exposed to more people, a more transparent society results in which individuals adapt to new social behaviors that may have previously been stigmatized (Tufekci 2008). Therefore, the fewer indirect contacts one has, the more encapsulated he will be in terms of knowledge and the world beyond his own friendship circle (Granovetter 1973:1371). The Internet, a relatively new technology that reinforces these ties, has radically changed the outlook of relationships within communities. THE INTERNET AND THE NETWORKED SOCIETY Since its infancy computers have created a new form of communication that drastically changes the way humans interact with one another. Proponents argue that they have reinforced far away relations and created worldwide networks and communities that were unimaginable a century ago. Others contend that they have resulted in communities that are indolent and invasive. Nevertheless, computers have become as common in the home as the bathroom, sharing domestic place in living rooms, family rooms and bedrooms (Wellman 2005). In a survey conducted by Wellman in 2005, 79% of all participants had at least one computer in the home; out of these computerized households, 94% of them were connected to the Internet.

The Facebook Community

While at first the use of the Internet was dependent on a much slower telephone connection, it soon became an independent entity that cultivated a quick and reliable method for social interaction. By 2008, an average of 69% of Americans among the ages of 18-29 had a broadband Internet connection at home, and were spending up to 2.2 hours online per day (Jones 2009; Wang 2010). One of the ways in which individuals spent this time was through asynchronous modes of communication such as E-mail. Since its incorporation in the early 1990s, E-Mail and other types of instant messages have enabled people to manufacture and share all types of information and cultural experiences unrestrained of time or location (Wellman 2005). E-mail messages are sent and received instantaneously which cuts the time of information exchange dramatically. Additionally, individuals do not have to be connected simultaneously in order to interact, thereby increasing the convenience and autonomy by which social interaction occurs. Analogous to earlier communication technologies, E-mail embraces a more informal way of communicating and sustaining weak ties. People are able to maintain affinity by using small gestures such as forwarding jokes and pictures, which can be a quick and efficient way of congealing ties (Wellman 2005). E-mail messages can also be sent to a larger number of people simultaneously, making it easier to keep members of a community informed. This innovative technology transformed peoples lives in terms of how they worked, formed, and maintained social relationships on a regular basis (Houghton and Joinson 2010). For this reason it is plausible that the Internet is second only to offline friends and networks for providing cultural information, a ranking that is likely to surpass the latter at some point in time (Wellman 2005).

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The Facebook Community

Based on this evidence it can be argued that the Internet does not vanquish the importance of physical space; rather, it supplements it by adding to existing means of communication, thereby increasing the overall volume of contact with existing social ties (Hampton 2003). Castells (2000) contends that these communication technologies have spread throughout the world with lightning speed and are connecting society in more sweeping ways than any other technological revolution. This argument is supported by research that has found that Internet augments peoples social capital by increasing contact with friends and relatives who live nearby and far away (Wang 2010). A 2004 Pew survey about American sociability found that Internet users had a median of 37 close ties in their social circle compared to 30 for nonusers (Wang 2010). Furthermore, the same survey showed that the number of Americans relying on the Internet for major life decisions has increased by one third since 2002 (Wang 2010). For this reason, Wellman (2001) argues that the Internet provides a ramp to the global information highway and strengthens local links within neighborhoods and households (27). ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS Despite the popularity and changes that email and other instant messengers have cultivated in recent years, no innovation has transformed the community as much as online social networks. While the main purpose for Internet usage in the 1990s was entertainment, the twenty-first century has seen its primary use shift to social interaction (Schwartz 2010; Gross 2004). The attractiveness of this new medium is fairly recent; however, that has done little to stagnate its growth to be recently identified as the most popular form of communication onlinesurpassing the frequency of E-mail use (Perotti 2011). More social networks are being accessed daily across a range of time and spaces,

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The Facebook Community

much more than the E-mail and telephone have ever been able to do (Perotti 2011). As early as 2006, 67% of online users among the ages of 18-32 were involved in some type of online social network; 60% had created some form of personal profile (Jones 2009). Boyd (2006) described social networking sites as a category of websites that allow for personal profiles where individuals can share and comment on real-time information (Tufekci 2008). Members of these networks are encouraged to post as much or as little information about themselves to an audience of their choosing. Tan (2008) compared these types of interactions to online diary entries organized in reverse chronological order where people could write anecdotes [ranging] from lengthy opinion pieces on controversial topics to one-sentence seemingly meaningless personal statements (Schwartz 2010:5). While many of these sites have increasingly different purpose and audiences, Boyd and Ellison (2007) agree that they all share three common elements: They allow individuals to construct a public or semipublic profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Houghton and Joinson 2010:74). Social formations such as these are persistently emerging online around primary identities from which members can choose from and join. Online communities are frequently formed on the basis of sexual identity, religious beliefs, ethnic, territorial, national or other backgrounds and interests (Stalder 1998). These online networks thereby create a portal for categorizing and managing relationships, and provide a convenient and efficient way of communicating with members of ones own network (Perotti 2011). It also enables users to more effectively organize their lives around these

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The Facebook Community

networks by reliving shared experiences and embracing new ones (Perotti 2011). As Rheingold (1993) eloquently captures in this passage about virtual communities: People in virtual communities exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games, flirt, create a little high art and a lot of idle talk. People in virtual communities do just about everything people do in real life, but we leave our bodies behind. You cant kiss anybody and nobody can punch you on the nose, but a lot can happen within those boundaries (3). Online social networks have therefore helped change the definition by which we view communities in todays world. The prevalence of these contemporary networks dissuades the assumption that people can only form communities within neighborhoods, kinship groups or other bounded solidarities (Wellman 1999). Alternatively, it facilitates the conceptualization of communities as being made up of a wide range of relationships, wherever they are located and however they are structured (Wellman 1999). As these online networks become incorporated into everyday life, the degree to which it extends onto the offline world becomes greater. The interaction exchange formulated in the online world becomes a supplement to the interactions that occur in its offline counterpart. As a result, the information that is traded in these interactive websites is used to further solidify relationships in the disconnected world. Nevertheless, critics remain adamant that the connections within these communities are vague and that the conceptualization of online friendships is lackluster. VIRTUAL FRIENDS Like the networks they join, virtual friendships are typically cultivated around areas of common interest. However, while the concept of friendship is structurally defined in the offline, its interpretation can be very broad and ambiguous in the online

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The Facebook Community

world. Members of different online networks often have friends who are close knit, while others are casual acquaintances or complete strangers whose identity is not known (Debatin, Lovejoy, Horn & Hughes 2009). The definition of a friend in a social networking site is therefore not synonymous with that found in the offline world (Tufekci 2008). As a result, a complex amalgam of friends in online social networks can be threatening to the efficacy of social relationships. While social interaction in society has transformed along with the revolution of technology, at no time in history has friendship been so vaguely identified. Jordan Copeland (2012) believes that virtual friendships develop in the same way that traditional friendships do because they serve a similar purpose and significance as offline relationships. Friendships are built on mutual knowledge that is shared among individuals in social situations (Boyd 2008). However, online friendships are sometimes validated solely on the interactions that occur through these online networks and nothing else. James Sulers disinhibition theory (2004) argues that people will say and do things in cyberspace that may not normally do or say otherwise (Schwartz 2010). Likewise, Goffmans (1955) Face-work paradigm expresses how individuals manipulate their identity in order to elicit a specific reaction (in Lemert 2010). Misrepresentation is more prevalent in social networks and the indolence of relationships that critics speak of is therefore acutely possible. Online profiles are a means for identity presentation that is often deceptive or completely wrong. In a technologically mediated society, being seen by those we wish to be seen by, in ways that are congruent with our desire, is comparable to Goffmans (1959) own standpoint. Tufecki (2008) said, One cannot present an online persona without manifesting a certain

