Living online: an examination of Facebook’s scrapbook and life events features

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University of Alabama Libraries

Facebook has come to be a leader in the social media industry due in part to their continued innovation and addition of new features. This study examined two of Facebook’s features, Life Events and Scrapbook. Considering Facebook’s evolution of features and their success among consumers, it is important to examine these features, the benefits they provide to the consumers and company, as well as potential problems. The same features that allow Facebook to serve their users better may also be viewed as another tool in Facebook’s arsenal used to gain insights into the private lives of their customers, to gain more customers, and reduce uncertainty and risk about company resources. And while users may be viewed as vulnerable to Facebook’s strategies, past research has also identified users as active in their use and as having some control over their privacy. This study aimed to understand this negotiation for control between the users and the company by examining Facebook’s new features from multiple angles. First, the study sought a better understanding of Facebook’s introduction of new features, relying on both a Resource Dependence approach from the study of organizations, and the more critical Political Economy approach. A qualitative content analysis of Facebook’s own texts revealed four main benefits of these features to Facebook: digital labor (content created by users), personal data, personalized advertising strategies and trust. Trust emerged as an important benefit as it builds loyalty, which is crucial to the continued engagement of users. Additionally, this study gained understanding about Facebook’s new features from the user’s perspective, assessing how and why users use these new features, through Uses and Gratifications as well as a Communication Privacy Management perspective. Results from a survey of Facebook users demonstrated that Connection was the most sought gratification of using Facebook, Life Events and Scrapbook, followed by Information. Additionally, users’ attitudes regarding privacy concerns were examined. Users cared more about being aware of privacy policies and the unauthorized secondary use of their personal data over concerns about data control and data collection. Finally, this study determined what users may perceive as benefits to Facebook from using the different features available, if benefits existed at all. Results indicated users believed that Facebook features produced user participation, data on usage, personal data, consumer loyalty, and content created by users as benefits for Facebook the company.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation