To keep this confidential, I will be using pseudonyms rather than real names. A friend of mine, Brian, is in the army. He has been deployed in the past eighteen months. In the beginning of the relationship he was in South Korea. A girl he had known in high school found him on Facebook and they began talking again. They decided to begin flirting and eventually “talking”. About nine months later they started an actual relationship, all of this through Facebook. Three months in to the online relationship she sent him a message through Facebook that said, “I’m so sorry for the message you are about to read, I couldn’t skype you because it would be too hard. I really thought we could make this work, but it’s just so hard. It’s hard to not be able to snapchat you, or see your face constantly. The long- distance thing is not for me., maybe when you get back we could try again I love you.” Brian was heartbroken after this message. He wasn’t heartbroken because of the girl, he was heartbroken because it was through a Facebook message. Situations like this happen every day, not just with the military, but with everyone. There are many people who begin a relationship or end a relationship through a social media. I asked several of my friends and families about their past and current relationships. Many of their relationships were primarily through Facebook, but a few started through Facebook and transitioned in to snapchat. Throughout this blog post, I will share a few of their stories and explain how relationships start and happen through Facebook. In order to understand how relationships are formed and ended through Facebook, it is important to understand what Facebook is, modern day relationships, and the ideologies of Facebook.
What is Facebook?
Facebook started as a social network at Harvard and expanded to other colleges. Since then, it’s opened up to anyone and everyone, allowing people to connect with old school mates, family overseas and more. Facebook is mainly used to connect with people, however is often used as a dating site. (Duermyer, 2016)
Facebook was originally only for college students. It was used for them to connect with each other. As it progressed it became a way for older generations to connect with their old friends and family. The media ideology about Facebook has drastically shifted over the years. In the beginning only college students were able to use it, therefore the older generations looked down on it and didn’t use it. For the past few years Facebook is looked at as an “outdated” social media. This is due to the making of new social medias such as Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. In my personal interviews, I found that teenagers and young adults still use Facebook, but only to appease their family members, stay in touch with friends that don’t have cellphones, or to find relationships.
Idioms of Practice
Idioms of practice is basically the way that people agree on the “appropriate” uses of technology in a social aspect (Media Ideologies, 2011). I think the best way to explain the idioms of practice as it pertains to Facebook is through a story. I will refer to them Benjamin and Kayla. Benjamin and Kayla were both good friends of mine. About six months in to their relationship they decided to deactivate their Facebook accounts and get a “joint Facebook” so that they could monitor each other’s messages and such. A little background information, the reason they originally created the new page is that Benjamin had been liking other girls’ photos. And there was one girl in particular that was continuously liking his photos. So Kayla was worried about it. About two months later while browsing through Facebook Kayla saw that Benjamin had created a new Facebook without telling her. She broke up with him the next day. When I asked her why, she said “everyone knows that when a guy isn’t friends with his girlfriend on Facebook, he’s cheating on her.” I later talked to Benjamin about the situation and he let me on his “new” Facebook. Only to discover that the Facebook page was being used for a class project. Kayla never gave him time to explain that, she just immediately assumed this because of the idioms of practice we have about being friends with your significant other on Facebook. Another Idiom of Practice as it pertains to Facebook is the idea that a relationship has to be “Facebook Official” in order for it to be legitimate. Personally, I didn’t know that this was a thing until my sister’s friend told me about it. Bailey is fourteen and recently got her first boyfriend. They got into a fight about not being Facebook official. He wanted to keep their relationship off Facebook to avoid drama. He is the quiet type that doesn’t like people knowing his business. However, Bailey is not. She got really mad at him and told him that if it wasn’t on Facebook that meant they weren’t really dating. To me this sounded absurd, so I talked to my sister about it. She also confirmed that younger generations believe it must be “Facebook Official” in order for the relationship to mean anything. Bailey’s boyfriend protested and told her he was not putting it on Facebook because that shouldn’t define their relationship. Bailey decided that if he wouldn’t make it official on Facebook that meant he didn’t really like her and decided to end things. However, her boyfriend decided to appease her and make it Facebook Official because he didn’t want to lose her. The ideology of the younger generation has shifted. Facebook relationship statuses has become the official way to prove you are dating.