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The Facebook Community

level of self-definition (33). Personalization becomes much easier when it is conducted through an online medium that is devoid of many physical characteristics of the offline world. Members of online social networks also often post an excess of information about themselvesa lot of times which is personalin order to construct their identity. Boyd (2008) argues that human instinct makes believe that individuals who share personal details are indicating trust, giving reason for their actions. People relish information about themselves in order to express social connectivity and so that others will feel more comfortable doing the same. George Homans (1958) characterized this behavior as an exchange of goods, material goods but also non-material ones, such as the symbols of approval and prestige (606). While this exchange may be structurally functional in terms of constructing identity, the influx of personal information often threatens the privacy of the individual. Margulis (2003) argues that privacy involves control over shared information and that regulating access to self will reduce vulnerability. However, the tendency for users to share personal details interchangeably increases this vulnerability. PRIVACY IN THE ONLINE WORLD Researchers who look at rising Internet use have increasingly stressed the importance of understanding the extent to the webs boundaries and possible consequences for sharing too much information (Houghton and Joinson 2010). However, users in online communities often perceive information as social capital that can be traded and negotiated (Debatin et al. 2009), a phenomenon best explained by Homans Exchange Theory. Several studies have found that users negotiate and manage the tension between privacy risks and expected benefits (Debatin et al. 2009:87). Homans

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The Facebook Community

(1958) argued that in the context of social exchange, persons that give much to others try to get much from them, and persons that get much from others are under pressure to give much to them (606). As a result of this elaborate exchange of behaviors, the risk that comes from sharing too much information is often overlooked by its immediate benefits. Within the exchanges that occur in online relationships there are interactions involving family matters, thoughts, and desires (Boyd 2008). Typically, more detailed, intimate aspects of ourselves would only be shared with those we hold private bonds of closeness with; far less information is shared with those holding less intimate connections (Houghton and Joinson 2010). However, the online world of social networking is prevalent with public information that often leads to undesired exposure. As part of his research, Tan (2008) interviewed one participant who said, Blogging is like keeping a diary under your bed, only the whole world knows its there (Schwartz 2010:6). When information is shared through a public interface, with virtual friends, it is difficult to determine whom and how many persons this information is ultimately shared with. Some researchers argue that exposing personal information is individual choice and a fundamental part of the exchanges that occur online. Alan Westin (1967) defines privacy as the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others (Margulis 2003:412). Furthermore, Altman (1975) believes that privacy can be viewed from the perspective of control: Whether it is control over personal data, the choice to disclose data, the physical presence of others, the number of others present in disclosure, or choosing which person to discuss and share issues with, control is central to

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The Facebook Community

maintaining privacy (Houghton and Joinson 2010:78). Nevertheless, it is difficult to control the flow of information in an environment that lacks architecturally defined boundaries (Boyd 2008). While audio and visual limits are in place in the physical world, people do not have a sense of just how public their actions may turn out to be online (Boyd 2008). According to Schatz Byford (1996), at no time have privacy issues taken on a greater significance than in recent years (Houghton and Joinson 2010). Technological advances have led to an emergence of an information society that is capable of gathering, storing and circulating increasing amounts of private information (Houghton and Joinson 2010). Nevertheless, Altman (1975) argues that there is an optimal degree of desired access of the self to others at any moment in time (Tufekci 2008:21). A state of complete privacy would be akin to a state of absolute solitudesomething that is neither in the best interest or desire of the social self (Altman 1975; Tufekci 2008). Therefore, in congruence with Exchange Theory (Homans 1958), the compromise that users make about the information they share is relative to the level of privacy they wish to risk. THE FACEBOOK COMMUNITY One of the reasons for the remarkable growth in online social networks is that most are supported through a single interface where users can pursue a variety of tasks in a single destination (Perotti 2011). The most widely visited of these online networks, and the one from which the following study will be grounded on, is Facebook. The Facebook website was introduced in 2004 as a way for college students to form and maintain virtual relationships with users in the same college network. Members of the Facebook

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The Facebook Community

community are allowed to share as much or as little information about their lives on a personal space within a pre-established forum. As best described by Cheung, Chiu, and Lee (2010), social networking sites such as Facebook are a collection of social spaces that give people a place to share segments of their lives in words, pictures, and videos with their friends. Utilizing the enumerating features that it offers, members of the Facebook community are able to identify themselves based on characteristics and interests that are unique to them. They are encouraged to personalize their own profile page where they can share information about themselves to other members of their community. They can add friends to their social circle by sending or accepting requests from other users; doing so permits extensive access to any information that is shared by members of that sub-community. The social groups that are formed through the Facebook website can congregate in a single place known as the newsfeed where all information shared by members of the community can be observed in real-time. Additionally, friends in the Facebook community can post comments on each others timeline, a feature that allows them to publicly interact with each other based on the information that is shared. One of the reasons why individuals choose to adopt Facebook is to create a sense of identity that they have less control of in the offline. Members of Facebook formulate their own identity based on comments, stories, and photographs that they contribute to their own network; the information shared is construed as a relative representation of the users character. A Facebook profile can therefore be understood as an independently managed representation of the embodied self (Gershon 2011). For instance, users will often turn to photographs to craft a portrait of an individuals identity. However, these

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The Facebook Community

interpretations can be vastly dissimilar from the truth. Much like other information that is shared through Facebook, photographs are often only a representation of what the owner wants others to see. Nevertheless, the ability to formulate a valued representation of themselves based on the information they make available allows Facebook users to establish an identity that is affirmed by ones peers (Livingstone and Brake 2010). These identity experiments enables new opportunities for the presentation of the self, irrelevant of the true nature that they embrace in the offline world (Livingstone and Brake 2010). Subrahmanyam and Greenfield (2008) found that the most common motives for constructed identities were self-exploration (to observe others reactions), social compensation (to make up for shyness), and social facilitation (to form relationships). Therefore, the changes incorporated between their real selves, and their Facebook selves, offers them a unique opportunity to present themselves in new and divergent ways. A CRITIQUE OF THE FACEBOOK COMMUNITY Like any new invention or discovery, this recent addition to our social world introduces novel risks to communal relationships. Socrates, whose antiquated observations were critical of other innovations feared that writing, as a new technology, threaten[ed] intimacy in the ways it alter[ed] relationships and knowledge circulates (Gershon 2011:868). Because online interactions also lacks important characteristics that are present in face-to-face communication, such as gestures and eye contact, it is argued that online dialogue is less significant, harmful to the structure of human communication, and has the opportunity to transmit its shortcomings to the offline world (Subrahmanyam and Greenfield 2008).

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The Facebook Community

One of the ways in which Facebook has been criticized is the way in which it has redefined the word friend (Subrahmanyam and Greenfield 2008). As of 2010, the average Facebook user had 130 friends, many of whom she/he does not see on a regular basis (Houghton and Joinson 2010; Facebook 2010). Despite the associations with them in the physical world, Facebooks tendency to quantify an amalgam of friendships have led some to believe that the site encourages weak ties that are superficial and easily broken (Subrahmanyam and Greenfield 2008). Furthermore, the quality of information that is embedded in some profile pages may not support stronger associations. Some researchers see Facebook as responsible for inciting too much and too little information (Gershon 2011). As a result, some users insist that Facebook [gives] them enough information to be curious, and keep searching, but not enough information to be satisfied, and never enough insight to know anothers exact intentions or desires (Gershon 2011:888). Additionally, in a society where the boundaries between the online and physical world are increasingly interconnected, a recurring question for Facebook users is how to best live their lives in a world where the Internet records everything and forgets nothing (Rosen 2011:1). The information shared on Facebook profiles, including a users birthday, hometown, activities, interests, status updates, photos, and videos is frequently made available to not only friends on Facebook, but also to people and organizations outside a users networkoften without their consent (U.S Federal Trade Commission 2011). In a report on 23 Internet service companies, the watchdog organization Privacy International recently accused Facebook of severe privacy flaws for gathering and distributing user information without user consent (Debatin et al. 2009). The

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The Facebook Community

unauthorized access to personal information by third parties damages the rapport a person has with Facebook, and has potentially damaging consequences to the individual in the offline world. Already, an increasing number of users have begun to feel the repercussions of their past choices. Ill-advised photos and information shared on Facebook come back to haunt people months or years after the information was allegedly deleted (Rosen 2011). Tufecki (2008) fears that this newfound invasion of privacy may lead employers to judge interviewees on the basis of controversial interests that may seem risky to the company. During his research Tufecki (2008) encountered several situations where firms refrained from hiring students after finding inappropriate photographs that were uploaded on the website years before. It is why Debatin et al. (2009) argue that Pervasive technology often leads to unintended consequences such as threats to privacy and changes in relationship between public and private spheres (83). Despite all of the apparent violations to a users privacy and autonomy, the courts have recurrently sided against the user in ruling that: we have no expectation of privacy in data that we voluntarily surrender to third parties (Rosen 2011:2). Some argue that the instant private information is shared with others online, the recipients become co-owners of that information (Margulis 2003). It is up to the co-owners to negotiate if and how they will conceal that information so that it remains private between the intended parties. Therefore, the distinction between who is able to see, obtain, and use various bits of information becomes blurred in the Facebook world (Houghton and Joinson 2010). Furthermore, it seems that as Facebook becomes more deeply integrated into users daily lives, issues of invasive privacy and excessive exposure become more

