My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

Relevant links:

Archive

goodbye fakester

In order to view what was going on on other people’s bulletin boards, i created my own fake character a bit back. Needless to say, it was killed in the fakester genocide, but not before i added quite a few Friends whose posts to their B-Boards helped me understand some of the user sentiment. The manifestos come from this observation.

I have to say, i’m a bit sad to see my fake character go. I had a lot of fun crafting her and writing Testimonials based on her relationship with other fake characters. It was supposed to be simply research, but i admit that i actually found it far more enjoyable than negotiating my real identity, in part because that’s so politically limited.

The other irony is that there were actually a few people that i met through that fake character that i actually would’ve gone out on a date with, if i wasn’t so entrenched with work (and now they’re lost to the system). The creativity embedded in the conversation made those people so much more attractive than the atrocious small talk that usually accompanies most of the real messages that i get.

See, the thing is that Friendster does not get away from the coarse descriptors that make interactions peculiar and sexualized (see Sexing the Internet). When it comes to meeting people outside of the Familiar Stranger/Friend of Friend degree, the profiles collapse a person’s identity into a set of forms without much meaning. Most frequently, they give little to allow the start of a conversation. [I mean.. what am i going to say when someone writes: “Koyaanisqatsi: good movie!”]

Fake characters remove you from the ridiculous small talk into a state of activity. You have a reason to connect with someone, and you have to be creative, novel, entertaining. You get to practice your literary skills, your artistic flair. Instead of trying to articulate your identity, something actually comes out of the performance of it. The conversations are far more meaningful; they don’t have that painful explicit sexual tone; sexuality comes naturally and smoothly.

Connecting through Fakesters might not be real, but neither is going through a network full of people that you barely know, but have to articulate to maintain social face. And frankly, i’d have a lot more faith in dating someone because of their ingenuity in creating a Fakester than i would talking to someone who is arbitrarily 3 or 4 degrees from me.

There’s definitely an art to fake characters. But just like graffiti, not everyone appreciates it. Of course, the trick is to figure out how to live symbiotically. And for the high art elite to realize that there is value in the art of graffiti, just like there is meaningful dating potential through fake characters.


Date: August 15, 2003 11:38 PM

Subject: fake friends

Message:
more of my fake ‘friends’ are disappering…my imaginary world is crumbling down and dissolving…they are slipping into the void… now how many people ‘work’ on this site monitoring profiles anyway!?!?!#$$%@@!%?

—-

Date: August 16, 2003 12:23 PM
Subject: hold on/slight answeres (michelle)

Message: From: Gay Pride
Date: August 16, 2003 9:47 AM
Subject: Friendster Won’t Let Gay Pride Make New Friends!

Message: Everyone–

As of the last group of friend requests this morning, Friendster (TM) has set a cap on my friends at 200. Since I already have 234, I’m screwed! Why, Friendster, why do you forsake those Friendsters that love you most?

Gay Pride feels more and more Friendster shame each day. How can something run by such square breeders be the source of so much queer and freaky fun? Answer: Less and less with each passing day. I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with this bullshit.

With rainbow kisses and lambda hugs,

Gay P.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

9 comments to goodbye fakester

  • Jen

    I’m curious to see if any of the souls on FriendsterRevolution will create a new space for people to play in . . . there’s gotta be some unemployed folks out there looking for a new project. Seems like that would be a better use of energy than waxing rhetorical about Mr. Abrams’ sex life.

  • inga

    the following was posted by a fellow revoutionary:
    Dear Fellow Fakesters,

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT POST ANYTHING ABOUT THIS ON FRIENDSTER
    BULLETIN BOARDS, OR EVEN DISCUSS THROUGH FRIENDSTER MESSAGING. USE
    NON-FRIENDSTER EMAIL ONLY.

    For those of you who slept on it, Fakester.com, .net and .org are now
    taken. The .com is not related to any Friendster-type situation. It
    just happens to be the site for this grad student in Maryland’s
    design and illustration, which seems like he started before this
    whole Friendster thing. If you have $20,000, maybe he’ll sell it to
    you.

    Fakester.net and .org, however, are in quality, bona fide genuine
    Fakester hands. It’s being started by some people who had some very
    well-liked, popular Fakester profiles that were deleted recently.

    We’re currently putting together the sites, which, based on the
    widespread use and recognizability of the word “Fakester” and the
    other content on the sites, we confidently feel will be the one-stop
    site for deleted Fakester profiles.

    It won’t be just that, though, no no. There will be quite a lot of
    content- humor/entertainment, and socially relevant commentary and
    news, both of which will appeal to a lot people, the Friendster
    hip/young/college-age/indie-rock/counterculture demographic in
    particular. We can say this because the Fakester sites are being
    presented in conjunction with a site that has been around for a few
    months, which has been growing in notoriety on its own.

    There won’t be the whole full-fledged profile and inter-connected
    thing that Friendster has, simply because we just came up with this –
    the back-end software for Friendster took months and hundreds of
    thousands of dollars to build. There will be a chance to post
    pictures though, and we’re looking into what level of profile-ish-
    ness we can offer.

