Identification Online: Falsing Issue

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 27
Words: 7200
Reading time:
26 min
Study level: College

Information Technology (IT) is undoubtedly one of the fastest-growing technologies in the 21st century, connecting people who barely know each other from all parts of the world (BGSU pr. 1). Facebook for instance, has become very popular as a social networking site for all ages of people, all over the world. The internet, being part of IT, provides users around the world with the ability to interact and communicate with one another and expose users to unlimited opportunities. On the same note, Facebook has facilitated interaction of both familiar and strange people, through friendship requests. Not only is the internet a place for knowledge, but also it changes the dynamics of interpersonal communication. According to Vikanda Pornsakulvanich, approximately 60.7 percent of respondents in the study formed an online personal relationship with individuals whom they have met for the first time in an internet newsgroup (Utz pr.57). Nowadays, many popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or even Hi5 create an interactive setting for users to maintain relationships with other people across the globe. The social media users are be able to form networks as well as memberships, applied to enhance communication with recent friends’ undertakings. This is done for instance, through wall posting or commenting on a friend’s photo albums, e.g. during his/her summer vacation. This helps to reconnect with old friends from kindergarten or high school, and sometimes to create real life friendships through similar interests. Further, by creating crucial social interactions, users continue sharing their welfares with similar people through groups or forums. This could be about favorite music bands, movies, or hobbies. Many social networking sites offer additional features, like blogs or forums, so that members can express themselves by designing their profiles and add-ons to best reflect their personality. Users often enjoy choosing and designing their profile page with different types of backgrounds, embedding their favorite music, TV clips or even movie trailers onto their profile or a friend’s wall.

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The internet social networking sites have evolved to include several negative and positive effects on the users. The occurrence of online social networking became tremendously widespread after MySpace was launched. It progressed to involve not just the stereotypical teenage, aiming to develop their online friends network, but also with the addition of a blog feature, embedded music and much more. Primarily, it was the addition of profile pictures that caused the growth in popularity since users could display their different photos to lure strangers into their plans. Facebook came later and revolutionized the social life by modifying lifestyle, where different personalities have united, based on them information given on Facebook such as the kind of photos uploaded. Facebook contains the personal profile, which is compared to the heart and soul of social networking sites because it is likened to the users’ personal Internet sanctuary; a site in which they can air their opinions and emotions, upload photos as well as display a network of friends in order to effectively achieve their intentions towards strangers, which could be either positive or negative. As a result, lost individuals have re-united and strangers have turned to initiate a relationship. Conversely, it has led to social problems through negatively affecting relationships and accelerating social ills.

In order to collect this information, a fake Facebook account was created under the name of Joy Tanakiatkul to test and see how many users would accept this stranger as a friend. Joy joined a Thai University network and, like every other users, she would have her favorite hobbies, movies, music, and ideology to create a realistic identification and attract strangers to add her as a friend because of similar interests. Furthermore, Joy would upload photos of her life, work and friends, in order to create a realistic environment along with updating her personal status and interacting with strangers that added her as a friend. In order to analyze strangers’ personalities and their decisions on whether to add Joy as a friend, communication concepts such as impression management, FIRO theory, and interpersonal communication were be explored. Specifically, this paper seeks to examine and analyze the effects of different personalities on Facebook users’ decisions to accept a stranger’s friend request and to determine why those users decided to add that stranger.

Literature Review

Facebook is a social networking online site that has emerged as a strong tool to air social economic and political views, meant to share with one’s friends. To start with, it is necessary to know the history of how Facebook was invented since its historical route can help people to become aware of current undertakings and that it could alter and act on their behalf. Facebook was initially launched in February 2004 by a Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg along with his colleagues, particularly, his roomies as well as computer science learners (Carlson pr.1). Zuckerburg designed Facebook so that users could amass a list of friends whom they could keep up to date through texting, private profile updates, and commenting on the friends’ wall. Additionally, users could enroll in networks prearranged by the employers, and learning institutions. Interestingly, the “website’s name stems from the colloquial name of books given to students at the start of the academic year by university administrations in the U.S. with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better” (Netanyahu pr. 2). At first, the website’s participation was restricted by the initiators to only the Harvard students, although it was later extended to institutions of higher learning in the Ivy League, Boston region, as well as in Stanford University (Netanyahu pr. 3). Later on, it extended more to contain other students from colleges, high schools as well as incorporating teenagers over thirteen years of age. Now, there are more than 500 million active users worldwide, and in 2010, annual revenue was predicted to top $1.1 billion (Carlson pr.15). Zuckerberg aspired Facebook to be founded on sincerity and manifest their true selves so as to facilitate a good course rather than use it to enhance social ills.