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The Facebook Community

prominent, but less important to the individual (Debatin et al. 2009). Although many Facebook members have privacy controls enacted, they do not seem to fully comprehend that their level of privacy protection is relative to the size of their network, their criteria for accepting new friends, and the amount of personal data they share (Debatin et al. 2009). Whether it is a result of social negotiations to exchange information, or a lack of concern for its exposure, vast amounts of data is being shared through the Facebook medium on a regular basis. Regardless of its perceived notions to be a detriment to social life, Facebook has become a setting for people to gather in one place at any time; in a matter of a few years it has grown to an unprecedented 750 million users worldwide (U.S. Federal Trade Commission 2011), and growing. As of 2010, one in 4 Internet browsers had a Facebook account that they logged onto at least once every 30 days (Schwartz 2010). There are more than 2.5 billion photos shared each month and more than 3.5 billion pieces of content shared each week (Houghton and Joinson 2010; Facebook 2010). These impressive numbers have helped Facebook to transcend the ranks of online activity to be named the 5th most visited website in the world in 2008 (Fuchs 2009), and accounting for 7% of all time spent online in 2009 (Houghton and Joinson 2010; Lipsman 2010). Intriguing as these numbers are, little is known about the effects that online networking sites such as Facebook are having on communities. Based on the findings in the literature, it is possible to juxtapose the community relations that occur on Facebook to the interactions that occur in other communities around the world. Nevertheless, there have been numerous arguments about the influence that this virtual community is having on the outside realm. Results from this qualitative

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analysis determine that the Facebook community serves as a bridge between the virtual and the real worlds. New communities and relationships are created through this innovative interface and old communities are revisited. Additionally, Facebook functions as a complement to weaker relationships that do not have the ability to interact as often in the offline world. On the contrary, results are indicative of stronger relationships in the offline being weakened because of Facebook; face-to-face interactions are becoming less prevalent and much less intimate when the ease of communication through this medium allows individuals to interact in an insipid setting. Additionally, the privacy of the individual user is increasingly compromised as more information is shared. The following study takes an exploratory approach utilizing the data from twelve semi-structured interviews with undergraduate and graduate students from a northeastern university. There is no question that sites like Facebook have transformed the way humans formulate and envision communities. Using grounded theory methodology, we use the interviews to extract meaning and determine the types of interaction that are occurring on Facebook, how this medium solidifies communal ties, and the degree to which these relationships are extending onto the offline realm. I will look at theories from Castells (Social Network Theory), Homans (Social Exchange Theory), and Goffman (Face-Work Theory) in order to determine if they are applicable to the Facebook experience. I attempt to unify the individual experiences gathered here in this research, and produce a more central model for which the Facebook community can be understood. METHODOLOGY The Facebook Community is a place where millions of individuals go to share and relate stories with other members in society. However, despite its trending

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popularity, the relative infancy of this networking site has left many to wonder how it is affecting those who use it. Based on the literature already published on the subject, a grounded theory approach was most appropriate in analyzing the function that the Facebook experience is having on relationships and their communities. There are numerous theories that have been linked to the processes that have resulted from Facebook use, particularly Castells Social Network Theory, Homans Exchange Theory, and Goffmans Face-Work Theory. This study analyzes how the aforementioned theories are relative to the Facebook experience, and whether a better understanding can be met after looking at them in unison. Using the analyses from twelve semi-structured interviews, readers will be able to make their own conclusions in regards to the societal functions that the utilization of Facebook has elicited. SAMPLING STRATEGY A total of twelve individuals were chosen to participate in this explanatory research; six of the interviews were conducted in 2012 while the rest were conducted in 2013. Participants were located using a combination of convenience, purposive, and theoretical sampling. Convenience sampling was necessary because the time in which the research needed to be completed by was limited. Purposive sampling was useful so that participants would be helpful in helping me understand the functions of the Facebook experience. Lastly, I chose participants through theoretical sampling so that the data gathered was more relevant to the theories being tested. While random sampling would have been ideal for this project, the limited number of participants hindered its possibility. Nevertheless, by focusing on a smaller and homogeneous sample, I was able to ensure the highest validity possible.

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The Facebook Community

Potential participants were found within one University campus in order to limit the time spent looking for them. A general criterion for participation ensured the limits and range that this study encompassed. While there was no age limit to partake in the study, potential participants needed to be enrolled in a fulltime undergraduate or graduate program, which resulted in a range of ages between 21-29; this semi-constrained sample limited participation to those individuals that more likely lived their adolescence in the presence of Facebook. Students were found in areas where they typically congregated such as the student center, library or university cafeterias. Prior to invitation to participate, the researcher confirmed that they were members of the Facebook community and that they accessed the site on a regular basis. This was necessary so that the data gathered from these individuals would be useful in the research analyses. RESEARCH APPROACH After determining their eligibility, potential research subjects were thoroughly debriefed about the goals of the study and the manner in which it would be conducted. I explained to them their rights as a research participant and answered any questions that they may have had. A consent form was presented to them detailing the most important points discussed so that she/he was aware of what the research entailed, and who to contact if problems arose. I emphasized the point that participation was completely voluntary and that they had the right to revoke their agreement to participate at any point in time. While this disclaimer was necessary for Internal Review Board purposes, a detailed discussion of the participants rights was helpful in developing a positive rapport with the individual.

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The Facebook Community

After agreement to participate was granted, participants of the study were allowed to choose where they wanted to be interviewed. A natural setting is difficult to conceptualize in this research because we were studying behaviors in a virtual rather than physical environment. Nevertheless, I allowed the participants to choose a setting where they felt most comfortable. This is especially important in qualitative research because the primary data collected comes from a detailed discussion with the participant; if she/he was not comfortable, they may not be forthcoming with the information they disclose. Additionally, spatial and temporal flexibility ensured that the interview was conducted in the most natural setting, without interruption. DATA ANALYSIS The primary data for this study was collected using face-to-face, semi-structured interviews that were conducted with each participant; interviews were recorded using a pre-established audio device. I took field notes about the participants non-verbal cues that were useful in developing thick description from our conversations. Each interview lasted between 30-45 minutes and consisted of topics that both the researcher and participant felt were most importantthis mode of conversation also embraced reciprocity. Additionally, an interview guide was used to help me and the participant decide how to best allocate our time together. The semi-structured approach gave flexibility so that the most relevant topics were discussed. However, if the interview became stagnated by a lack of fluid conversation, the interview guide served as a point of reference to go back to. The questions in the guide focused on understanding how individuals conceptualize the Facebook paradigm and how the chosen theories relate to their experience. The differences in questions asked between the interview sessions in

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The Facebook Community

2012 and 2013 were minimal; only minor changes were made to the wording of the questions so that they would elicit more thoughtful responses from the participants. Each of the twelve interviews were transcribed verbatim and each participant was assigned an alias in order to ensure anonymity. Transcriptions were analyzed through an inductive approach by first coding specific themes into open categories. A constant comparative method was utilized so that emerging categories could more effectively distinguish and relate to the theories in question. Once these categories were established, I used an axial coding paradigm to determine what parts of the data collected were most important for analysis; particularly, I looked at the causal conditions influencing specific processes in the Facebook community. Finally, I used selective coding to generate suppositions of the most important issues concerning the participants experience and the theories in question. LIMITATIONS There are a number of limitations that need to be discussed in regards to this study. First off, time is a very important limitation that must be taken into account when looking at the homogeneity of the sample. It is also unlikely that theoretical saturation was reached due to the small number of participants. Like most qualitative studies, there are issues concerning the validity and reliability of the research, primarily as a result of the sample size. Nevertheless, maximum validity was ensured by focusing on a small cohort of individuals in one university. By limiting the prospective sample of participants there is a higher probability that the data collected is relevant to the specific cohort. Additionally, the limited sample allows future researchers to do a comparative analysis

