Cyberculting

A blog about Cyberculture and ICTs.

Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

You sexy thing

Posted by candacewhitehead on August 19, 2008

For some people, picking a profile picture is an art. I have a friend who goes through literally hundreds of photographs of himself going “Hmm, the light’s not right on this one,” or “I wish this had been shot at a different angle” or “Oh wow, look at how the shadows fall in this photograph – I really like the composition, though I wish the branch of the tree was just a little lower, it would just balance out the whole photograph”.

A self-proclaimed social media addict, “Ms Herr” claims that one’s avatar is “a tool, an iconographic representation of self, serving to frame perceptions of their unique identity”. Ultimately, your profile picture becomes a logo to the brand that is you, and every aspect of that photograph (or cartoon, or lolcat image or whatever) says something about yourself. I, for one, am infuriated by people putting up images not of themselves. People who put up silly cartoons of Homer Simpson or the South Park characters grate my carrot – and I won’t even get started on people putting up photographs of fashion models. YOU DO NOT LOOK LIKE THAT. Most likely.

I found this little gem which had me laughing out loud (and all the people in the computer labs started looking at me funny). One blogger looked at what your avatar says about you – and it’s nothing if not hilariously entertaining.

Online, you get one image to represent all the glamour that is you – just one. So why waste it on an image stolen off Google? There’s a lot of interesting writing – not all of it academic – looking at “avatar psychology” – which includes real photos of you, and things like Second Life avatars. Obviously everybody has a different theory, but Digital Natives claims that teenagers are happier with their carefully constructed avatars of themselves (on SL etc) than they are with actual photographs of themselves. For the first time, you have ultimate control of how the world views you. And as a teenager, as we all know, what the world thinks is everything.

A lot of employers now look at your Facebook profile –  which in itself is a whole other can of worms – and a profile picture of you licking chocolate off someone or chugging down a bottle of tequila is not going to earn you any brownie points. As I wrote in my last post – first impressions are everything, even online.

You need to think about what you want to achieve with your avatar. Putting up a photograph of you and your boyfriend in bed in your underwear because you think it’s cute is fine, but when it comes time to go on the job hunt or it comes time for performance reviews, maybe change it to something a little more sophisticated.

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The little things give you away

Posted by candacewhitehead on August 18, 2008

In Real Life (IRL) you are able to create a first impression in a number of ways. You market yourself in whichever way you choose to, with an almost unlimited range of options.

Your Gucci handbag and snappy, bad-tempered little dog screams “poppie” – plastic, Barbie-doll. Rocking up on your first day of work at a law firm wearing flip-flops and smelling like rum might see you out on the kerb. Everything from the scent that you wear to the timbre of your voice helps to create an overall impression which can win you a date or lose you a job.

Online, the ways in which you can create a first impression are severely limited. For the majority of chat sites, forums, and Instant Messengers you are limited to a nickname, a limited “About Me” section and an avatar. And in a world where first impressions are everything, these are all you have to go on.

Logging on to an online chat room aimed at “free-minded individuals” contained a character called “Horny_male_69”. Classy. I picture some sleazy, creepy guy hanging at his computer waiting for the most desperate female in the room to latch on to him, and logged off. The next chat room contained someone called “nuttygirl”, another person called “jacobzuma” (I hope our ANC president isn’t trying to pick up chicks online on while his corruption trial looms over his head) and yet another person called “angeljelly”. (Seriously, “angeljelly?”).

Each of these nicknames conjure up a particular image in our minds – and accompanied with this comes the all-important avatar.

And then there is the all important “About Me” section. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, on the majority of Forums I’ve visited, on dating sites and some chat rooms. I’ve taken profiles from an online dating site, and will examine them, for interest’s sake.

wotsup my name’s nic and i love supermoto.i love going 4 jol wid da boys and jus having an awsum time all the time.yeah,i live in south africa and no we dont go 2 school on a frigging elephant u dumbass.

Wotsup? Wid? What is that? Awsum? Oooh he’s a South African, that’s nice. “And no we don’t go 2 school on a frigging elephant u dumbass”?! Way to make a “frigging” impression, mate. Call me stupid, cause that makes me feel sexy. Gar. Learn some spelling and grammar, moron.

I’m a combat veteran in the U.S. Army. Soon to be a civilian again. I enjoy reading and writing poetry. I’m an amateur magician and will be going pro once i’m out of the army. I’m from Oklahoma but will be moving to Paris, France in about 5 months.

Reading between the lines here (and read it as a woman): combat veteran – possibly slightly broken, will need fixing. We love fixing things. Enjoy reading and writing poetry – wow, sensitive. Amateur magician? He loves children! And Paris? I’m sold. Will you marry me?

Which one would you most likely send a message to? (And ignore my biased little assessments of each) My point is that online, bad grammar and bad spelling can be as much of a deterrent as body odour or bad teeth. Language is one of the prime methods through which we can identify ourselves, but it’s one thing to say something stupid, and quite another to have it recorded for leagues of mean bloggers to criticise.

I mentioned one’s avatar as being one of the most important means of identifying one’s self, and ultimately a logo to your personal brand, but I think I shall leave that discussion to my next post.

And in the meantime, I think I’m going to change my forum nickname. I think I’ve grown out of mine.

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I love myself

Posted by candacewhitehead on July 24, 2008

Yes, I know it’s late, and I’ve been a very bad blogger. But I have returned from my hiatus, and am back!

 

In our lecture today, our lecturer used the term “digital narcissism”, which has become a huge part of not only cyberculture, but day-to-day culture too.

 

I have a Facebook page, a MySpace page and a Twitter account, just for starters. Three things that are all about me. Photos of me, notes written by me, what I did for the weekend, what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling. All about ME. Not you, not Paris Hilton or Brangelina. My friends can write on my wall about how great I am (I delete the posts that say I’m a loser or whatever), they can all rave about something cool that we did together. I’m a celebrity.

 

YouTube’s slogan is “Broadcast Yourself”, as Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur” points out. And, as he writes, the new thing on YouTube is people broadcasting themselves watching other people on YouTube broadcasting themselves and… well, it’s potentially endless, really. And not very exciting.

 

Think about the abundance of people with webcams, who stream their daily activities (pornographic or otherwise) twenty four hours a day. I’ve never been one for watching somebody paint their toenails, but people do. Voyeuristic types feed other people’s narcissism.

 

Keen, it appears, has decided that the mere idea that anyone can change the face of media by publishing their thoughts is destroying our culture. According an article published on the Guardian.co.uk, Enough!, Keen feels that we don’t need the opinions of the majority of the people online, and that it destroys the credibility and the professionalism of journalism and the media. Ironically, of course, he writes this on his blog.  

 

He does, however, have a good point: people would rather broadcast themselves rather than listen to what other people have to say. I do not think this is restricted to digital narcissism, however. Many people are like that – listen to yourself speaking in conversation and see how many instances there are a day where you change the subject or try to interrupt to make yourself heard. It’s human nature.

 

However, in a world where people Google themselves to see what’s been written about them, and where over 90 million people have a Facebook page as effectively shrines to themselves, it’s a lot easier, and a lot more acceptable, to be a lot more narcissistic.

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Addicted

Posted by candacewhitehead on May 26, 2008

I’m addicted to a number of things – my cellphone, being the main one – but according to the Internet Addiction Test, I’m not addicted to the Internet – yet.

 

What started out as a hoax has become a chilling reality – although according to psychologist John M Grohol it is not a recognised disorder. However, more and more psychologists are being trained to identify and deal with Internet addiction.

 

Internet addiction can basically be defined as a compulsive disorder, which, like any other addiction, has a massive impact on the individual’s work and personal life. The Internet takes preference over other friends, family and colleagues – and without their daily “fix”, addicts experience withdrawal, which may include tremors and anxiety. Some patients even report suffering nervous breakdowns when they can’t go online.

 

Internet addiction can be further subcategorised into addiction to online gaming, porn, cybersex, compulsive surfing and eBay addiction. These have real effects on people, and Internet sites (oh the irony) have been set up to provide information for sufferers, attorneys and psychologists.  

 

Most psychologists do not recognise Internet addiction as a real problem yet. An article by psychologist John M Grohol written in 1999 and revised in 2005 – “The Internet Addiction Guide” claims that Internet addiction can be relegated into the same categories as watching too much TV or reading too many books – basically, too much escapism as a result of depression or other psychological disorders.

 

While I can see the merit in this argument, I disagree – I have seen people become physically addicted to chat sites, forums and even Facebook. These people sit on the Internet until all hours of the night, too scared to move from their desk in case something happens online and they miss it. They begin to neglect their friends, their family and even their professional life – an effect something like alcoholism might have. How then can this not be seen as a real disorder?

 

Like many other addictions, it seems that young people (children and teenagers) are most at risk of developing an addiction. Adolescents who are socially awkward are most at risk, which is logical to me. It is much easier to spend all your time online, most likely being someone else, than it is to deal with the “real world” – and I addressed something similar to this in my first blog post. But where to draw the line, and how to treat it?

 

Clearly it is impractical to go cold turkey and ban the use of the Internet entirely. The majority of the professional world makes use of the Internet for communication and research, so to say to your boss “I’m sorry, because of my Internet addiction I’m not allowed to use the Internet, could you rather get Jones to do it?” might lose you your job. Dr Kimberley Young, who maintains www.netaddiction.com suggests that like an eating disorder, the key to beating Internet addiction is to develop a healthy pattern of consumption. She also suggests treatment either as an inpatient or an outpatient – and counselling for you and your family should be arranged. Self-help groups may also be beneficial.

 

Next time you see that the same person has been on Facebook from when you signed in at nine in the morning to when you check your last inbox message at four am, don’t be so quick to write them off as being a loser. They are potentially suffering from addiction – as you might be. Hey, it’s not just me that compulsively checks their e-mail twenty times a day.

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