In an online survey conducted by UCLan’s Amy Binns and published by Taylor and Francis’ Journal of Media Practice, 343 British girls aged 13 to 16 from four state schools were asked about their social network habits when using Twitter, Facebook, and the controversial question and answer site Ask.fm.
Despite a series of suicides connected with bullying on Ask and its predecessor Formspring, the Q&A sites were rated similar to Facebook in some categories.
Binns said: “I was surprised by the results. There have been so many terrible cases of anonymous bullying on Ask that I expected it to rate much lower, but in terms of embarrassing, frightening and upsetting experiences, the girls rated Facebook as similar. They were also significantly more likely to say they felt left out on Facebook than on the other sites.”
In terms of being fun, friendly, and confidence-building, Facebook and Twitter were rated similarly, but Twitter was rated as being more interesting. The Q&A sites trailed in third in every positive category.
Girls were however more likely to agree that their online personas were “the real me” when using Facebook. Though they were judgemental about ‘fake’ behaviour online, they reported concealing their true feelings about many aspects of their lives.
The girls were also asked how they presented themselves online and revealed their online personas changed from one site to another, behaving more confidently on Twitter, whilst being least confident on Facebook.
One girl wrote: “I feel more confident on Twitter because barely any of my friends follow me – it’s lots of other people who I don’t know so I can say what I really think without people that I know judging me. When I’m on Facebook I never put statuses because it’s too personal and judgemental.”
In her report, senior journalism lecturer Amy Binns commented: “The Facebook experience as it stands now could be compared with the experience of village life, which young people have also found claustrophobic and controlling. Facebook has brought village life to the masses.
“Designed for the hothouse, supercharged village of campus life, it can result in a closed, socially homogenous circle producing narrow interests and narrow minds. This has the effect of magnifying tiny differences and incidents.
“Twitter has been designed differently. It is perfectly acceptable to follow people you don’t know, with celebrities and other elite users banging their drums for attention and garnering millions of followers.”
The research also suggests that Twitter nudges people towards a more outward looking experience and encourages contact with strangers through the Trends and Who to Follow features. Facebook on the other hand, displays the top ranked statuses from amongst the user’s friends or groups which Binns suggests places a magnifying glass on events within a social circle.
“This is an example of choice architecture. It is more possible to have a relaxing “consumer” experience on Twitter, whilst Facebook’s endless demands for engagement may be emotionally draining. Perhaps Twitter can be compared to sitting at a cafe table in St Mark’s Square, watching the fashionistas pass by, while Facebook is like hanging out at your local bus shelter, staffroom or parent and toddler group.
“If Facebook, designed with a campus mentality, represents the comforting, conformist safety of the village, Twitter may represent the liberal-minded freedoms, diversity and anonymity of the city.”
To download a fully copy of the report visit –https://www.academia.edu/9345514/Twitter_City_Facebook_Village_Teenage_girls_personas_and_experiences_influenced_by_choice_architecture_in_social_networking_sites