In the present time, it is impossible to find a person without a Facebook account. People use it for communication, and information sharing. Facebook users check their accounts very often, and it means that they are waiting for messages, likes and comments from their friends. However, the problem remains open, whether Facebook friends can be real people that express genuine feelings and emotions when they comment or like someone’s profile. Online space is not safe, as there are many fake accounts based on pretension and deception. The current essay intends to prove the hypothesis whether Facebook friends are fake friends who exist only online.
The increasing frequency of growing popularity of Facebook and other social networks causes the adoption of this service among people. It is the innovative way of finding friends. At first, Facebook was used for personal sharing of messages. However, later Facebook became the place for making friends. According to Wellman and Gulia (1997), life on the Net cannot be complete and meaningful, as it leads people away from the direct contact and deprives them of reality. Indeed, online relationships are narrowly specialized, as they are based on the information processing, rather than feelings, emotions and logics. Social nets cannot provide emotional therapy, as words like “hug”, “grin” or “smile” cannot render doing these things. Virtual communities only resemble reality; therefore, it establishes weak ties between people. The social and physical distance is the barrier to making social net communities real and supportive. “Electronic communication is an instantaneous and illusory contact that creates a sense of intimacy without the emotional investment that leads to a close friendship,” states Clifford Stoll (1995:24). It means that friendly relationships can be regarded as real, intimate and emotional.
There are different opinions about the influence of Facebook on life and communication. Some people share the thought that Facebook makes communication more transparent and understandable for the public. However, some people suppose this idea to be a utopia and a real exaggeration. Facebook cannot be a tool for improving relationships between people. Tufekci (2010) believes that it is possible to find real friends through social networks. However, people who are sociable, easy-going and open can gain new friends in real life. Internet users who are lonely and reserved can be the same way in Facebook or Twitter. Tufekci (2010) states that online friendship is impossible due to the lack of trust, necessity of face-to-face interaction, body language and shared experience and emotions. It is evident that too much is hidden online and can provoke pretending, lying, exaggeration and playing games. Face-to-face interaction gives the opportunity to express any emotions and be closer to friends. Hearing tones in voices and seeing faces are also essential parts of interaction that establish contacts.
Granovetter (1973) insists that social nets are efficient when it comes to political campaigns. It means that Facebook or Twitter have a narrow appointment. Social media can provide mobility, coalition, and demography, but they cannot fulfill sincerity and emotions. Granovetter (1973) refers social nets as to subcultures, rather than cultures, as people there are united by common interests and priorities. Electronic networks establish weak ties between people that cannot be regarded as reliable and serious. The strength of ties depends on the interpersonal communication in real life.
Howard Rheingold (1991) proves that lack of shared mental models and social norms deprives cyberspace of reality and sincerity. Social media isolates people from feelings, making them shut in four walls. Interchange with thousands of acquaintances, hundreds of colleagues and dozens of new friends cannot prevent people from loneliness. Cyberspace allows arguing and chatting, exchanging knowledge, making plans, sharing emotional support, playing games or finding friends. However, this “pseudo-community” is not yet a genuine community. “You can be fooled about people in cyberspace, behind the cloak of words,” states Rheingold (1991:183). It means that Facebook hides truth, exaggerates facts and makes people believe in the most unbelievable things. Facebook does not provide reciprocity and body language. As a result, it can lead to misunderstanding and quarrels.
For example, politicians are registered on Facebook and suppose that it will help them during the election. However, it does not make them closer to their voters, as there are many fake accounts that make communication unreliable and subjective.
Baym (2010) supposes that social media are new forms of personal connection that limit face-to-face interaction and lead to confusion. Communication through Facebook is shallow and can threaten personal relationships. Social media do not provide interactivity in full measure, having temporal structure and being unreliable. Domestication of technologies has made users more isolated from reality. Baym (2010) objects to social shaping of technology.
The general hypothesis of the study is “Facebook friends are fake friends who exist only online”. The specific or sub-hypotheses of the study are:
(H1): Facebook does not provide emotions and feelings during communication.
(H2): Interaction in Facebook is not the guarantee of not being lonely.
(H3): Facebook has narrow appointment that isolates people from reality.
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The objective of this research paper is to prove that Facebook friends are fake friends who exist only online.
To fulfil this objective, primary research in the form of semi-structured interviews was conducted. Semi-structured interviews offered a set of open and fixed questions. This research method was chosen because it could provide the necessary information about Facebook users. The research is based on the results of the performed survey. The secondary data helped understand the entity of the problem and see how other researchers view this problem. The primary data were received from the interviews that were conducted to reveal the attitude of people to social media. The data analysis involved describing, examining, comparing, categorizing, simplifying, abstracting, transforming, and concluding.
This research paper is based more on the qualitative data, rather than quantitative one, as this strategy can ensure the completeness of information. In this paper, a descriptive approach was used. 21 interview questions were asked. They concerned such aspects:
- Facebook account and its using;
- Checking Facebook account and reasons for using it;
- Status on Facebook and type of information sharing on the net;
- Frequency of Facebook using and the number of friends.
These questions were asked in the literature review. The researcher asked these questions in order to understand popularity of Facebook among users. The interview was carefully structured and planned with the definite objectives. Each participant was asked the same questions. The questions were created in such a way, so as to reveal the participant’s attitude to the problem. During the interview, an informal and friendly atmosphere was created, in order to make all participants feel relaxed and confident. Relaxation would help them be honest and open. It is a very important stage of the interview, as it defines the course of experiment. It was proved that interviewing is a stressful situation for people, so they need time and help to adapt to this stress. Establishing a friendly atmosphere makes the interview successful, reducing anxiety and fear; the participants feel themselves comfortable and give honest responses.
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The interviewees were 30 users (15 men and 15 women) aged between 21 to 45 years old. These people had different interests, different social status, and perceptions of life; therefore, one can suppose that this research is objective, as people with different interests considered Facebook. Long answers and explanations were demanded from the interviewees, in order to reveal their attitude to the problem. The interviewees were picked up because of their interest in Facebook. University was chosen as the place for interviewing. The completion of each interview took interviewees about 20 minutes. The information collected is confidential, and will be used for this research only.
The data necessary to test these hypotheses will be derived from secondary data sources. The methodological assessment of this research is based on some critical information and the effect of Facebook usage. The research also uses dependent and independent variables in the work that help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the research from different angles.
The interview was conducted on such stages as:
- trying to understand if the problem is known by the participant;
- getting some information about Facebook using;
It is evident that this research paper has its limitations. First of all, it is restricted by the choice of the subject. The project is devoted only to disadvantages of Facebook using.
Secondly, this research paper is restricted by the scope of research, which is limited to Facebook social media. However, it will be more subjective if compare using Twitter and Facebook. Without doubt, these restrictions do not lessen the importance of this research paper but provide grounds for further research. The restriction of this research paper also concerns the lack of the available data. Some information was obtained from the interviewees, but it was not enough for a full analysis.