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The Facebook Community

with other cohorts in order to determine whether this type of research may be expanded or replicated with other populations. There were minimal ethical issues in regards to this research; however, they should still be discussed. The use of Facebook is so ubiquitous in todays society that its level of sensitivity is relatively low. Nonetheless, the utmost precautions were taken in order to protect the integrity of the participant. The privacy of a participant is always prone to compromise in qualitative research. Sensitive information may be discussed during the interview that a participant might prefer not to be made public. As a safeguard to these issues, the data collected from the participants remained completely anonymous. Additionally, the participant had the discretion to discontinue her/his participation at any point in time during the research process. As an added precaution, each participant was given the contact information of the lead investigator in case they had any concerns regarding the research process. The precautions taken in this study mitigated the chance of any potential ethical issues from coming up. FINDINGS Findings from this relatively small study found that the Facebook Community is changing the way relationships form, congregate and even dissipate. Analyses of the sociological theories showed that Facebook functions to propagate certain processes that already occur in the real world, albeit in different ways. Nevertheless, it is my concluding belief that more research needs to be done on this subject in order to come up with a more unifying theory that explicates the experiences that Facebook has influenced. More participants will be needed and more time allotted to research this intricate subject. Until

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The Facebook Community

then, this research will serve as a foundation for others to expand on, replicate, and ponder even further. A NEW WAVE OF COMMUNICATION Analogous to other modern modes of communication, the Facebook community brings people together regardless of propinquity; however, with the help of the Internet, Facebook also detaches communities from the limits of time. Members can access all of their information, and that of their friends, at any time and any place with an Internet connection. The accessibility to this material becomes useful to Kyle, 29, who sees Facebook as a benefit to a faster-paced society: Peoples time is definitely of the essence now. I mean its the fastest growingyou know, we want the information right awaywe dont want to wait for it. We need exact confirmation instantly we want everything all access instantly now, you know and we can have it. The ability to be unrestrained by space or time allows members of Facebook to stay connected to their friends regardless of where they are or what time zone they are in. Because the information shared in this community is constantly updated in real-time and stored in the virtual world, members can access it at their own time and discretion. The feeling of instant gratification based on this newfound impatience to acquire information quicker is an aspect of Facebook that propagates its use. As a result of new waves of communication, and subsequent influence by friends, those with access to the Internet became increasingly inclined to join the Facebook community. All twelve of the interviewed participants acknowledged that they joined Facebook between 2004 and 2007 for at least one of the aforementioned reasons. As one undergraduate senior named Troy put it, he joined because it was the in thing to do

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The Facebook Community

and because you know, I wanted to be on Facebook and everybody had a Facebook. Felicia, a twenty-one year old sophomore in college, first joined in 2007 because: I can see like whats going on in other peoples lives, I guess. Because of all they put Everythingthey put everything on Facebook. So, I mean like I see other peoples pictures and like, what theyre doing. The growing propensity among high school and college students joining the online social network and sharing their lives was a major influence in its growing popularity. One of the aspects that seem to drive Facebooks popularity is the notion that it is a community created and maintained by its own members. The groups formed in this virtual world are as large or as small, as homogenous or heterogeneous as its own members choose it to be. Furthermore, the ability to identify oneself based on unique characteristics allows members to connect with each other based on mutual interests. Kyle concurs that: Maybe you can find who else likes that certain thing or certain place, um pretty easily. Yea you can see who comments on it, or you know, who frequents that page a lot or who frequents that place. The vast information that is shared through this medium makes it easier for members of Facebook to find others who share common characteristics. One of the main reasons that George, 25, joined the Facebook community was that: You can identify yourself by what high school youre fromor um what college youre from. And its more dedicated to what you choose your uh, affiliation is. Facebook embraces a multifaceted setting where members can form virtual communities based on their interests and background from their offline world. They can interact with one another through the mutual sharing of experiences, opinions, and everyday communication in one place, at any time.

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The Facebook Community

INFORMATION HIGHWAY Facebooks uncanny ability to gather vast amounts of information and share it with its respective members is analogous to the network of interconnected nodes that Castells (1996) expounds on in his Social Network theory (in Lemert 2010). On Facebook this network of information is best illustrated through its use of the news feed. This unique feature allows members to stay up to date on any of the information that is flowing through their virtual community. When looking through her own news feed, Brittany, 28, will typically: Scroll through and look until the last time that I was on Facebookof what everybody has put up and if there is a funny video link or something I might click that and watch it... or read like comments that people have said about something big or whatever; stuff that looks interesting. Facebook members have the ability to observe in real-time what their friends are sharing, as well as have access to prior postings that were shared while the user was offline. The ability to easily share information with others from their own community allows Facebook to be a source where people get a significant portion of their daily news. Rebecca, 26, uses Facebook to keep tabs on what is going on around her because I dont actually watch the news so Facebook gives me all of my world events that I need to know. Additionally, because most of the information shared through Facebook comes from friends, it is more likely to be of interest to those who look at it. George tailors his interests to specific groups of friends by: Keep[ing] everyone informed around me. I find certain articles and certain things that I dont think my friends or family would typically see in their day-to-day life that I actually look for. If I find it to be interesting Ill post it so that everyone else can see it.

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The Facebook Community

Furthermore, once something has been shared within the community, the Facebook interface allows members to publicly opine, or comment, on any of the postings. Troy, 24, believes this is a useful tool to let all voices be heard on subjects of debate: Its kind of a new sourceyou get it from different angles and you get it from different views. So one person might say something and then another person might [say] yo, thats a lie this is how it went down! The ability to credit or discredit what is being shared is an effective way to ensure that those who see things have the chance to express their own views. The types of interactions that occur on Facebook are rarely associated with the virtual world itself. Instead, the most common types of exchanges that occur through this medium are those concerning events that are happening in the real world. When asked to give an example of how he has used Facebook to stay connected to members of his offline community, George answered: I guess responding to any kind of interesting things that my friends post, or anything likefor example, my friend and his wifeshes pregnant, so she posted the, I guess, the ultrasound on there and that was really cool. And everybody gets to talk about the comment and like give congratulations. Members of this virtual community can go to a single place to stay informed about their friends lives while simultaneously having the opportunity to interact. The central hub for information that Facebooks interface embraces is not limited to the individual interactions described above. Facebook is often used by outside communities to keep its members more centrally informed. Through the use of Facebooks like button, members can stay up to date on past and future activities that

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The Facebook Community

other communities are involved in. Jessica, 23, uses the like button so that she can find out about things happening around her university: They put one for Relay for Life at [my school] so I know Im attending that. Like that one in a sense is good because itll put like specific details that I can always go to and see. The facility of going to one place for all the necessary details makes it easier for Jessica to participate in activities that she may not have known existed. Likewise, members of Facebook can create their own sub-groups based on communities that have been previously established in the offline world. George started up a Facebook group so that people interested in a certain type of music would have a place to go and interact with others of like-minded interests: At my old school I formed the Ska Club. It was a group for people who liked to listen to Ska music, right? And so basically I created a group on Facebook for all the members of the group to use to communicate. The imperceptible link between the real and virtual worlds is professed by the interactions that begin in one place and end in another. A BRIDGE BETWEEN THE REAL AND THE VIRTUAL Castells (1996) says, Information is the key ingredient of our social organization and [thats] why flows of messages and images between networks constitute the basic thread of our social structure (in Lemert 2010:624). Members of the Facebook community are able to amalgamate information with the real world because of the relatively short bridge between the real and virtual in which information travels. The types of interactions that occur in the Facebook community are thereby closely interrelated with those that occur on the offline. Besides utilizing this social network as a way to stay informed about things that interest them, individuals turn to Facebook to

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The Facebook Community

complement the relationships they already possess in the offline; therefore, very often the conversations that begin on Facebook continue in the real world. Jessica not only believes that this flow of communication is beneficial in staying in touch, but also considers that: Some of my best friends relationships have grown stronger because over Facebook. Well likefor example, there is a website, texts from last nightand my friends and I like to read through it and find the ridiculous ones we can find and well post them on each others Facebook wall. And like the next day well see each other and well be talking about like the funniest ones and will be like our inside joke kind of thing, you know So I think that like strengthens our relationship. These forms of exchanges can be a useful way to support existing communities by encouraging a consistent strand of interaction through a variety of communication methods. Nevertheless, interactions that begin in the real world and subsequently extend to Facebook are also prevalent. George mentions an example of his friends communicating on Facebook and consequently reinforcing the bond they share from being a part of the same university: Theyre always just like goofing around on another person or its one giant group thread on someones wall talking about what someone did the other day Someone did something stupid or someone said something funny And theyll start ragging on each other. So its kind of likeI think its kind of like beneficial maybe for them. Its just an extension of what theyre doing. Its just a way to ahhkeep running jokes going, you know? Members of the Facebook community often use this medium to interact in group conversations and reinforce their communal ties similar to the way it would be conducted as if they were all present in the same room. Furthermore, members can use Facebooks features as a facilitator to organize social meetings that subsequently occur in the offline. Troy is part of a social club at his university and uses its Facebook page to communicate and plan future events with them:
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The Facebook Community