Online social networking sites allow individuals to connect and communicate with people who they may or may not know. People can engage in online conversations with other individuals through random chat rooms or by accepting friend requests from other people. Various articles have concluded that many social networks like MySpace, Facebook or Friendster have emerged within the last few decades and that users have increasingly become aware of their self identity. In other words, the main themes of the articles collected are; first, the reason as to why people use Facebook and second, identity and self-presentation has become an important part of the self-concept conveyed through Facebook profile page. For instance, users spend a considerate amount of time choosing which picture they want to display to their friends as well as the future friend requests. Moreover, social networking websites are highly controlled environments that allow owners’ complete power over self-presentations, which mean that users could convey desirable information about themselves under “About me, Notes and Status updates” as well as selecting attractive, self-promoting photographs (‘Facebook’).

Jesse P. Mendez‘s journal article on To Friend or Not to Friend: Academic Interaction on Facebook, she claims that one of the reason as to why users join Facebook is because it is becoming the new tool that has influenced relationship development in the virtual environment. The need to connect with others has made Facebook more prevalent in the society since it allows people to post messages, search for friends/strangers, maintain relationships and provide personal information on their accounts (Mendez et al. pr.17). Since Facebook has influenced relationship development through academic interaction, it may in turn support the findings from Joy’s Facebook account on how relationships may flourish, through academic interaction between strangers from the same university network.

At the same time, Pavica Sheldon’s article on Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use, she surveyed 172 students at Louisiana State University to see what students’ motives are, for using Facebook. The study found that people go to Facebook to fulfill the needs, which were traditionally fulfilled by other media but “their interpersonal communication needs first, relationship maintenance” (Pavica 43). Furthermore, users enjoy the freedom received in which they could select any picture to represent whom they are to the public. The freedom to select their own photos does fulfill interpersonal and mediated needs. For example, users who select exotic and seducible photos tend to aim for short-term relationship (Pavica 51). These people may generally belong under the category to first, meet new people and second, to form new relationships. The social networking sites in the internet fulfill the traditional media role. For instance, for social interaction, to pass time, as a habit, for information and entertainment, as well as other needs such as meeting strangers (Pavica 39). With the use of Pavica’s categorization of different types of Facebook users, it is easier to categorize Joy’s friend list, their motives for using Facebook and adding Joy as a friend. In order to enquire on this information, Joy would have to interact with these strangers through inbox messaging, chatting or through wall-postings to determine the reason why she is added as a friend.

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In the majority of articles collected, most of Facebook users are identified as college students and modern young adults aged between 17-23 years old (Strano 2). Results from Tiffany A. Pempek’s book on College Students’ Social Networking Experiences on Facebook shows that most college students are signed-in to Facebook daily for at least 30 minutes. This is a part of their routine for social interaction, as a way to communicate with friends with whom the students had a pre-established relationship offline, to share homework, and to add new classmates or strangers that they believe to have seen around the campus (Pempek et al. 234). Since the average time spent on Facebook is at least 30 minutes, it is important to detect possible interactions between Joy and strangers, in order to find out why people use Facebook and the reasons as to why they added Joy as a friend.

Supporting Strano’s collected data, Pempek also states that majority of Facebook users are college students. She claims that students use Facebook as a way to maintain their connection of their social networks through friend requests, which can come from “friends, acquaintances, or strangers” (Pempek et al. 228). As a result, students are able to develop either a positive or a negative relationship with people they are well acquainted with and even strangers. However, Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe in their research journal on The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites states that accepting strangers into the friends list also “…allows strangers to gain access into the private information that users’ personal information or photos assist individuals in their search for existing acquaintances or just to bridge weak ties (237).” This basically influences the intensity of using Facebook as a means to connect with other individuals.

