This week’s article by Cohen (2008) focuses on Facebook and the issues of privacy, the commodification of information, and the potential for social networking sites (SNS) to be used to create alternative messages. These areas were analysed through a gender-based lens, concentrating on young women and their perceptions of these issues.
The focus groups in the study found that SNS ‘present few opportunities for disseminating alternative messages or images about female sexuality’ (Cohen 2008, pg 211). I agree that the design constraints of Facebook limit the ability to communicate messages; however, I think that Facebook is a valid tool for raising awareness of social issues and could be used in conjunction with a more direct and proactive approach. High exposure and the possibility of online peer-to-peer communication and sharing indicate a possibility for wide-spread distribution of positive messages.
Participants of the study failed to see the potential of Facebook for communicating alternative messages due to its commercial aims – user-provided information is sold to third parties who can then specifically pursue their target market (Cohen 2008, pg 211-212). When I turned eighteen I noticed an immediate change in the advertisements on my Facebook page. My age (eighteen), gender (female) and relationship status (single), resulted in advertisements for dating websites featuring images of young men – these advertisements would not have appeared if I was under 18, male or in a relationship.
The focus groups determined that whilst they were ‘enthusiastic about the social possibilities of Facebook’ (Cohen 2008, pg 212), the commercialistic nature of Facebook and its functional constraints limited the potential for SNS to be used to project alternative messages especially about female sexuality.
– Katie Challita 3663620
Cohen, N 2008, ‘Gendering Facebook: Privacy and Commodification’, Journal of Feminist Media Studies, vol.8 issue.2, pp. 201-214