Im a part of the SOC club and they have a Facebook. And um you know. So if youre doing somethingwe can go on the SOC club website and say hey Friday night, were going to the movies and stuff like that. While these types of interactions are clearly feasible without the use of Facebook, it is the possibility to network with a larger number of like-minded people, in one place, that makes the exchanges in these communities more convenient and efficient. Felicia benefits from the interfaces convenient way of communicating by using another Facebook feature based on creating events. When asked if she had ever used the events application to help her organize social meetings in the offline world, she said she had used it twiceI used it for my birthday and for um, my boyfriends birthday. Furthermore, she concurred that: The event things are kind of cool because its like, you know its like the old days, you know... youre writing out an invitation and you send them in the mail. You can just go on the computer and just send an event thing. Because Felicia lacked the time and resources to inform people in a more traditional manner, she utilized Facebooks ability to get in touch with a large number of people to organize events that would eventually occur in the offline. Kyle is also a proponent of the event feature because its good for getting a lot of information out there quickly to a lot of people. It allows more individuals to be connected and relates the information needed to propagate meetings in the real world. When asked whether he thought that Facebooks event application increased social interaction in the real world, he opined: I think it definitely adds to it. Um like I said, its a lot easier to get together with people when you ah when you have that communication open where you can say, you know going here, you know making plans to do this or do that Um, yea, it definitely makes it easier.

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The Facebook Community

The ability to bridge the interactions that occur between the real and virtual worlds is significantly beneficial to those trying to reinforce their bond with other communities in the offline. Nevertheless, the benefit of staying connected with members of real world communities is not the only benefit that Facebook offers. Employing comparable features, members of Facebook can revisit old communities that are no longer in existence but were at one time as closely bonded as those aforementioned. REVISITING OLD COMMUNITIES The ability to connect vast amounts of people and communities in one single network also facilitates the likelihood for old communities to be revisited and reestablished. Rebecca enjoys this feature because: I like it when you find someone that you havent heardlike you have completely forgotten about for like years and years, and then you find them and then youre like, Oh sweet, lets be Facebook friends, and like, just keep up on each others lives. Members of the Facebook community take advantage of its aggregate population to reconnect with old communities that are no longer accessible. Felicia welcomes the ability to join a Facebook group that is restricted to members of her old high school. It will say like, um tell me how many people from my high school are online. So I mean, it would help me if I wanted to search for them. Additionally, Jessica believes that Facebook groups established from past communities can be rewarding to the individual who embrace them: That does really helpbecause then, I feel like a lot of people lose touch with friends after they graduate high schooland even after Im gonna graduate college sooneven after I graduate college Ill lose touch with some of my friends; whereas Facebook you can stillits sort of like snail mail upgraded. And you can still keep in contact with them and I think that helps.

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The Facebook Community

The accessibility to a wide population of people on the Facebook community makes it possible for old communities to be reestablished and sustained. Furthermore, Kyle often uses Facebooks massive directory of contacts to find people that he once frequently saw but has since lost touch with: Youll be like oh, remember this or that person and you can try to look them up or if you actually know their nametheir full nameyea, you can try to look them up and maybe, you know, rekindle something that could have happened or somebody that you lost contact with a while back. And yea, it could make it easier to um make contact with them. Based on this ongoing web of connections, Facebook groups can be formed or conjoined to eventually create virtual communities based on the mutual interests that they share with other members. Nevertheless, if its not possible to join or form such pre-established groups, members like Linda, 25, still use Facebook to reconnect with old friends and revitalize old relationships: Theres a friend that I went to like from kindergarten to fifth grade in all my classes together and then we lost touch and he found me on Facebook. He lives by like Albany now which is really far but he goes back to the Bronx once in a while so were actually planning to meet up this month, which is really crazy because we were really good friends back there back then. Linda acknowledges that she uses Facebook to keep in contact with people that I dont see as often. People that I used to go to school with when I was in New York or when I lived in Boston Just people that I dont see ever now actually. The presence of Facebook allows her to reestablish old relationships through the virtual world thereby increasing the probability that an offline interaction will eventually occur. SUPPORTING WEAK RELATIONSHIPS

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The Facebook Community

Whether it is old communities being reestablished or friends and family that are not seen as prevalently, Facebook has an intricate way of supporting weak relationships and at times making them stronger; it accomplishes this using the same methods and features that connect and reinforce present and past communities. George believes that its a good way to stay in touch with acquaintances that you normally wouldnt want to hang out with because its like a quick, easy, and dirty way of staying in touch with somebody. Felicia uses the notifications she receives on her Facebook page about birthdays to send quick acknowledgments: I wouldnt say best friends because I know like all my good friends birthdays. But if its somebody like I went to high school with that I havent talked to in a while, oryea, pretty much somebody that I havent talked to in a while and, oh whats their birthday? And Ill say happy birthday. If it were not for these notifications it is possible that Felicia would never have remembered certain birthdays and an interaction may have never occurred. Instead, Felicia concurs that these quick messages often lead to more extensive conversations like when am I going to see you or when are we gonna get to get together And well try to make arrangements to hang out. Furthermore, Jessica agrees that Facebook can be used to as a way to complement weak relationships with friends that at one point were stronger: Im in New Haven right now and Im from Wallingford so I cant always like, see themwhereas on Facebook I can send them a little message now and then and you know, thinking of youhope everything is going well And then we can start a conversation from there and it helps me keep in touch by just sending them little messages. Despite the current distance between her and her hometown friends, Jessica is able to keep in touch with them so that their relationship does not suffer once she returns. On the

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The Facebook Community

contrary, her relationships may become stronger because of her determination to stay connected with those friends that were no longer a part of her everyday life. The ability to stay up to date on the lives of members who share weaker relationships also stimulates stronger interactions once the individuals see each other again. During the interview session, Kyle admits that he has many friends on Facebook who he does not see very often; however, he recounts that: Certain people that you really dont talk to a lot if you see randomly out somewhere you can say, hey, I saw that you did this or that. It could be a good conversation starter. Um, yea, it can make communication a little bit easier between friends that arent so close that um you can gain information like that, that you normally wouldnt if you didnt see them that often. The ability to stay informed within the Facebook community therefore cultivates an environment where weak relationships can be sustained and consequently reinforced. Friends are not the only types of weak relationships that can be strengthened in the midst of using Facebook; families living far from each other are able to keep in touch regardless of the distance between them. Jessica, who has a relative living in Japan, is unable to maintain frequent contact because of course the hours she is awake are the hours that are different then when Im awake. Nevertheless, when asked how her relationship has changed since she became friends with her on Facebook, she answered: I feel a bit more updated with her life. She puts up picturesactually, even though its a warm and gorgeous day out right now, they had a snowstorm. They have like eight feet of snow right now in Japan. So but I know that because of her Facebook and because she puts up pictures, so I feel likeI do feel somewhat connected to her more than I did where if I didnt have Facebook. The ability to see what is happening in her relatives life makes Jessica feel more attached to her far away family member.