Not only does Facebook allow users to search for common friends, but also the users can search for strangers or individuals who appear in their suggested network. Since Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is often anonymous, individuals who appear in users’ suggested social network may be people with fake identities. This concept is asserted by the book on Online Social Networking on Campus: Understanding what matters in Student Culture by Martínez Aleman and Katherine Lynk Wartman. They suggest that sometimes, people create online identities and have the choice of revealing their true or fake identities in virtual settings (x). This is important since it is the basis on which a relationship is built for the users. To investigate the implication of such identities, a fake Facebook account under the name of Joy Tanakiatkul was created to solicit other users and found that more people accepted rather than ignored the friend request.

The purpose of many social networking sites is to allow people to connect with each other, thus it is more convenient when people are distanced. Although social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace can be convenient, it may also bring harmful consequences in the near future if users do not set strong privacy level on their profile pages. For instance, if users enable profile picture to be accessible to strangers who can view it at ease, they may be able to see the messages and the photos comments. The request also contains functions for users to accept, decline, or send a message to the solicitor. This in turn, aids the users to reach a wide audience whom they could manipulate through fake photos, messaging or comments so as to achieve their mission. As a result, friend requests are easily accepted even by strangers. “One of the theories that may explain the bizarre notion of accepting strangers’ friend request is Social Information Processing (SIP) theory” (Utz pr. 3). In his journal on Social Information Processing in MUDs: The Development of Friendships in Virtual Worlds, Utz suggests that SIP reflects how individuals “form simple impressions through textually conveyed information in computer mediated communication” (Utz pr. 3). One of the ways that individuals form first impression is through the profile picture. When people see a certain image, they generally adapt to the linguistic codes and use it as a channel to form impressions of other users, through messages that are displayed in their information without the presence of physical nonverbal cues (Utz pr. 11). For instance, if person X posts a photo of her, acting as being seductive, stranger Y may form certain analysis toward that person X, just because of that photo. Since Joy’s pictures are selective, this means that all her selected pictures tend to look flawless and magazine like, such that the comment received could explain why strangers add her as a friend.

According to Soraya Mehdizadeh’s article on Self-Presentation 2.0: Narcissism and Self-Esteem on Facebook, he concludes that users selected specific photographs because of 2 factors. First, to boost their self-esteem and second, they are narcissistic (pr.1). At the same time, Michele M. Strano in his article entitled ‘User Descriptions and Interpretations of Self-Presentation through Facebook Profile Images’, he states that women were found to change their appearance of their website more often than men. Moreover, females showed off through seductive postures and dressing to exaggerate their sexuality because they believe that this would attract the viewer’s interest, who could comment on how sexy they are in their photos (Strano 8). On the same note, Joy’s photo albums displayed sexy photos in order to attract strangers’ attention. By selecting pictures that may grab other users’ attention, this could decrease the chance of having her friend request rejected and this would allow one to assume that people accepted her because of her physical appearance. However, these factors are only manifested on the social networking website such as Facebook and others (Gonzales pr. 13).

Individual conceptions are identifiable through two ways; the “now self,” which is personality portrayed, and the “possible self,” which is a personality that others are not familiar with (Mehdizadeh 358). For instance, if a user dislikes a pimple on their forehead, they can either crop out that part or use Photoshop to erase the pimple in less than two seconds. This outcome is particularly prominent in unnamed online domains, where there is no liability and the true self is concealed (Mehdizadeh 359). On the same note, confidence and narcissistic character was studied from a hundred Facebook users from a college in New York. The result came to a consensus that individuals higher in narcissism and those who had a low self-esteem were associated greatly to online-activity as well as some self-promotional content (Mehdizadeh 356).

