Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Art of Ironic Facebook Profiles

Danah Boyd's ethnographic study of Web 2.0 teen social networks reminded me of the evolution of Facebook profiles, particularly at Brown. I remember as a freshman, when Facebook was young and our profiles were simple and naive, the number of legitimately constructed profiles - actual attempts to list their creator's favorite movies, music, interests, etc - far outnumbered the few ironic attempts to mock the very essence of Facebook ("interests: you"). Yet as the technology matured, spread, grew more egalitarian, and lost some of its sheen, the balance flipped. Now, at Brown at least, it's a rare find to see someone's profile full of honest information. Instead, self-aware Brunonians stretch the protocol of Facebook to create themselves on the page, not through a listing of their favorite things, but through how they engage with the website itself. Someone who only fills in a favorite quote, or who doesn't have a picture, or who lists only one item for each box, says more about themselves than they would if they listed their full true interests.

My own ethnographic observations would be that this trend is less pronounced at other schools. Perhaps I'm being a little elitist here, but I suspect that Brown's heavily liberal arts focus has made its students far more ironically prescient about modern culture and their role in it. It seems students here have gotten less caught up in the Facebook craze - or at least, were caught up in it for less time - before we realized the larger social implications and started to play with them. Hey! Maybe that would make a good Facebook group....

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