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The Facebook Community

Linda, whose family lives in Ecuador and sees very seldom also shares the mindset that being friends through Facebook can further strengthen a weakened relationship. When asked to describe the way in which she might stay in contact with distant family through Facebook, she answered: My cousins actuallythey all friend requested me so they like write me on there. Um my grandfathers stepdaughterwe keep in touch through there. Hell show her shell show my grandfather my pictures through there and stuff. My cousins from Ecuador we only see other not even like once a year so we keep in touch through there a lot. Without the accessibility or convenience of Facebook it would be harder for Linda and her family from Ecuador to see each other, even if only through pictures. The small but significant interactions that occur through the Facebook medium help support weak relationships regardless of the distance between them. Families that arent as far away as Linda or Jessica can also benefit from the use of Facebook. The fast paced society that Kyle spoke of earlier has led to the disappearance of the dinner table conversations that once dominated American society. As a way to supplement their decreasing presence, Jeffery, 26, and his family have found more innovative ways to keep in contact with one another: We have a family group with my family so its likeits a private groupbut its like my mom, my dad, and my sisters. So we post on that pretty much like every daywhat were doingand keep in touch with everyone were always doing different stuff so it helps keep everyone keep contact without having to individually call or text. The ability to stay in contact with one another sustains the familial relationship that was likely present when Jeffery and his siblings were younger but has since dissipated upon becoming adults. THE IMPAIRMENT OF COMMUNITIES AND RELATIONSHIPS

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The Facebook Community

One of the leading counterarguments, in recent time, against any new form of communication is that it decreases the prevalence of face-to-face interaction. As more individuals turn to Facebook as a way to stay connected to family and friends, critics dispute the ramifications it has on communities in the offline world. When asked about this phenomenon and whether he considers it a latent consequence of interacting through Facebook, Kyle says: I mean, as far as getting instant access to people and getting information out there instantlyits a benefit. Um but yea, it could replace a lot of peoples normal everyday interaction if theyre doing it all over the line, you know and yea, I mean it could affect the way people communicate and theyre doing a lot less face to face talking and lot more communicating over the Internet, soit could definitely affect it a lot. Despite the ease and convenience of communication that the use of Facebook expends on society, it is disputable that the time spent interacting online takes away from more relevant interactions in the offline world. Some members like Linda have mixed opinions in regards to the overall benefit that Facebook has on relationships: Well I think the only positive thing really about Facebook is that you get to keep in touch with people that you normally wouldnt. But I feel like it takes away more then it adds because its like people who I could see everydayyou dont anymorebecause we just talk on Facebook. Well, do you want to hang out? For what, we can have a conversation on Facebook. Just as it has become an easy and convenient way of interacting with people from far away communities, the degree of separateness that is found in these interactions is extending to relationships that may not necessarily benefit from them. Brittany thinks You dont need to go like meet someone for drinks cuz you feel like you know everything thats going on with them already from Facebook. Because vast amount of information is already being shared publicly on Facebook individuals find it less relevant to convene and catch up on each others lives.
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The Facebook Community

In fact, sharing too much information about oneself may bring its own consequences. One of the latent functions of this excess of information is that it becomes convoluted and people become disinterested. Perry, 28, enjoys hearing about his friends lives but certainly gets annoyed sometimes when they post something about how their day is going and you hear about it every daywe really dont need to know your life story. Additionally, knowing too much information makes more personal interaction irrelevant for him, even with people he hasnt seen in a long time: When you see someone you havent seen in ten yearsbut you see them on Facebook everydayits like, yea I know all about you cuz you freakin post everything everyday about your life! So even though you personally havent seen someone in so longyou know everything about them. Now that Perry has learned all about his friends life on Facebook, he has less interest in pursuing an interaction any further then what has occurred online. Therefore, one of the main issues that arise with Facebooks ease of communication is irrelevant of the interactions that happen within longer distances; instead, it is the individuals who are in close proximity and choose Facebook as a principle way of communicating. George, who denies ever using Facebook to communicate with people that he can see face to face relates a story of one of his neighbors who fall under this paradigm: Emilyright next door and Peter who lives over thereand theyll message on Facebook a lot. So I feel like that relationship is being affected by it. Im not saying its negative or positiveIm just saying, when they can just come over and talk to one another. Ive seen people like Facebook someone when theyre in the same room, and thats just funny to me. It is unclear whether George contends the strength of his neighbors relationship as a result of these interactions; nevertheless, it is evident that conversations on Facebook

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The Facebook Community

may sometimes be a replacement for face-to-face interaction. One participant that is embracing its lack of strength is Perry: I think it makes everyone lazy. I dont reallythats why I really dont like computers I think it makes everyone lazy. It kind of takes away everyonesit takes away one on one with everybody if you can just talk to someone via computer. The lack of appreciation for a communicative method that makes people indolent is clearly apparent in Perrys response. The five aforementioned interviewees who had differing views about the benefits of Facebook are not alone. Jessica, who previously defended the use of Facebook as a way to bridge communal ties between the real and virtual worlds, concurs that her interactions through Facebook may be coming at the expense of more frequent face-toface meetings: I have a girl who lives next door to me on the floor. Um she posts weve been in a Hunger Games craze. So even though we live next doorinstead of coming next door to my room and knocking on my door and telling me about this video she foundshell post it on my Facebook. The reluctance to communicate face to face when the two individuals live next door to each other is perceptible in this response. There is a clear exchange that takes place among those that accept lower quality of communication over the relative ease it is to conduct. Nevertheless, this leads to a significant inquietude dealing with the degree of intimacy that is ultimately exchanged through Facebooks emotion lacking interactions. A LOSS OF INTIMACY Along with the decrease in face-to-face interactions, less personal communication through Facebook results in a reduction of intimacy through the way members are interacting. As Kyle denotes during one of the questions asked about this topic, Rather

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The Facebook Community

than taking time and calling them, and interacting over the phone, I could easily really fast just send them a messagewhen theyre available they can get back to me. It is the speed and convenience of these short messages that are conceptualized to be an inhibitor of more personalized communication between individuals. Likewise, Carlos, 25, doesnt believe these messages hold any personality; Facebook is more likehey, what are you up to? I really dont have time to actually really talk to u. While Facebook is often credited for connecting people from all corners of the world, its lack of energy does little to propagate these conversations to anything beyond the chat window in which it takes place. Some of these short and sweet messages that have been defended on the basis of strengthening weak relationships also have the propensity to deter more intimate interactions. The convenience of being reminded about friends birthdays and subsequently congratulating them through a Facebook message may be quick and easy; however, as George explains, it takes away from the personalization of the message: You might be more inclined to just likehappy birthdayvia Facebook rather than actually calling them and telling them that, which is more personal. Id rather be called on my birthday and sayhey, happy birthdayrather than someone messaging me. Its still nice; its the thought that counts. But, you know everyoneyou do realize that its way easier to just clickhappy birthdaythen to calling someone. The notion that human interactions are becoming less personal and are being replaced by characterless messages is frequently considered one of the downsides of Facebook. Perry argues that: Its just easier especially everyone with a freaking fancy phone you can {taps the table} type here or there, send done you talk to the person in matter of seconds [but] its through a computer. You can say whatever you want on a computer and have no strength to it, you know?

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The Facebook Community

Because of these impersonal interactions some members of Facebook argue that its not an effective way of sustaining relationships in the real world. As these types of messages become more prevalent in society, and start to replace more personal interactions, it is possible that the degree of blandness that is found in online communication will extend onto offline interactions. When asked if she thought this was on the verge of happening, Rebecca answered: Our entire world is so, like, on the Internet, like there is no personal touches anymore. Its all e-mails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, you knoweverything is digitalized. So I justI feel like everybody just loses touch with everything, and thats why people feel so alone. Youre relying on the Internet to, you know, like give you comfort, and youre never gonna get comfort from something like that. Other participants believe the problem is much more grave then that. Troy, an avid critic of Facebooks effect on human interaction thinks this type of communication is destroying cognitive ability: They wont know how to start a conversation. You know theyre just they wont be sensible to the sense ofwhat should I say nowlike things to talk about. You know, they cant hold a conversation so I just think that its the braintheyve been on the computer for so long that theyre brain just changed. The lack of personalization throughout Facebook therefore has a potential to deter the relevance of communication and ultimately harm communities in society. IMPASSIVE COMMUNICATION AND THE MISCONCEPTION OF WORDS A plurality of participants interviewed acquiesced that the level of personality in Facebook interactions is much less than those conduced in physical propinquity. Emotion, expression and other types of important body language are inhibited when communicating through the computer screen. While it is possible to communicate words and sentences through an online medium such as Facebook, it is difficult to conceptualize