Facebook users especially, make public identity statements while online, that they cannot make normally when offline, “These statements can take both explicit (i.e., autobiographic descriptions) and implicit (i.e., photos) forms and ultimately enable people to state a public display of their hoped-for possible selves” (Mehdizadeh 358). This article has established that such statements lures their targets into liking them, which reflects a state of narcissism, that project an elevated degree of socialization in the internet culture as well as enhanced self-advertising features of the social networking sites. As a result, this enables them to enhance their public relation with the strangers such that the strangers could easily give in to their demands and therefore, enable them to create a gateway to implement their intentions.

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Furthermore, the absence of physical nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or eye contact may not have an effect on users’ decision on friend requests that they receive from either friends or strangers. Studies from Jason R. Wrench and Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter together with Sonja Utz have discovered that CMC users are influenced by textual messages with the absence of nonverbal cues (pr.10). The asynchronous effect of Facebook’s friend requests may provide sufficient time and linguistic cues for users to form impression of the solicitor. In other words, messages in Facebook’s friend request provide “the most salient information where users directly derive impression, which affects users’ decision to accept or ignore the solicitation” (Wrench & Narissra 360). From Andrew Smock’s research study on Self-Presentation on Facebook: Managing Content Created by Users and Others, he claims that impression management is considered to be one important factor in deciding whether or not individuals should accept strangers’ friend request. Impression management is the process of managing and maintaining self-image before others. Individual controls what is going on around their profile page through the use of language, pictures, messages received or sent, and even emoticons (Smock pr. 1). Not only does forming a solid self-presentation by doing sweet talks, showing consideration and caring, may attract Joy’s attention but also, it is another way user’s form self-presentation and ‘identity’ on Facebook. Relating to Amy Gonzale’s article on Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem: Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall, he claims that Facebook is becoming an imaginative mirror, hanging on the screen for users to think that they are portraying their “true self” on the social networking site. With these findings, the information presented on Facebook, including Joy’s as well as other users, may not represent who they truly are in real life. Adding on to Smock’s idea of impression management, friend requests generally come from individuals who are interested in seeking permission from users to add them into their list of friend on online social network. Senders may manage their self-presentation through a picture and message that is displayed in the friend request (Smock pr. 2). Smock also suggests that users, who receive friend requests, usually engage in impression formation of the solicitor, based on the information that is provided by the sender. Consequently, Facebook can be used to achieve any mission, may it be positive or negative in which the user aspires to. Therefore, it could be a very easy target for strangers to attain their ill motives through manipulating the perceptions of their targets towards them.

Method Background

A new Facebook account belonging to Joy Tanakiatkul was created as an investigative tool to determine the different outcomes that would follow her friendship requests. Joy would keep the account up to date by uploading beautiful photos of her and remaining active in messaging, updates, and commenting on her friend’s profile page. The photos selected as Joy’s representation were taken from a Korean celebrity, Hwang Mi Hee. Instead of choosing someone from Thailand, it would be safer to go with someone from a foreign country. Additionally, in Thai society, especially the teens, are obsessed with Korean culture and tries to imitate their hairstyles, makeup or mode of dressing. Moreover, Hee was selected among other actresses from Korea because she is not considered to be popular in Thailand, therefore, Facebook users might not be able to recognize her face hence, assume that this is the real “Joy” on Facebook. With Korean look along with Korean fever, this may increase the chance of Joy’s friend request. Besides, Hee obtained ideal features such as a small waist, white skin, straight hair, and sexy looks, which may fulfills a lot of physical aspects that Thai College students are looking for in a girlfriend or friend.

Participants

A number of Facebook users, randomly selected from the same network as Joy, have been requested for friendship by her. They are mostly from the same University network in Thailand and majority were college students. They were within the range of eighteen to twenty six years each, coming from a different province in Thailand.

Controller

The controller of Joy’s Facebook account/page was Lena Stewart, a 21-year-old female undergraduate student from X University.

Material

www.Facebook.com was used to create Joy’s account and Hwang Mi Hee’s pictures were a representation of Joy’s identity (Hwang Mi Hee Fan pr.1 & 4).

