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Think before you post

Jason Pagaduan is careful to keep inappropriate content off of his Facebook page. Not all of his peers do the same, his research shows.

Jason Pagaduan checks his Facebook many times a day. Sometimes, what he sees makes him shake his head.

“There are posts and photos that are really inappropriate,” says the fourth-year UTSC sociology student. “Sometimes you know the person and think, why are you posting that?”

Using a survey he developed and follow-up interviews, Pagaduan delved into the question of how people perceive what is appropriate versus what is not on Facebook for his sociology research class, Realizing the Sociological Imagination.

Pagaduan will present his paper at the upcoming Sociology Undergraduate Research Day on April 11, along with 11 other senior sociology students. The diverse topics range from domestic violence in Egypt to public attitudes toward euthanasia.

In his research, Pagaduan found that there are clear boundaries of what people consider appropriate on Facebook. Sexuality, hateful language, racism and sexism were the negative themes most named by respondents.

There was also a difference of perceived appropriateness of photos compared to status updates. The survey found that 77 percent of the respondents had seen an inappropriate photo compared to 62 percent who experienced an inappropriate status update. Pagaduan believes the high visual impact of a photo may lead to a stronger reaction.

People who were concerned with what was appropriate on Facebook are also careful to construct their own social images on the network by avoiding potentially inappropriate posts. A prior negative experience had particular impact, as respondents reported that the shame of posting something inappropriate led them to be more conscious of subsequent interactions.

“Facebook is not as simple as it seems,” says Pagaduan. “Facebook users are younger and being exposed to these inappropriate photos and comments, which give the impression it’s okay to say such things online because it’s private. But it is a very public forum.”

The April 11 Sociology Undergraduate Research Day is the first of what’s intended to be an annual event. “It gives a chance to students to showcase their work, including excellent original research,” says Ann L. Mullen, associate professor of sociology and an organizer of the event.

Other notable papers at the event will include an examination of adoption challenges faced by gay men; a look at Muslim immigration in post-9/11 Canada; and social class and attitudes to welfare. More details on the event are available here.

© University of Toronto Scarborough