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the true meaning behind those words. Despite Kyles affirmation for the benefits of communication over Facebook, he considers it to be: Less intimate. I mean, its notits not as direct as having a normal conversation. Um like I said, you can take your time and write out exactly what youre trying to say, but its hard to convey emotions. A lot of times its hard to express what youre really feeling through typing, you know. Certain types of emotions its hard to like convey through text. Its hard toyou know, you cant show sarcasm through text but sometimes itsit can be taken the wrong way or can be misinterpreted by depending on whose reading it. The misinterpretation of words that Kyle speaks of is precisely the consequences that can result from this type of impassive communication. Because emotion is typically enforced by the use of body language, online communications between members on Facebook can often be misconstrued. Casey, 25, has a really hard time dealing with this on Facebook because: The only way I can see emotion is kind of how people word thingsand my thought process on how they word things might be different then actually how theyre saying it, cuz I can interpret completely different This problem may be alleviated somewhat if the communication occurs between friends that are closer to one another: If its like a close friend I guess I feel close and I can probably picture her emotionlike his or emotions by what theyre typing, just because I know them. But if I didnt know them well than I [sic] probably wouldnt be able to tell, like their emotions. (Felicia) Expressing anger, happiness, sadness, and other emotions can therefore be hard to do on Facebook. The best way to imitate these kinds of reactions is through caricature-type faces that are popular in the online world. You cant really show that youre pissed off or whatever except [by] making happy faces or whatever, says Perry in a moment of laughter. Otherwise, People cant hear the emotion in your voice so, like, you can say something and theyll just play it in their head however they see fit, says Rebecca.
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Matching a persons tone, words, and body language can be a difficult task when communicating through Facebook. Casey has run into problems with friends because: Sometimes you think that theyre um, giving you an attitude or causin g you trouble, or just trying to be a pain so when you see them in person you dont really want to talk to them maybe it can be kind of different cuz you could have seen how each other could react to the comment and then you could probably change your attitude towards it and try to make it better. Through Facebook you cant really do that cuz youre not next to them, you cant really change it. The inability to correctly interpret the meaning of what is being communicated can therefore have damaging effects on relationships and communities as a whole. The misapprehension of information that occurs through the Facebook medium extends onto the real world once individuals in the offline must clarify its meaning to other members of the community. Some of Jessicas friends misinterpret comments that she makes through Facebook when: I may be listening to a song and I may like a quote from it it will have nothing to do with my life whatsoever, but I just really like the quote. Ill put there, and then Ill get like fifteen messages asking are you OK? Whats going on!? The lack of emotion behind the words she uploaded caused others to misinterpret the meaning by which she meant them. Jeffery experiences a similar problem, which can often lead to bouts of confusion and uncertainty: I think the same text read by three different people will be interpreted in three different ways and thats been a problem for me being an over thinker constantly trying to guess how the other person interprets it or even specifically tailoring it so it so it wont be misinterpreted. Sometimes the benefits that come along with communicating on Facebook are overtaken by the difficulty it is to express oneself in a way that can be uniformly understood. Sometimes the misunderstanding of words can lead to bigger problems. This happened to George when he terminated his relationship with his girlfriend but still
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remained friends with her on Facebook. Before realizing that it was a simple misinterpretation: It felt like she was trying to punish me for us breaking up by posting all these fun things with our mutual friends, rather than giving them a call. I felt like she could just give them a call and sayhey, lets go to this bar on Thursday. She would publicly say to all my friends, a group message or whateverlike, on our wallhey everyone, lets go outbut I wouldnt be on that. I felt really excluded. Despite the confusion, the preceding comments not only created further problems between George and his ex-girlfriend, but also generated acrimony between the communities of friends that were involved in those messages. AN ACT OF FACEWORK One of the ways in which individuals may try to mitigate impassive communication and misinterpretation is by posting an excess of information about themselves; members of Facebook also do this in order to establish an online identity that can be representative of their real life persona. When asked how he thinks Facebook is a representation of identity, Carlos said, To me Facebook actually represents who you are. So I try to keep my Facebook page as I would represent myself in personand thats what you should do. However, not all of the participants think this actually occurs. Much of the personal information shared on Facebook is manipulated to show only the best aspects of an individual, a phenomenon best explained through Goffmans (1955) Face-Work Theory (in Lemert 2010). When asked how this type of front stage act might occur in the Facebook community, Brittany said that everything that people put on Facebook is very planned and they know what they want people to see and what they dont. Everything on Facebook is premeditated giving individuals the time to express

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themselves in a way they see most appropriate. Rebecca agreed with the above comment when asked how people might manipulate their selves through Facebook: People only want you to see what they want you to see. Like they dontI dont think anybody really shows like their absolute true self on Facebook. You know, between all of like, the statuses and you know, all the different ways you can alter pictures and stuff like that, likeno one just puts up any old thing on Facebook without actually thinking about it, and thinking about the kind of response you want to get back from it. Essentially, these individuals are maintain[ing] face when the line he effectively takes presents an image of him that is internally consistent [and] that is supported by judgments and evidence conveyed by other participants (Goffman 1955 in Lemert 2010:339). Some of the participants interviewed admitted to taking part in different facets of the Face-Work paradigm. Jessica, for example, admits to partaking in a more direct form of Facework: My Facebook picture is one that my friend took of me I obviously dont look like that everyday in real life because you know, my make up was really done my hair was really done so of course, people are already getting a false perception of me that Im like this dressed up doll up person all the time. Other participants said they presented themselves no different then they would in the offline. When asked how accurately he presents himself on Facebook, Jeffery said, I try to present my Facebook as a well rounded personso I do have pictures of me in shirt and tie, and uh bathing suits and uh everywhere in between. Despite his attempt to diversify his Facebook with a variety of identities, Jeffery is nonetheless acting on a front stage for a multitude of audiences. The ease by which information is spread on Facebook allows individuals to adopt an identity for themselves that can transcend borders far beyond the online world. Members of the Facebook community create identities that are not replicable anywhere

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else. When asked about her experience dealing with this issue, Linda said, Its like people try to reinvent themselves to look a certain kind of way on Facebook people try to make themselves look more interesting than they are, I think. The representations you see on Facebook may therefore be far from the truth. According to the participants, rarely do people on Facebook post negatively about themselves. Rebecca remarked: Things are never as awesome as they seem, or as terrible as they seem on Facebook, because people embellish. They want to make their lives seem like so incredibly fabulous, but theyre not nearly as fabulous as you make them out to see cuz theyre only gonna show you the best of whats happening. Theyre just only posting the fabulous parts of their life and theyre just not posting the crappy parts. Goffman (1955) argued that much of the activity that occurs in human interaction is geared to avoid being perceived in a negative light (in Lemert 2010). Individuals on Facebook will thereby only show particular parts of their lives that will elicit the positive response they seek. Casey sees this all the time with some of her friends on Facebook: Some peoplethey wont have anything up for a while and then all of the sudden they have a lot of pictures but like, that was only 3 or 4 hours of their life and they just took like 300 pictures and made it look like it was a great time, but those are only capturing a couple moments. The few moments that are captured is enough for the outside audience to make a judgment based on the limited information they are able to see. Ultimately, anything that is shared on Facebook is thereby thoroughly screened for potential flaws. In contrast to the more spontaneous, off the cuff representation of the self in the real world, Facebook allows all of its members to present themselves just as they would like to be presented. TRADING FACEWORK FOR DISCLOSURE Sharing too much information can also lead to serious issues dealing with privacy. The intrinsic sociality of the self influences us to seek information about people, places

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and things that we may not already have; the Facebook community is a perfect place to satisfy this desire. When Im talking to someone and I see all these pictures that this person is putting up and all these comments, and I have no idea who they are, well now I wanna know who they are because Ive never heard of them; I feel like I should have heard of them. So I will click on them, see likeoh, lets see where theyre from, what do they do, maybe how does my friend know this person. (Casey) The ability to interconnect with this network of friends and friends of friends is the kind of environment that Facebook embraces. Additionally, for a group structure that partakes in the kind of exchange that Facebook embraces, Homans (1958) argues that For a person engaged in exchange, what he gives may be a cost to him, just as what he gets may be a reward (606). The reward Casey feels she is getting from this access may be enough to influence her to expose more of her own self. However, when members of the Facebook community are not careful information about the self can land in unknowing hands. Jeffery has found himself on the wrong end of this situation and explains how: If they dont have their privacy settings right you can go through their whole life and after an hour you find yourself looking at pictures of them from ten years ago in some way its like them showing you their albums that theyve clearly wanted to share or they wouldnt be there in the first place. On the other sense you dont know theyre looking at it, so its a double-edged sword. Mitigating who can see certain aspects of your information can be confusing and time consuming. Most of the participants interviewed for this study said they either didnt know how to change their privacy settings or it was too complicated to do so. Instead, some members in the Facebook community rather limit the kind of information they