Procedure

Joy’s account was created realistically so that Facebook users would believe that it is a real account. Like many other real users, Joy’s page consisted of 4 photo albums of her friends, hobbies, work and school life. The selected album choices and variety of photos from different areas of her life would depict a wide range of activities so that her interests may intersect or overlap with future friend request. As for personal information, it was set at a low level of privacy so that strangers would be able to view her information freely without restriction. Her personal information displayed her full birthday, horoscope, ideology and religion. Since this is a fake Facebook account, Joy’s birthday was selected within the time period that this project was conducted, in order to receive birthday wishes from strangers. This would enable her to analyze their personalities through messages and to continue an ongoing conversation with the stranger, which could determine the reason as to why they added Joy as a friend.

This research was conducted and collected in a methodical way for the past 3 weeks; April 18 – May 8th, 2011. Joy’s account was linked to a Blackberry smart phone in order to receive notifications from Facebook. After joining the network, Joy added 10 random Facebook users. After 2 hours, 4 out of 10 people accepted Joy’s request whereas the remaining accepted within a day. Once Joy became the stranger’s friend, her profile image would display on their friend list, which appeared on suggested friend network for other college students to add her as a friend. After 3 days on Facebook, Joy received 17 friend requests; 12 from the same network and 5 as network’s friend of friend. During the second week on Facebook, Joy received 18 friend requests and 9 users accepted her as a friend. By the end of the second week, Joy had a total of 54 friends on her friend list and none of them realized that Joy does not exist. During the third week, Joy accepted 8 friend requests and added 18 random strangers on Facebook from the same network and 2 friends that Joy knew in real life. In the next 4.5 hours, 9 out of 18 accepted Joy as a friend and the remaining, including the 2 friends, accepted her friendship request in the next 3 days. By the end of week three, Joy had a total of 74 friends on her list and 6 pending as of May 16, 2011.

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In the meantime, right after Joy had accepted the friends’ request, she would send out inbox messages or Facebook chat (if users are online) to those people asking her “Do I know you?” then, a conversation would begin and be developed. The most important question that needed to be addressed was “Why did you add me as a friend?” or “What are the reasons as to why you added me as a friend?” In order to remember whom Joy had conferenced with, along with other necessary information needed to be used to analyze and to answer the conducted study, a chart was created as illustrated in Table 1.0 Joy’s Interaction with Strangers.

Table 1.0 Joy’s Interaction with Strangers

Friends Date accepted/requested Network Reasons for adding/accepting Time on Facebook Applied Communication Concepts
Name 1
Name 2

As Pempek and colleagues concluded, college students signed-in to Facebook every day for at least 30 minutes and for the past three weeks, Joy’s friends were closely monitored, regarding their behavior and interaction with her for the amount of time they were online. Average time signed online for Joy’s friends was calculated and strangers’ interactions with her were observed.

Joy’s duties were to update her status every other day in order to keep her profile active along with responding to wall-posts, photo comments, inbox and friend requests. Because of time difference between the U.S. and Thailand, Joy would have to get on Facebook as if she was in Thailand. For example, she would sign in to Facebook at 7:00 am Pacific Time so that in Thailand, it would be 9:00 pm. Signing on Pacific Time proved difficult because most Facebook users back in Thailand would be offline (sleeping), which would impede the gathering of the required information.

After all the necessary data was collected, it was used for careful analysis. The communication concepts used were impression management, FIRO theory, and interpersonal communication. In order to analyze the information correctly, each concepts had to be fully understood. Impression management was used to analyze the effects of different personalities in strangers on Facebook and the interactions toward Joy. For example, word choice, first impression, and to what extent they have been considerate toward Joy. For the FIRO theory, the need for inclusion, affection and control were used to identify how people preferred to engage with Joy. As a character device, FIRO theory aids in enhancing the appreciation of Joy’s friends’ relational requirements. Last but not least, Facebook is identified as a place for interpersonal communication that combines several available channels for interacting with other users. This include private exchange of messages in the inbox, bulletin board messages, blogs, and public or private profile pages, which involves texts, images, videos, and sound application.

Results

Two factors were explored during the survey; first is the different personalities of strangers toward Joy and second, is the reason(s) behind the users’ decision to add Joy as a friend. To start with, the acceptance rate was determined as being 92.5% (74/80 multiplied by100), which was considered as very high. Joy received 43 friend requests from strangers and she sent out 37 friend requests. All together she had 74 friends consisting of 53 men, 21 women and 6 women’s pending friend requests from her. From the result, it is clearly evident that there are 71% of men more than women (53/74 multiplied by100). This is fascinating since it emphasizes the extent by which individuals are attracted to members of the opposite sex, especially lured by Joy’s physical appearances.

Once they became friends on Facebook, Joy would individually send inbox messages to all of them and she would ask, “Do I know you?” “Why did you add me?” or “Why did you accept me?” depending on the situations that the requestor or the acceptor were in. The following results shown in Table 1.1 Joy’s Friend Request Responses conclude the different responses to “Why did you add me as a friend?”

Table 1.1 Joy’s Friend Requests Responses

Responses Male Female
Because you are cute” 20 6
I want to know you more” 5 4
You attract me” 10 0
Total 33 10

As for those who confirmed Joy as a friend, the results are concluded as shown in Table 1.2 Requested Joy as a friend response; however, the result does not include the 6 women who failed to respond.

Table 1.2 Requested Joy as a Friend Response

Responses Male Female
Responded with Emoticons
: ) , :] , ^^
2 9
We share similar interests” 3 2
You are way to pretty to be rejected as a friend” 11 0
I’m lonely, I needed someone to talk to now” 4 0
Total 20 11

After Joy questioned every stranger, the conversation would develop to a deeper level. Strangers that added her as a friend would tell her that because of her profile picture, it was irresistible to ignore her without adding her as a friend. Along with her photo albums, showing Joy’s features made those users to aspire to know her at a personal level. Users from the same university network would question on Joy’s academics such as her past schools before entering her current university as well as her major or future career. In response, Joy would manipulate them through giving false details and whatever Joy responded, users from the same university would say something along this line “Oh, that faculty has a lot of pretty girls. Maybe I should check it out” or “I knew it. Usually good looking girls are from that High School.” As for other users from other network, some begged if Joy could become their girlfriend by pondering repetitively on how pretty she was and that it was impossible that she could lack a boyfriend. Besides, they insisted on asking if it was possible for Joy to go out for lunch, dinner, clubbing, or just hang out with them individually or as a group. Interestingly, one of the users on Facebook made up another account just to flirt with Joy because he would not communicate with her via his real account profile since he was committed.

In addition, the controller added her two real friends, because her two best guy friends would never hide anything behind her back. In turn, she would receive an honest answer as to why they accepted Joy as a friend. As predicted, two of her friends called up and said that some random girl from Thai university added him as a friend and that she is super cute. In response, the controller questioned the reason of accepting her request and he said “Pew, You kidding? She’s hot dude!” As for women users, they enquired on beauty tips like hairstyle, skin or makeup products that Joy uses. Furthermore, Joy received numerous comments and responses from status updates, wall-to-wall posts and photo albums, which could possibly be linked to the 3 communication concepts of interpersonal communication, impression management, and FIRO theory.

Discussion

From the results of the survey conducted to determine why several people who are strangers to Joy, chose to add her as a friend, various things stood out that motivate different people of differing personalities when it comes to choosing the people they want to link with, or communicate directly with, in social networks such as Facebook. Physical appearance contributes a lot, concerning the issue of responding to friend requests on Facebook.

The biggest number of strangers chose to add Joy or accept her friend request based on her physical appearance. The evidence that they got of her appearance follows from her profile picture and the pictures that she has in her albums. The survey therefore, provides the evidence that Facebook users seem motivated by the physical appearance of a particular user in making their decisions on whether or not to accept the person as a friend.

