The Facebook Experiment

2010 was a great year for us at COINAGE because for 365 and a quarter days, while you were busy with – well, that which you were busy with – we conducted a social experiment that was rather ambitious yet very risky – trust me when I say risky. BUT, if we didn’t do it, then someone else would have done it and we bet you 250 Spanish pesetas (if you can find any these days) someone’s already doing it!

So, here goes…drum roll

Facebook – you’ve probably been there at least once today – it is one of the biggest social networks of our time, with millions and millions of users worldwide. It has become a powerful marketing tool and with people spending most of their time on it, we couldn’t resist.

AIM: To see just how social “social networks” are and how easy it is to make “friends”.

TOOLS:

  • PC with Internet access – luckily my previous abode had a free gig a month and it was only R100 (under $10) to top up the next 1GB
  • Several email accounts
  • Google – this is seriously your best friend
  • Dedication of note
  • The urge not to tell those around you what you’re up to. NO MATTER WHAT
  • A creative mind
  • The ability to think on your feet – in our case on your bum

… with that, we were set!

STEPS:

  1. Create a credible Facebook profile (you’ll be surprised as to what people think is credible) – this is where the Google, creativity and the thinking fast parts come in. Google schools, tertiary institutions and all the info you need to create the first fake profile (FP1 – this is the important profile) We also Google’d Z-list celebrities from a country whose celebrities are unknown and used them for pictures since social networkers lurve photos!

  2. Create another – we made 11 other – fake profiles of lesser importance – using the same methods as above. To give FP1 a story. We noticed that the pictures where the Z-list celebrity posed with equally unknown friends where helpful in creating all those albums people have on Facebook.

  3. Join random groups, “like” random pages and invite random people from there. Go through their profiles and invite their friends… This creates a “network” based on interests and common friends. Out of the 700 or so “friends” on FP1, only 20 – and only after accepting a friend request – that ever asked if we had met face-to-face. We found vague answers such as “we met at so-and-so’s place or something along those lines did the trick. Also browsing through profiles makes for great chat topics.

  4. DO NOT – no matter how tempting and pranky-fun it may seem – send friend requests to your own friends, their friends or people that have rejected you etc. – that’s just creepy. People – or maybe a few – pay attention to writing style, posting pattern and other odd things.

  5. Sit back and watch what happens, play the social network game!

The Results

The first month was arduous, try maintaining 12 Facebook profiles and your own! We almost gave up – ten times. We sent more friend requests than we received. The “friend” count at the end of the first month was 36 on FP1 (excluding the 11 other fake profiles).

The second month, we started getting invitations to parties and events. The “friend” count was now at 150 on FP1 (excluding the 11 other fake profiles).

Facebook Friend Request

By the third month, we were hardly sending any friend requests. People randomly invited us because “we played chess at Marie’s” or “we partied at Sam’s parent’s house then hit town, you were wearing a grey and pink dress-top thing” or “we made out, you took my number, I found you on Facebook!” Our motto was: JUST SAY YES. At the end of the month, the “friend” count was at 437 on FP1 (excluding the 11 other fake profiles).

The fourth month, more and more friend requests received than sent. Party invitations rolled in (Try was found saying “My fake profile is cooler than my real one”). We hardly ever showed up, obviously, and when asked "where the HELL where you?”, a vague answer about business, family or medical conditions sufficed; all these excuses worked for everything including missing cocktails and coffee. Someone even proclaimed their love for FP1 no matter how many times we stood them up, claimed they knew FP1 from w-a-y back at some tertiary institution and that they knew where FP1 lived and which restaurant FP1 loved ordering from. We now have 577 “friends” FP1 (excluding the 11 other fake profiles).

The fifth to the twelveth months were pretty much the same. We had become masters of the social network game. Our "friends" empathized when we updated about death, break-ups, ailments and being broke. We were loved for our wit and crass – boy! Were we crass!

Account deactivated 31/12/2010.

I did a 'whoopsy' once when I logged in as myself and posted about deactivating my Facebook account, for those who believed me at the time, that post was meant for FP1 but I reckon I covered my tracks well.

A the end of the experiment, the “friend” count was 759.

Conclusions

Everyone on social networks is always in a good mood!

The “LIKE” button: people “liking” their own posts? It’s redundant. The fact you’ve posted it should mean you already like it And what’s up with “liking” morbid updates like: “My gran died, I’m so sad” 2 people like this… did they hate your gran?

Are these people seriously reveling in your misery?

Social network “friends” aren’t friends at all. Twitter hit it on the nail when they called them “followers”. Seriously, only 11 people cared about FP1 (guess which 11) and so with a real account, it could also be less than 20. So, don’t blame people for having standard birthday messages or some over-do the birthday greetings! Real friends will call or text – at least. Facebook is a forum where people try to out-do each other without knowing it.

Do people actually know all those “friends”?

Looks more like friend hoarding! A day didn’t pass without us seeing Daisy Duke or Thomas Atkinson is now friends with James Bond and 55 other people!

Are you serious?

A less detailed profile is safer. We had access to over 1000 people’s information (this is including the other 11 fake profiles). We could pinpoint their location. We even knew how their digestive systems worked and their menstrual cycles thanks to updates such as “At Tony’s Grill in Cape Town having the rump with baked potato and onion rings” or “Third time today I go to the loo, nothing’s coming out worried” and even “Had trouble getting the tampon in this morning, now stuck with a pad – feel like wearing a nappy all over”.

Perhaps our findings are inaccurate because the profile was fake but I still find the same things happening with my Facebook account and I ask myself “why are we friends again?” then I conduct my bi-annual friend shed.

Happy social networking and enjoy the new-found social network philosophies like “explaining why I love you is like describing what water tastes like”. We at COINAGE are just glad that we don’t have to be three other people anymore (“,).

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