Media Studies in the World of NEW Media

 In Lessons and Ideas, Nina Silver, Secondary
A  Lesson in Analysis of Social Networking Sites as Media Texts
(taking a close look @ FACEBOOK) – Grades 11 and 12
by Nina Silver, Toronto District School Board, Toronto, Ontario


Teacher’s instructions:


Ask a few students in class to take the rest of you on a cyber-tour of FACEBOOK.

Pit two individuals or two groups against one another.

Ask one team to demonstrate the positive things about FACEBOOK.

Ask the second team to demonstrate the negative things about FACEBOOK.

Mediate the discussion by pointing out or drawing out of the students comments about privacy settings, advertising links and pop ups, affiliated applications available on the site, and the conventions being used in the creation of the site.

Allow the students to enjoy looking at the friends and groups with whom the presenters have affiliated.

Evaluate student learning with a question sheet and paragraph writing assignment (rubric also attached)

Results of one of these lessons are below:


Positive impact:

social networking, reuniting with old friends

knowing where to go for clubs and parties (event planning)

to be kept informed about deaths of students and friends

joining groups or creating your own special groups (to feel a part of something)

artistic or business promotion (musicians, hairdressers, etc.)

profile is under your own control (can promote yourself the way you want to be promoted)

kids who feel alone can get friends

when your parents aren’t there for you, you have somewhere to go

allows you to get attention

available to people of all ages (parental excitement)

online blind dates

sharing of photos from common events

joining worthwhile social movements

get the chance to speak to famous people


Negative impact:

privacy issues (many were unaware of how to set privacy settings)

promotion of gang violence and illegal activities

posting of provocative photos

stalking and harassment

constant poking and invitations to join or be friends

sexism (girls being labeled as whores, etc.)


not knowing if what you see is what you get(false photos in profiles)

negative tagging of photos

messages posted do not always have to be true (no verification)(one group tested this theory: formed a hate group and said they were planning a half day off school to meet in the football field and beat up one of their classmates; 38 people joined)

Facebook as a Text to be Deconstructed:

Simple but boring (do not like the colour)

easy to navigate

no way to create your own layout- no customization

can’t put music on it from Limewire

messages left go to your email account (nuisance)

a lot of tiny font

organized into categories

the columns are boring, why not use graphic organizational features like shapes for categories to be placed in

could not adequately explain the addictiveness of the site other than to acknowledge that teens want to be in touch with their friends 24/7

and that it kills time when they are bored (a common state?)

dates and times are useful information pieces

can get weather information as an application

no one blocks the information put there or edits it for public consumption

COMMERCIAL implications of Facebook:

Don’t see Facebook as a moneymaker, but the advertisers on the site as moneymakers

universities and colleges

lavalife etc. (other social networking sites like

ipod and phone companies

make up

vacation or travel companies

Other social networking sites they were quick to identify:

Hi 5

My Space

Asian Avenue



Tdot wire

black planet


Hype TO



Should adults worry?

parents should monitor it on a regular basis to keep dialogue open

yes, many are not using it responsibly

privacy settings are there to protect you; therefore not a problem

not a big deal as long as you understand how to use it wisely


The following questions may be used as prompts for personal response:


1. What did you learn about the positive aspects of social networking from the presentations this past week?

2. What did you learn about the negative aspects of social networking this past week?

3. Why do you think teens might be somewhat addicted to these sites?

4. What applications does FACEBOOK have that you were unaware of before you sat in on the presentations?

5. What other social networking sites besides FACEBOOK did you hear about this week or did you already know about?

6. What kind of nuisances have you or your friends encountered using FACEBOOK, and what limitations does the site have?

7. What is the best thing you or your friends have encountered or been able to do using FACEBOOK?

8. What surprised you about any of the presentations this past week?

9. Discuss the organization or visual setup of FACEBOOK. What does it have in its look that appeals to you? What does it have in the way it is visually organized that does not appeal to you?

10. Think carefully about what kind of advertising you have seen on these sites and what kind of companies seem to be affiliated with it.

Who is making money from sites like FACEBOOK?

11. Discuss why you think adults should or should not be concerned about teens using social networking sites like FACEBOOK.


*Nina Silver is a secondary Media Studies and Communications Technologies teacher in Toronto District School Board, Canada

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