Interpersonal communication

This theory tries to elaborate the reason as to why people use different kinds of communication in the effort to construct social reality. This is usually true to people who share a common history or wants to know each other better. One of the responses given by most respondents to Joy’s question as to why the different strangers chose to accept Joy as a friend despite the fact that they did not know anything about her apart from the Facebook profile and picture was “you are way too pretty to be rejected as a friend”. The statement confirms that most Facebook users add strangers of the opposite sex as friends for the simple reasons of wanting to associate with people they think are pretty. As evidenced by the kind of direction that the conversations between Joy and her stranger friends took, most of the Facebook users who add a stranger as a friend have the ultimate intention of wanting to have face-to-face contact with them and possibly establishing a relationship.

Loneliness further explains why people added Joy as a friend. As revealed in the survey by Joy, there are those respondents who did it based on their lonely state thus choosing to confirm her friend request to get someone to talk to making it worth noting from the study that all of those respondents were male. This gives the impression that social network users with specific concern to Facebook find friends with whom they may share their problems and as a result improve their dull lives. When a lonely person receives a notification that a cute looking girl wants him/her as friends on Facebook, this definitely brightens their day even when they have no clue concerning the personality as well as the motive behind the person. Therefore, this emphasizes on the number of Facebook users who use the social network as a means of seeking company especially in times of their loneliness. To an extent, others under this category seek a lifetime companionship or relationships through sending and accepting strangers as friends on Facebook. To them, Facebook functions just the same manner that other dating networks function. To these users, the decision to add a member of the opposite sex can lead to the person even becoming their soul mate or close companion. As elaborated in the study, when Joy tried conversing with these strangers, the conversation included the strangers initially trying to impress her by commenting in seemingly impressive manner to her status updates then finally asking her out or wanting to develop a more intimate relationship with her. Considering that the interaction does not take long before they bring the subject up, it is evident that this can also be taken advantage of by people with bad intentions to capitalize on the loneliness of some users and end up harming them at long last.

Furthermore, through interpersonal communication theory, such people use the various means of communication to create a society with the people they add as friends. It is only when they have a direct connection with the people they fancy that they can fulfill such needs. People who fall under this category should however understand the possibility of some users creating fake profiles, attaching pictures of other people thereby tempting other to view them as theirs. Because Facebook create a virtual environment between Joy and the strangers to communicate no matter the time or physical location, this made it easy for the strangers to get in touch with Joy by leaving wall messages or inbox despite the fact that they have never met Joy before in their life. Also, users on Facebook communicate their emotions, messages, and feelings through words or emoticons unless users communicate through videos posting. By all means, ones may say things to impress Joy even if they do not mean what they said. At the same time, it is difficult for Joy to detect and realize what they think without seeing them in real life. Because interactions can easily be made through Facebook and access to one’s profile, users may just leave compliments and flirty messages for Joy, but at the same time, it is difficult for Joy to detect whose being honest or say what they really mean without faking. Without nonverbal and face-to-face communication, Joy should realized that strangers that added her as a friend may not mean what they said.

Impression management

In impression management, people try to influence the perceptions of others by regulating the amount of information they share in social networks. A number of respondents in the survey revealed that they wanted to interact more with Joy and get to know her better hence adding or rather accepting her as a friend. The number of such respondents was almost equal in the two sexes with only a variation of one. This indicates that Facebook users add strangers with the hope of interacting more with them and getting the chance to know them better.

Through the interactions that they received later, interpersonal communication has been facilitated through Facebook; the users interact without necessarily encountering each other face-to-face to the extent that they really know each other and treating one another as good friends rather than strangers. Through this interaction, if a particular user had assumed a false identity, it would definitely come out to the friend, as they have no hurry in making face-to-face interactions. This category of friends would comment in the manner to try to impress Joy as described in impression management for example, commenting on Joy’s status when Joy posted her status that she was stressed. Many users responded, trying to show consideration, care and asked whether there was something they could do to help Joy out. They would do this seemingly disinterested to provoke her to explain further, her situations and thus enhancing the chances of knowing each other well. The almost equal number of respondents under this category declared that mere appearance as not the only reason behind their sending or accepting the request. Facebook users who portray this characteristic are least exposed to danger since they only get to network with other users who use the social network to get friends and nothing else.

