Facebook as Fakebook, social media and the asymmetrical web

Social media, Facebook, Katie Roiphe, Chris Brogan, NORTHPhoto: Erin Schrode/NY Times

A recent article prodded me to write down some more thoughts about the pesky social web.. and I mean thoughts not constructs.

The article I'm referring to is, Language of Fakebook , written by Katie Roiphe who teaches at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. It's worth a read if you have an interest in the ways of how people use the social web.

Roiphe writes about how we "fictionalize" ourselves in Facebook.

So how does one fictionalize oneself in Facebook or in social media in general? For starters, Roiphe proposes that teenagers on Facebook are uber-ironic. In other words they speak in the common language of Facebook but they are very aware of how unoriginal they are being, so their OMG!!, lolz and EVERRRRRR's are simply to amp up the conversation. None of which is actually for REALZ, it's all satire. It appears that what teens provide on their walls for public consumption, are the original kernels of a truth warped and amped into a stylized fiction. They are not projecting self, they are continually reinventing their online personas.

She goes on to point out that "..adults are not necessarily less fictionalized, or more themselves, on Facebook; they are simply less natural, less conversant, less in their element, when they fictionalize. How many people do you know who are in the midst of some great existential or marital crisis, but whose Facebook page is all family photos from the south of France, or the Vineyard, or Bangkok, and charming things their children said?"

Her take is that "..it is no longer art imitating life, or life imitating art, but the two merging so completely, so inexorably that it would be impossible to disentangle one from the other, rather elegantly making the point that these media, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, all this doodling in the ether, involve wholesale inventions of self, not projections."

So one quick thought of mine is - what does all this mean for online sentiment and engagement tracking? If what Roiphe has found, if true, would surely result in a lot of false positives, no?

Something to ponder: If Facebook can be imagined as one extremely large ongoing work of fiction written by millions, wherein each writer is essentially creating their own online "brand," then established brands are going to have to really consider the depth and strength of the asymmetrical web.

My friend Justin Spohn often writes about brands and the asymmetrical web on his blog. Here's an extract from a recent post of his - Asymmetrical Brand Landscape.

"As the web has become more ubiquitous, the role it plays in our lives has only increased. As it increases, the ability of any brand to functionally, and successfully exist within it has also become critical. At the same time, because technology allows for more and more individuals to operate essentially as brands, the future will favor those organizations who understand the web as more than a technology, but as a complex and dynamic and ultimately asymmetrical social construct."

And Olivia Knight had a funny insight recently about brands and communities online “..in this age when ‘consumerism is the new religion’, no sane person sits down with friends in the pub discussing membership to recent sports, book or speed-dating clubs and proudly declares that they have become part of a new ‘washing machine community’ just because they bought a new fluff filter online and forgot to tick the box that said ‘please don’t contact me’.”

Perhaps not in the pub. But in a fictionalized Facebook post? Definitely, maybe..LOLZ!!!!

More thoughts about the social web here.