Structure of the Medium
According to Ilana Gershon, Media Ideologies are a “set of beliefs about communicative technologies with which users and designers explain perceived media structure and meaning” (Gershon 3). Facebook is structured into a couple different parts. There is a timeline in which you can post statuses as well as view your friend’s status updates. Along with posting statuses you can post pictures and even share others’ posts. There is a new Facebook feature called “Facebook Live:” in which people can live stream whatever they are doing to all their friends on Facebook. On other people’s posts there is the ability to have a public conversation through the comments. There is also the option to react to other people’s postings. The newest Facebook update allows you to like, love, wow, sad, or angry react to people’s posts. Each person has their own profile page. This is where people go to view your pictures, statuses, and learn about you. You can update your profile picture and cover photo to whatever you want. On your profile you have the ability to put an “In a relationship” status. There are many types of relationship status. But the most common three are “In a relationship, It’s complicated, and Single.” The last part that Facebook is broken up in to is the private messaging. In private messaging, you can message any of your friends, as well as some people who are not, and have a private conversation with them.
”This idea means that the way people use new technology is affected by the technologies they are already familiar with” (Media Ideologies, 2011). Due to Facebook being one of the first social medias it isn’t generally compared to anything, it is usually used as a comparison of other social medias. In regards to relationships, they created other social medias to do the things Facebook did not. For instance, Snapchat was made in order to quickly and privately send pictures and they delete, therefore no one else could ever see them. Tinder was created in order to provide a quicker method of dating. It provided a service that Facebook did not. Tinder automatically matches you to people of similar locations and only allows you to talk to people interested in you. It makes it a lot easier than finding a relationship through Facebook.
Second order information “refers to the information that can guide you into understanding how particular words and statements should be interpreted” (Gershon, 2010, p. 18). Facebook secondary information is not so much what is said, but actions. For instance, my older sister lost a friend over a situation. Apparently, a guy had been “loving” and “wowing” her photos. My sister noticed that her husband was never in the loved photos. My sister had asked me if “loving” and “wowing” photos and statuses could be used as flirting. I told her that if the guy was loving selfies, then yes, he probably is trying to flirt. Rather than investigating my sister flipped out and yelled at the guy when she saw him at work. It turned out that he actually wasn’t trying to flirt with her, he was in a relationship. He simply thought they were good friends and he didn’t think it was inappropriate at all. Because of this she lost a good friend and coworker. She apologized to him, but things just never went back to normal.
On social media, the public is anyone who can see your posts. Most commonly the public of Facebook is a person’s friends. Facebook has a privacy setting that makes it only accessible to your friends, but some people don’t care who sees their post. The public to people like that is literally anyone on Facebook. A lot of people, now-a-days, make their relationships public on Facebook for the world to see. There is a girl I know named Tiffany that always does this. She has a new boyfriend every few months. Every couple days she posts a status about how much she loves him and she can’t wait to spend forever with him. Then a few weeks later there are tons of breakup posts. And then it’s on to the next guy. Two of my friends just started dating a month ago. They began talking on Facebook after both commenting on my picture one day. They began talking and a couple weeks began dating. They had never met before dating. They finally met two weeks in to the relationship and proceeded to post pictures of them making out and hanging all over eachother. A month in to their relationship and they post a picture a day of each other, or together. They also post every conversation they have. The girl has a baby and they are always posting pictures of him and the baby together. The couple’s profiles are set to public so anyone in the world could see these posts and pictures. My friend Abby wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend due to her religion and parents. She met a guy that she fell in love with (they are still together). She was afraid to tell her parents so she blocked them on Facebook. She changed the public on her Facebook in order to be happy and do what she wanted. This is just three examples of the Facebook public.
Gershon, I. (2010). The breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over new media. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Media Ideologies. (2011, December 12). Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://w350digitalwriting.wikidot.com/media-ideologies
Reagle, J. (2014). Making Sense of Concepts. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://reagle.org/joseph/zwiki/Teaching/Best_Practices/Learning/Making_Sense_of_Concepts.html