Other Facebook users sent friend requests to anyone that they thought to share similar interests. For instance, the survey conducted revealed that several male and female respondents confirmed or sent friend requests to Joy on this ground. Users under this category spend time looking for friends whom they believed that they have a common interest, through perusing through their profiles when they appeared on Facebook. Many people interpret what a person describes on the profile as a real description of his/her interests. However, one has to note that before he/she accepts another’s friend request or before another person accepts his/her friend request, one has a limited access to the strange person’s profile. Therefore, one cannot claim to have similar interests with a person that he/she knows little or completely nothing about. Afterwards, one can claim to share interest with another after they have become friends. This means that when a stranger sends a friend request and claims to have done so because they share similar interests, the receiver should have all the reasons to worry.

Fundamental Interpersonal Relation Orientation theory (FIRO)

FIRO theory is based on the main contention that people engage in a group in search of the needs for inclusion, affection and control. This theory tries to explain the reason as to why Facebook users choose to add friends to satisfy these needs. People need not to ignore the fact that adventurous people send requests to find strangers whom they share similar traits. For instance, some girls showed similar interests with Joy in that they asked about her hairstyle, make up or skin products. This indicates that they did so after establishing the relationship or after viewing Joy’s photos and saw that they had several things in common. Furthermore, when one user commented on Joy’s photo, after 2-3 minutes another user would comment on the same album, but on the different photo of Joy. The comments on the first photo states “You should make this your profile picture!” and the second comment from another person on the second photo claims, “This one would make a better profile picture!” From these two comments, this clearly falls under the need for inclusion because each user wants to be heard. As for the need of affection, it is clearly evident that some users who were lonely, wanted Joy to comfort them. They consistently posted emoticons expressing sad emotions, in return pursuing comfort from Joy.

Such category of people seemed to share concerns with Joy when she posted on her wall that something was bothering her. Due to the need for inclusion, and the need for affection as clarified in the FIRO’s theory, these strangers commented on her status to show the concern they have to a person they share attributes and interests. For instance, as a show of the need for inclusion, many friends would want to have their comments count. This is majorly through the creating of unique and creatively constructed comments that stand out from the rest. With this, the person commenting has the assurance that people will notice the comment. This creates a kind of competition for whoever writes the best comment that would be appreciated by the user. A person feels that the need for inclusion is satisfied when the person ’likes’ their comment.

Conclusion

Based on how easily it is for one’s character to change, it suffices to declare the issue of accepting or sending friend requests to strangers as a bad practice that people need to avoid as much as possible, bearing in mind that each stranger has his/her strange personality. People have witnessed cases of kidnapping, which happen as a result. For instance, young women and men have reached the level of establishing online relationships with people they do not know. Since some seem easy-swayed, reports of their missing occur on a daily basis as they try to meet their strange partners with the whole story ending tragically. Therefore, the concerned people need to consider such consequences that may occur in the future because of accepting strangers as friends. Of importance therefore, is to get a prior understanding of the people one wishes to associate with, in social networks such as Facebook since the networks have suffered a good deal of abuse by people with ill motives. Since it is through the sending and confirming of friend requests that one gets friends in Facebook, it is good to define the motive that one has when sending such requests or confirming them especially from strangers, while considering the dangers that emanate from that particular decision. Portraying patience in one’s interaction with strangers on Facebook is a good strategy to ensure that he/she does not fall as an easy prey.

The appearance of a person, proved in this case only by the profile picture or a number of uploaded albums, cannot prove the identity of a stranger. The claim follows since Facebook, the free social media, bears no regulations or restrictions and a person can even assume a false identity with the aim of luring another less suspicious Facebook user into meeting with him/her.

Facebook users should therefore consider the need to have a clear intention as to why they choose to add or confirm friends on Facebook. The victims should avoid considering the appearance of a stranger to assume that the person can make a good friend. The use of the data given in a person’s personal profile should also not be a reason for one to choose a stranger as a friend in a social network such as Facebook. In cases whereby one suspects ill intentions of a friend s/he has already added or has already confirmed, there are security measures to employ such as ‘unfriending’ the person or blocking them. These options give Facebook users a chance to manage their accounts by carefully choosing the friends with whom they associate with.

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