Reading “I’ll press Play, but I won’t listen”: Profile Work in a Music-focused Social Network Service, by Silfverberg et al., got me thinking about my own Last.fm profile. The paper investigates profile work on Last.fm, in which the researchers found that users encounter remarkable complexities in having a profile and that effort is required to maintain and manage a public profile.
“The users consider their profiles to be products that are guided by the interpretations made of others’ and their own behavior. Personal desires and social norms may conflict and cause tensions for the users. These tensions are diminished by means of profile regulation.
The finding that users are ready and willing to go as far as changing their actual music listening behavior for the sake of their profiles makes a strong case for the significance of profile work.”
I feel that the findings in the paper do not match very well with my personal experience on Last.fm.
Perhaps this is due to how users use Last.fm. Personally, the greatest value I get out of last.fm is their event and festival recommendations. In this case, any attempt at profile regulation will greatly hurt the list of events Last.fm recommends to me.
I believe that the findings of profile regulation may be a little bit exaggerated due to the sample size of users interviewed. The researchers sent interview invitations through Last.fm messaging services to 60 users – of which, 12 users were available to be interviewed. This sampling may be biased towards users who actively use Last.fm’s message service – and thus, may be more likely to use Last.fm as a social profile.
Personally, I haven’t found Last.fm to be useful as a social profile due to its much smaller user base. I have less than 10 “friends” or connected users on Last.fm, but over 100 connected users on Facebook, Google+, etc. (over an order of magnitude difference). Therefore, I feel that it’d be more useful to regulate my favorite artists on Facebook then Last.fm. It’d be nice to see how many connections on average the interviewed subjects had.
How does the Spotlight Effect play in to this?
Another thought that occurred while reading the paper – is how does the spotlight effect (or Barry Manilow effect) tie in to profile regulation? The Spotlight Effect in Social Judgment: An Egocentric Bias in Estimates of the Salience of One’s Own Actions and Appearance by Gilovich et al. provides evidence “that people overestimate the extent to which their actions and appearance are noted by others, a phenomenon dubbed the spotlight effect… people appear to anchor on their own rich phenomenological experience and then adjust–insufficiently–to take into account the perspective of others”.
The following quotes from the Silfverberg et al.’s interviewees suggest that users pay a lot of attention to their own social profile:
“Everyone wants to show others online what they are listening to.”
“All the songs that I listen to fit well with my profile.”
“I want others to know what music I listen to.”
“Some people might get the wrong impression about me on the basis of my scrobbling profile.”
Perhaps, users are more concerned about what their own profile says to the world, than looking at what their friend’s profiles say about them.