Unfriended and Unfollowed – How social networking has changed relationship management

facebook

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

by Anastasia Maillot

Social networking has been the center of controversial discussions and criticism since the concept was born. In her review of Facebook, titled “Face Value”, Mary L. Gray mentions that Facebook users will create bonds on a very loose basis, such as one common interest, and will therefore assume they know the person well enough to “Friend” them. This brings up another rather problematic aspect of Facebook: defriending. Or, when talking about Twitter, unfollowing. This concept has, in my opinion, changed how people, especially younger generations, manage their relationships.

Since the birth of social networking, getting in touch with people has obviously become much easier. A Facebook user has nearly unlimited access to other profiles that can be friended or defriended. Creating ties with extended family or friends or even strangers around the globe has never been this simple. The frightening part is that cutting bonds with those you never want to be involved with again is also much easier. In fact, it is perhaps the most powerful and feared tool in social networking, as it provides no explanation to why you decided to unfriend or unfollow someone. The fact that it’s quick, easy, simple and doesn’t require you to come face to face with the person erases any guilt that might come along. It is also fundamentally different from deleting a person’s phone number, because some social networking sites will notify the user if someone decides to unfollow them. In short, it is a virtual slap on a person’s face, a wordless message that expresses disapproval or rejection.

Moreover, social networking and Internet in general tremendously helps us forget that on the other side of the computer screen is another human being just like us. In other words, Facebook helps us reduce one person into a name written on our computer screen, a pixel object that can be deleted at any time we wish. It is tempting to forget that each day we are dealing with real people, because it makes defriending morally much more acceptable.  But we forget far too often that the Internet is not a separate world, as Barry Wellman states in “Connecting Communities: Off and Online”, but is tightly connected with our real lives and the people around us and can greatly affect our future and our relationships. Whatever happens online will definitely have an impact on our daily lives outside social networks.

At the same time, as we are encouraged to forget we are dealing with real humans, we are also seduced by Facebook into thinking we have solved whatever problem we were having by deleting a friend. We refuse to look deeper inside and think about the real issue in a relationship, because it is too much hassle and requires too much of our energy. Hence, we are not providing other human beings the respect, devotion and honesty they deserve, that we would most likely give them should we communicate with them face to face. These days, however, hectic everyday lives have caused us to forget the importance of true communication in a relationship and has turned it into a “chore” that Facebook helps us take care of, either by ignoring, blocking or unfriending.

The 21st century has brought about many new interesting inventions. Information, friends, family and co-workers are closer than ever to us thanks to social networking. While the positive aspects have been tremendous, it can’t be ignored that the quickness and simplicity of Internet and Facebook have caused us to grow passive and impatient with our relationship management. Relationships are cut off and created on a whim without further thinking and consideration of what we are really doing, undermining the very meaning of friendship and family that once existed. This development is both frightening and alarming and it remains for us to see whether we can preserve our respect for other humans an our relationships even with the increasing development of social networks.

Advertisements

Bigakuseizukan – Who Are the Beautiful Students?

by Lilia Yamakawa

A friend asked me to go with her to a party sponsored by a website called Bigakuseizukan, Picture Book of Beautiful Students. Both the photographers and the “beautiful” students they photograph are students from Japanese universities. Since have been talking about people’s concepts of “beauty” in our Race & Ethnicity class, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do fieldwork and see what this group considers attractive, what the trends are, why students agree to be posted on the website, and why this website is popular.

In class, we discussed what beauty is and found that a majority considers one type of appearance as beauty. Like the contestants in the Miss Korea contest that we saw in class, I expected most of the students at the party to be similar: skinny chins, double eyelids, small noses. I thought there would be many people with the Japanese kawaii style, with the same brown hair, same length bangs, and wearing the fluffy white and pink cutie skirts.

It turned out not to be what I expected! Most of the people there had different styles: many different hair colors and styles, different facial characteristics, many different body types, with totally different styles of clothes. Kawaii wasn’t especially big. I was both disappointed and relieved by what I actually saw. I was in a way disappointed that I couldn’t see an expected trend with my own eyes, and also relieved to find that there were many kinds of beautiful students there.

I think this has something to do with the popularity of the Picture Book of Beautiful Students website. The models are students who might actually go to your school, and they all look different. When you look at their snapshots, you might feel that they are close to you and possible to reach. This sense of closeness would be hard to have if you are looking at a model of a magazine or on TV. Bigakuseizukan’s uniqueness is that it doesn’t show only one type of beauty considered as perfect. It really shows lots of different types of students.

Another question I had in mind was why do people say yes to being photographed and having pictures posted of them online? And why do they attend such a gathering? I had a chance to ask around yesterday. I got a lot of answers, but basically they fall into three categories. In the first category, there were many students who were running for beauty contests, such as Miss Ritsumeikan, Mr. Japan and Miss Universe. These types of people answered they did it to get their name out and remembered through the Bigakuseizukan. The second group said they tried it for their personal record and their future career. It will look good when applying for a job, which might have a lot to do with your appearance, such as newscasters and announcers. The third group was more vague, and they said there was no reason not to try it or that they just enjoyed modeling for fun. One girl said, “Well, everybody posts their selfies on Twitter and other sites like that, so why not post a better picture of yourself taken by a photographer with a real camera?”

One more thing I expected to find was that everyone would be outgoing. Instead, there seemed to be all sorts of types of personalities at the gathering, and some people seemed very quiet and reserved. I think you could probably say that they all had some sense of confidence in the way they look, though.

This fieldwork only lasted three hours, but if you were interested in finding out why people in a certain group are judged to be attractive, I think studying a group such as the Bigakuseizukan would be a good method. It would be necessary to find more things that the models have in common and to question both the beauties and the photographers in more detail.