Textual Analysis Essay Example

In the article “It’s not about You, Facebook. It’s about Us” by Jenna Wortham, published in the New York Times she claims that Facebook is a big part of our daily lives and the fact that it is going public worries some people that our relationship with the social media mogul could change. She describes how communication has moved online and this has changed the way we think about ourselves and the way we present our digital personality. What people do on Facebook is important to them; according to Wortham, Facebook users tend to feel that they have a shared interest in what changes occur as a result of their close relationship with it. She concludes her article with the implied question “Will Facebook change once it goes online and will this affect its users in a major way?” This rhetorical analysis will address how Wortham’s article utilizes audience, purpose, ethos, pathos, and logos.


One targeted audience for this article is Facebook users. Facebook users would be interested in the ways we connect online using social media as the medium. Facebook users understand that sometimes communication gets misinterpreted and misconceptions occur: “Our bickering became so heated that he furiously typed ‘I hate Facebook!’ and signed off.” They would be interested in knowing what other ways Facebook has influenced our lives. Another targeted audience for this article is Facebook employees. Facebook employees will be affected by the company going public since it will make them eligible for stock rewards. They would also be interested in the ways Facebook might change once it does go public. Wortham asks the question, “Will the relationship between Facebook and its users change after the company goes public?”. This might concern employees because if the relationship between users and Facebook change, they could also be affected. A third audience for this article could be potential investors in Facebook that would be interested in making money on the company once it went public: “Facebook, and those that come after it, will have the tough task of balancing their users’ needs with the demands of shareholders.” This audience will already know that Facebook is a good business, especially as Wortham states Facebook “could be worth as much as $100 billion.”


The purpose of this article is to inform the audience that Facebook is going public and we don’t know the ramifications of this action because there hasn’t been a precedent. Google went public but it doesn’t have the same intimate connection to its users that Facebook does. She quotes Sherry Turkle who says “this company is reshaping how we think about ourselves and define ourselves and our digital selves.” She makes it clear that the relationship between users and Facebook is unique and that “By contrast, those who upload their vacation photos, post updates about their weekends, share the songs they’re listening to and “like” their favorite designers and television shows may have a sense of ownership of these materials that doesn’t come into the picture with a simple Web search.” She wants the reader to think about how this relationship might influence the changes that might take place once Facebook goes public.


Wortham’s article was published in the New York Times by Jenna Wortham who is a technology reporter. The New York Times has credibility because it is read by millions of readers and edited by other experts in the field on which it reports. Wortham focuses on technology issues and this suggests that she is updated on the newest information for this field. She also uses credible sources for information and opinions to support her claims: Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Alone Together; S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory (Links to an external site.) at Pennsylvania State University, and Susan Etlinger, a research analyst who advises companies on how to use technology. These are credible sources that conduct research in this field. Wortham also shows credibility with the reader because she provides a personal experience with Facebook at the beginning of her article. She immediately connects with the reader who has also experienced issues with communication on Facebook and shows him that she has some knowledge about the complexities of Facebook and its relationship with users.


Wortham evokes a sense of sadness from the reader as she recalls a personal experience with a friend on Facebook. When her friend posted something on her home page that she misinterpreted, she and her friend stopped talking. Many readers can relate to this experience: “We argued in a flurry of instant messages. He insisted that his remarks were made in good humor, while I was sure that he was making fun of me.” A reader that understands what takes place on Facebook and how communication occurs will automatically feel sad that this kind of activity can damage friendships. This might trigger the reader to think of time when something similar happened while using Facebook.


Wortham uses a specific example of her experiences with Facebook in a retelling of a situation where a friend posted a joke on her home page that she misinterpreted. Some words were exchanged and both her and her friend ended the communication in frustration. She states that it was an embarrassing and regretful situation. This information introduces the reader to her article by being placed in her introduction. It immediately connects with the reader and keeps them interested in reading what she has to say about Facebook. It also provides an example of the intricacies of Facebook communication. Wortham talks about Facebook being different than other types of internet sites. She quotes Sherry Turkle who states “it crystallized a set of issues that we will be defining for the next decade — the notion of self, privacy, how we connect and the price we’re willing to pay for it.” She says that we reveal personal information about ourselves on Facebook, which gives businesses information about our interests and outlets for business to craft their advertisements to fit us individually. Her strategy in providing this information is to support why we might need to be concerned when Facebook goes public. She says that “as Facebook evolves into a sustainable business, the trick will be making sure that users don’t cool on its tactics.” This is the basis for her article: what will happen when Facebook goes public and the direction of the company is determined by shareholders instead of managers? Wortham doesn’t know the answer to this question, but she tries to give it some perspective by mentioning how Google also went public and that “there wasn’t the same personal connection to Google that there is to Facebook.” It is up to the reader to decide how they will interpret this issue. She ends her article with a statement about Facebook’s future as a dominant presence in our lives; however, she quotes Andrew Frank who says “There was a time where people thought that way about AOL, too.” Here, she leaves the reader feeling a little unsure about the direction of Facebook’s future by comparing it to AOL. AOL was a powerhouse on the internet until it suddenly disappeared and is almost unheard of now.


Wortham’s article adds to a discussion of technology and its affects on our lives. Like many other people in the field, she questions whether the influences of technology, more specifically social media, are something that is beneficial for us. She remains skeptical about it, as evidenced by the way she concludes her article by comparing Facebook to AOL. Wortham recognizes that in order for Facebook to fail, we would need a comparable replacement. She also concedes that right now there is no replacement. The reader will just have to wait and see.

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