A new study has figured out that nobody on Facebook cares that much about how users describe themselves — it's much more important to know how users describe each other. For instance, a profile for someone named Blaine (let's just say) could go something like, "I am a kind person, I love puppies and kayaking. I drink kale smoothies and occasionally play badminton with the blind, you know, to be a good person or whatever. The Flaming Lips, they are my favorite music makers and I am into Thomas Pynchon like whoa." So? Nobody cares, apparently, because everyone is busy reading comments that say things like, "Blaine only plays badminton with the blind because he killed a blind person with his Vespa and the guilt is slowly eating him from the inside out. And he only read half of The Crying of Lot 49 for a contemporary American lit. class." Now, which of these things tells us more about Blaine, as a person?
The Facebook comment, obviously, which simply confirms what Seoyen Hong and Kevin Wise from the University of Missouri figured out when they studied what effect Facebook comments have on how users gauge the attractiveness of strangers or acquaintances. The more comments on a user has, the more attractive he or she will seem to the other disembodied profiles floating throughout Facebook, which is will be really important when the machines finally take over, but is only medium-to-very important right now.
According to Hong, third party opinions tend to carry more weight with users trying to figure who on Facebook is awesome and who is a kale-slurping, badminton maniac:
People tend to rely more on other-generated information than self-generated information when forming impressions. In other words, opinions of other people matter more than the target person's own self-presentation. Thus, for social networking users concerned about forming a desired impression, being aware of other-generated information about oneself is paramount in the goal of achieving a positive self-presentation.
In order to figure out how judgy Facebook users can really be, Hong showed different profile pictures of the same person to her test subjects. The more (and more positive) comments flanking these pictures, the better, but test subjects also preferred a picture of someone in action, say, playing badminton, rather than a creepy I-once-auditioned-for-General Hospital headshot.
The bottom line, explains Hong, is that if you don't want people to hate you forever (which would make you expendable in the soulless infrared eyes of the machines), you have to start curating your Facebook comments and make sure that none of your asshole friends snark on pictures of you living your life.
Facebook Profiles Influence Perceived Attractiveness, MU Study Finds [University of Missouri]
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