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share in order to avoid putting themselves at a risk for a privacy breach. When asked how she balances her social life on Facebook with risk of privacy, Rebecca says: I will be really careful about pictures that get posted of me or things that I could be doing in a picture. I try and be careful and mindful of what can be put on there, cuz you know its there forever and anybody can see it. It seems that regardless of the Face one puts into their online identity they still worry about how their information can be compromised and used negatively against them. Nevertheless, manipulating ones identity in order to solicit particular responses can often backfire. Much like in the real world societal audiences will make judgments based on what they see on Facebook. Depending on the intended audience, certain acts may seem denigrating to the character of an individual. Rebecca experiences this all time when: Sometimes people [sic] post things that make them look worse than what they really are, or only make you see like one side of somebody. I have one friend who all that they post are pictures of them hammered at the bar like every single night. While these types of shared information may be acceptable to an audience relative to her/his friendship circle, they may not be as receptive to more professional audiences, such as an employer. The amalgam of social networks that have crossed paths on Facebook is partly at fault for this conflict of interest. Participants that were interviewed were variably conscious of the risks that sharing certain kinds of information may bring along with it, particularly with superiors. Britanny discussed her concern with the amount of information she has shared on Facebook: When I start looking for a real job I think I need to do something about my Facebook cuz there are pictures of me, like drinking there is a lot of stuff online that I dont necessarily want some people to seebut other

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people I dontcould care less about. But like a future employer or even some of my family members, like I dont need them seeing some of the stuff thats up there. The problem that Brittany fails to realize is one that Troy is avidly aware of. Those pictures stay on Facebook forever, he says. And I dont think that somebody is going to want to employ you if youre in the club like, blowing up, by like drinking beers. In fact, once information has been shared through the online medium it becomes a digital footprint of the self. As George elucidates about his own use on Facebook: I wouldnt post pictures of me doing anything negative or anything really outright negative people can use [that] against you and see what youre about. Youre on stage, not everyone is watching you all the time, but at any point they can historically look up what youve done on stage, since you had an account. Likeits recorded history of what you did and how you are. The fear of repercussions for posting certain aspects of oneself leaves many on Facebook wary about what they should or shouldnt share. One of the biggest problems with this paradigm is that members of Facebook dont always have complete control over the information that gets shared. Brittany mentioned how people will put up stuff likecheck me into places that like I didnt necessarily want to be seen at or people to know that Im thereand pictures like that. Because Brittany doesnt have control over what others post, she can sometimes land herself in a dilemma about what she did not want others to see. Casey feels very similar about this problem: I dont want any pictures of me having any alcoholic beverages in my hand or anything like that, and my friends will put up pictures, and then Ill get mad and Ill have to untag myself. But that picture is up on my friends Facebook, and thats of me. So, I dont really like thattheres nothing I can really do about that, and like thats when it can come in, and kind of bite you.

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In the digital age you dont have much control about what gets shared about you all the time; its a risk that members of Facebook must take in order to continue sharing their lives with the rest of the Facebook community. Even with privacy settings set up it can still be hard to have complete control of ones own information. This is one of Rebeccas biggest qualms with the website even though it is something she must learn to deal with: I hate that I cant control a lot of my privacy settings. And I hate that if I tag someone in a picture or a post then all of their friends can have access to itI dont like that at all. Like, I only want people that I want to be able to see the things that I post on Facebook, and I dont like knowing that it could be out there for anybody else to see. Until the privacy settings become more stringent on what others can and cannot see, members of Facebook like Casey and Rebecca will only be able to partially control what the rest of the community can see about them. Until more safeguards are in place, the participants in this study discussed how it is up to the users themselves to decide how to mitigate their privacy on Facebook. Carlos believes You have all the settings in your fingertips to limit the information a user wants to share on Facebook. Jeffery thinks Facebook is just a tool and I think the problem is umwith the peoplebecause uh it can be used appropriately or it can be used inappropriatelyjust like a hammer or a firearm or anything else. Its up to that individual to know how much he wants to expose or she wants to expose, added Carlos. Its not like Facebook is controlling youyoure controlling what youre posting on there and its up to you what youre going to post. Whatever the answer is, it is apparent that privacy concerns have arisen as a result of Facebook use. A better understanding in how Facebook is used and the experiences that it elicits will be

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necessary to work out all of the problems that these twelve participants have talked about in this study. SUMMARY Based on the findings of this research it is plausible to conclude that interactions between weak and distant relationships through Facebook enhance individual and communal ties. This conclusion was primarily grounded on Castells Social Network theory, which explains how the composition of interconnected nodes (people) within a single network shortens the spatial limitations by which they are able to interact with one another. The convenience and efficiency of communication within the Facebook community allows its members to conduce a complexity of interactions that may not have otherwise occurred. Members of the Facebook community use this innovative medium to interact with one another when other means of communication are difficult or impossible. Irrelevant of distance or time, members are able to sustain their relationships through short and informal methods of interaction. Not only does this increase the overall flow of information between contacts, but it also helps to sustain relationships that do not frequently interact in more formal face-to-face settings. Furthermore, the absence of time and space permits its members to interact with one another at their own convenience without extensive limitations. Because the information shared on Facebook is centrally organizedin one networkand available at any time of the day, members are not limited to when and where they can interact with other members of their community. No matter who they are, or where they are from, Facebook connects people across streets, states, and even oceans. This convenience is ultimately beneficial to friends and family who stay up to date on the lives of their closest

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relationships from a distance. It also helps reconnect those individuals who have lost contact over time and would like to re-establish long-ago relationships. As the population of Facebooks community increases, the possibility to make connections with past and present acquaintanceson the basis of these featureswill only become greater. Nevertheless, results from this study finds that interactions through Facebook may not be favorable to all members of the community. Stronger-bonded relationships, or those that have the ability to make face-to-face contact, are often weakened through these online interactions. Individuals are less likely to meet in the offline world if they have the facility of interacting through the Facebook community. Furthermore, it is possible that the insipid kind of communication that occurs thru this medium may extend onto the offline world. The characterless and dull types of conversations that are found on Facebook are becoming increasingly common in face-to-face meetings. As a result, deterioration in the way humans communicate may be a detrimental consequence to the stability of communities and relationships. There is no doubt that the environment cultivated by Facebook on the basis of an open community encourages members to congregate in a single place where friends, experiences, and stories may be shared. Facebook allows more people to find and connect with each other based on mutual interests, thereby encouraging virtual groups and communities that would be less plausible in the real world. However, the extent to which these forms of communication are a benefit to stronger relationships is questionable. While individual relationships and communities are supported and reinforced through the vast amount of information that flows through this online medium, the same features that

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make communicating with weak relationships quick and easy is used by stronger relationships as a replacement to more personal communication. Furthermore, the degree of intimacy present in these online conversations lacks potency, which can have detrimental consequences on the strength of overall relationships. As this online mode of communication becomes more prevalent in society, it is feared that this lack of intimacy in communication will fully extend to the existential world. Employing Goffmans Facework model to the interactions experienced on Facebook further elucidates on the level of impersonality that occurs in this setting. Members of this social network construct identities that may not be truthful representations of themselves. The ability to limit what they want to share, at the time they want to share it, helps members of the Facebook community establish a persona that is to their own personal liking. It is duly noted that this phenomena is already present in the offline world; however, the features that make Facebook popular are those that propagate the propensity of being able to manipulate oneself in ways that are improbably possible outside of Facebook. Finally, as a result of the vast amounts of information that is readily available through Facebook, there is an increasing concern that the privacy of its members is at risk. While a majority of those interviewed were aware of the privacy concerns that plague the online network, few saw it as a deterrent to continue using it. Grounded partly on Homans Exchange Theory, this study found that users are willing to give up some of their own privacy in exchange for increased access to others. Nevertheless, members of the Facebook community are increasingly conscious of the information being shared. As Facebook turns more popular and becomes a more solidified identity of the self in the eye

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of society, members will need to be more cognizant of what they share and who they share it with. Based on the aforementioned analysis, it is thereby difficult to determine whether Facebooks increasing prevalence is ultimately supporting or hampering offline communities. As the results have shown, the Facebook community has created and supported relationships that may not have occurred otherwise; nevertheless, some relationships are being affected. The flow of information and convenience of communication that occurs on Facebook is like no other innovation seen in recent time. Because of its recent novelty, it will take more time, and further study, to make concrete determinations on the overall effects of Facebook on communities and relationships. For now, a definitive inference can be made that Facebook is changing the solidity of communities. A more detailed analysis of wider scope will be necessary in order to determine the extent to which the Facebook community is supporting or damaging communal relations in the offline world.

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