“Nobody has 257 Friends” Strategies of Friending, Disclosure and Privacy on Facebook
In the present article, we discuss norms of friendship and privacy on social network sites by examining strategies of privacy among users, arguing that tacit norms of friendship are now more easily observed. The article is based on a quantitative survey among 1710 Internet users in Denmark, among them 970 Facebook users, subsequent focus group meetings with 20 respondents and finally access to their profiles for a period of twelve months. In line with the research literature on social network sites, our study shows that users’ “friends” consist of a variety of strong, weak and even latent ties and thus supports notions such as social divergence and networked publics, suggested by danah boyd. Regarding privacy is - sues, we distinguish between level of access to information on participants’ profiles and the way participants perform on their profiles, the level of intimacy. As to the first level most respondents seem to emphasize whom they friend, while they do not distinguish among friends once they are in; everybody is treated equally. As to the second level, our research deviates from findings suggesting that in particular young people are rather unaware of risks, as we can identify what we call a “cautious sensible” strategy in all age groups that allows users to be cautious without being too self-restrictive. Regarding the status updates, we identify a schism between saying and doing, as our respondents tend to downgrade small talk in the focus groups, whereas their profiles reveal that they in fact do engage in small talk. We understand this seeming paradox in a generic and linguistic perspective, using the notions of phatic and indexical communication, respectively, in an analysis of the status updates on the profiles.
Nordic Council of Ministers, Nordicom
Nordicom Review 34 (2013) 1, pp. 49-62