Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Social Network Sites 'reveal hidden messages'

RISK : Social Network Sites 'reveal hidden messages'

By staff writers

May 22, 2008


IF you're changing your Facebook status every five minutes there is a good chance the only thing people will notice is that you're an attention-seeking extrovert.

Social networking analyst Laurel Papworth says there are hidden messages behind the overt displays of self-promotion on websites like Facebook or MySpace.

Status updates can show if someone is an extrovert or fishing for sympathy, she claims.

"The extrovert, they are always going to be updating because the world revolves around them and one can assume that means the world needs to know how they are feeling from minute to minute," Ms Papworth told NEWS.com.au.

"There's a lot of passive-aggressive behaviour in social networks and some interesting statuses — I'm mad at my boss, I'm mad at my mum, my teacher.

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"We're expecting our good friends to come and commiserate and give presents on our page or leave comments on our page presumably in support of our emotional state."

Conor Woods, a 32-year-old executive and Facebook fan, said he sometimes catches himself thinking in short, descriptive phrases for his next status update.

He said his updates were mostly attempts at humour but knew others who were trying to carve out a better image online than they enjoy in reality.

"We live in a time where everybody is really conscious of branding and advertising and everyone is really media literate… (people) know how to shape their identity online to give the best image of themselves," Mr Woods said.

Ms Papworth claims people who think in terms of visuals will update their photographs more often because that is what appeals to them.

But Mr Woods has his own ideas on this.

"I don't like it when people use a photo that's not them, using something like a rock star. It seems to me like they're hiding away, like they don't want to face who they are," he said.

"The ones where you see couples, just in case you didn't see in the relationship status that they're in a relationship with that person, that's the person they have their arms around. Now I get it, it's too much."

And if that relationship breaks down then a "no longer in a relationship" update lets your friends, and sometimes your ex, know right away.

"I know one girl who found out her boyfriend had broken up with her because he changed his Facebook status update," Ms Papworth said.

"She rang him and said 'You've changed the update, what's happened?' And he said 'Can't you guess?'

"Every generation guys find a way of copping out of doing the right thing, using different communication tools, and women do as well. This is just the newest way of breaking hearts."

Ms Papworth claims for all the possibilities of public humiliation and secrets revealed, people will continue to use the sites as they provide a sense of community.

"We're reaching out to people we can connect with online and have them show that they care and we care about them," she said.

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