    For the future though, we are certainly not ruling out the
    possibility of something much more elaborate. But for now, we’re
    betting people will be plenty satisfied with what we’ll be putting on
    the site, and about half of America will be pretty interested in the
    overall theme, which we’re keeping a secret.

    But Fakesters- PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT POST ANYTHING ABOUT THIS
    ON FRIENDSTER. USE NON-FRIENDSTER EMAIL ONLY.

    If anyone is interested in getting involved with some relatively
    simple web design for these sites (there will be a fair amount of
    HTML copyand paste, if you know what I mean), or possible future
    programming for a more elaborate version of the site, get in touch
    via the email of this account-
    FakesterComNetAndOrgAreTaken@yahoo.com

    We will be very selective about who we communicate with, so if we
    don’t get back in touch with you, don’t feel bad. If you do, get in
    touch, let us know what profiles of yours have been deleted (so we
    can check out your vibe). If you want to get involved, but haven’t
    had a fake profile deleted, or even had one at all, that’s OK too,
    sort of.

    In case no one’s mentioned this here (just joined this list tonight)-
    save all Friendster request emails before you confirm, so that if and
    when the Abrams hammer comes down, you’ll have some way of contacting
    most of your friend list.

    love,
    The Fakester Scooper

  • inga

    Dear Fellow Fakesters,

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT POST ANYTHING ABOUT THIS ON FRIENDSTER
    BULLETIN BOARDS, OR EVEN DISCUSS THROUGH FRIENDSTER MESSAGING. USE
    NON-FRIENDSTER EMAIL ONLY.

    For those of you who slept on it, Fakester.com, .net and .org are now
    taken. The .com is not related to any Friendster-type situation. It
    just happens to be the site for this grad student in Maryland’s
    design and illustration, which seems like he started before this
    whole Friendster thing. If you have $20,000, maybe he’ll sell it to
    you.

    Fakester.net and .org, however, are in quality, bona fide genuine
    Fakester hands. It’s being started by some people who had some very
    well-liked, popular Fakester profiles that were deleted recently.

    We’re currently putting together the sites, which, based on the
    widespread use and recognizability of the word “Fakester” and the
    other content on the sites, we confidently feel will be the one-stop
    site for deleted Fakester profiles.

    It won’t be just that, though, no no. There will be quite a lot of
    content- humor/entertainment, and socially relevant commentary and
    news, both of which will appeal to a lot people, the Friendster
    hip/young/college-age/indie-rock/counterculture demographic in
    particular. We can say this because the Fakester sites are being
    presented in conjunction with a site that has been around for a few
    months, which has been growing in notoriety on its own.

    There won’t be the whole full-fledged profile and inter-connected
    thing that Friendster has, simply because we just came up with this –
    the back-end software for Friendster took months and hundreds of
    thousands of dollars to build. There will be a chance to post
    pictures though, and we’re looking into what level of profile-ish-
    ness we can offer.

    For the future though, we are certainly not ruling out the
    possibility of something much more elaborate. But for now, we’re
    betting people will be plenty satisfied with what we’ll be putting on
    the site, and about half of America will be pretty interested in the
    overall theme, which we’re keeping a secret.

    But Fakesters- PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT POST ANYTHING ABOUT THIS
    ON FRIENDSTER. USE NON-FRIENDSTER EMAIL ONLY.

    If anyone is interested in getting involved with some relatively
    simple web design for these sites (there will be a fair amount of
    HTML copyand paste, if you know what I mean), or possible future
    programming for a more elaborate version of the site, get in touch
    via the email of this account-
    FakesterComNetAndOrgAreTaken@yahoo.com

    We will be very selective about who we communicate with, so if we
    don’t get back in touch with you, don’t feel bad. If you do, get in
    touch, let us know what profiles of yours have been deleted (so we
    can check out your vibe). If you want to get involved, but haven’t
    had a fake profile deleted, or even had one at all, that’s OK too,
    sort of.

    In case no one’s mentioned this here (just joined this list tonight)-
    save all Friendster request emails before you confirm, so that if and
    when the Abrams hammer comes down, you’ll have some way of contacting
    most of your friend list.

    love,
    The Fakester Scooper
    (this was posted today on friendster revolution by a fellow fake revolutionary)

  • There is now an official homepage for the Fakester Revolution:

    http://fakesters.netfirms.com

  • fictional friendsters

    Friendster’s been gaining a lot of fictional characters lately, and of course they’re all friends and all write testimonials for each other. I’ve asked Conan the Barbarian and Hermione Granger to be my friendsters. Kind of regret I didn’t ask…

  • The ‘Net Builds Itself

    […]One of the most interesting things about open sites is that they are forced to become what the net wants them to be. Who’s good and who’s bad (vandals vs maintainers) is really a popularity contest. Wikipedia p…

  • Heinz

    rumor has it that friendster is going to start charging November 4th or the 7th

  • Is a fakester being more dateable than someone 3 or 4 “friends” removed from you the same as the preference for “make up” on skin?

  • Middlespace

    Bottom-up phenomena has accelerated in recent years because of social software. A relatively simple decentralized pattern of enabling more connections and groups to form has complex results. These results (for example: open source, the long tail, hete…