What does Facebook do?

In class we were asked to consider a social media platform and talk about what it does. I felt Facebook was an appropriate topic since most of us over the last 10 years have used it to some degree. Facebook aims to connect an individual to other Facebook users plus varying interests such as music, books, and movies. Commenting, liking, and sharing are currently the most standard interaction choices with posts, and the chat feature allows for document and photo sharing.

Some assume that Facebook profiles are created avatars that strive to show our lives in the highest regard while eliminating negative aspects of ourselves. Fernandez, Levinson and Rodebaugh (2012) conducted a study that explored the relationship between social anxiety and Facebook use. The hypothesis of the study predicted that social anxiety would be difficult to detect because it is a highly internal experience and is not easily detected in regular social interaction. The findings of the study revealed that objective observers could detect if a user was socially anxious based on a higher number of items listed in interests, books, and movies. The researchers attribute this finding to the probablility that socially anxious individuals spend more time on other activities instead of on social interaction, but also that in listing everything they enjoy or are involved in that something listed will strike a positive chord with another person and will view them more positively (Fernandez, Levinson & Rodeburgh, 2012).

So then what does Facebook do? It reveals more social cues than face to face interaction allows for and reveals more about the user than they’re really aware of. While some aspects of social media use are within our control, such as deciding what pages to follow and information to list, unchartered areas do exist that go beyond superficial information. This could be seen as a bad thing, like lack of privacy, but this could also be used for beneficial gains as well. By understanding the relationship between subtle social cues, intervention could be facilitated at crucial times which may have been otherwise overlooked. Data isn’t good or bad per se, it just is what it is…it’s what you do with it that takes it in to a realm of subjectivity.

Author: Amanda Wisniewski



Fernandez, K. C., Levinson, C. A., Rodebaugh, T. L., (2012).                Profiling: Predicting Social Anxiety From Facebook Profiles. Social Psychology and Personality Science. 3(6:) 706-713. DOI: 10.1177/1948550611434967


One thought on “What does Facebook do?

  1. You raise an interesting argument about Facebook showing more social cues than we are aware, however, I disagree with the argument of our Facebook profile showing more social cues than face to face interaction. Though researchers have found ways in which to correctly detect anxiety, it makes me wonder about the other factors at play. For example, Facebook allows for a much longer period of time for researchers to analyze users’ profiles as opposed to face to face conversations only allow for mere seconds to catch certain social cues. I wonder if a face to face interaction were to be transcribed, which includes social cues such as facial expression, body language, and so on, if a researcher would be able to get a sense of the many different signals the participants of the interaction are alluding to. Perhaps Facebook allows for certain types of interaction and subtle social cues to happen that we may not be aware of, but I think the difference of catching social cues is in the time-sensitive opportunity and method of analysis and not the interaction itself.


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