What makes a character in social media?

Another social media hoax character appeared, this time in Uzbekistan.  “Gulsumoy Abdujalilova” appeared on Facebook and through comments around the Web, until she killer herself, apparently.


 Using information that members of the Uzbek opposition had received from whomever was pretending to be Gulsumoy, [Elena Urlaeva, a prominent human rights advocate] discovered that Gulsumoy had never lived, much less died. A search in Munich by Uzbek exiles there yielded the same result — or, that is, no result.

Gulsumoy screencap large


Finding no trace of Gulsumoy’s existence, Uzbek activists conceded that the whole thing was a hoax. The Facebook page, which disappeared on December 14 without explanation, was a fake. So was every detail of the Gulsumoy Abdujalilova story: the note, the pictures of her sent to Uzbek media sites, and the phone calls like the one Elena Urlaeva had received.

Kendzior does a great job connecting the hoax to the weird, tense specifics of Uzbek politics.  She also draws out some fine hoax issues, like the way detecting one depends on a strong sense of normative identity portrayal.  Which is political:

Looking at the page again, there are signs that might stand out for a Western audience: the lack of any real photos (Gulsumoy used a headshot of a Turkish model for her profile picture– it was openly not her photo, like when someone uses a celebrity’s picture as a joke), the dearth of comments from her 114 friends, the use of a pseudonym (she posted under “Gulsumoy Andijon,” a reference to the site of the 2005 massacre), and the heavy emphasis on the political over the personal. But to see these as signs of a hoax assumes a normative standard of what a Facebook profile “should” look like…

Many Uzbeks are selective or even deceptive about what they reveal about themselves on Facebook, for they are aware that the government is watching them and know giving too much up could be risky. They use Facebook to access information, not to share it. They use Facebook not to define themselves, but to find refuge, however tenuous, from the state’s definition of who they are, what they can say, and who they could become.

(thanks to “Jesse Walker“; cross-posted to Infocult)

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2 Responses to What makes a character in social media?

  1. Pingback: This Week in ds106: Bryan Alexander on Web Storytelling | ds106 tricks

  2. Pingback: Headless ds106 Week 3: What Mean Ye Digital Storytelling?

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