Facebook, Multimodality, Social Media

Transactional Costs.

Jones and Hefner define transactional costs as ‘The amount of effort, time or other resources expended in making a transaction such as sending a message’ (2012: 200), therefore to talk ‘face to face’ has a high transactional cost. This is because the addresser and addressee both have to commit to facial language, body language and context of what is said. However, to text a conversation is low transactional cost, texting ‘Hi’ takes minimal effort.

Sometimes different platforms for socialising can cause problems with miscommunication. Below is a series of screen shots between myself and my grandmother. The screen shots show Rose over using the ‘Like’ function on Facebook Messenger. To myself and people of my generation using the ‘Like’ button is blunt and can be misconstrued as rude. Whereas to someone of Roses generation it is a function to show that she has received, and understood my message.

Figure one: ‘Like’. Source: Facebook Messenger.


Reviewing the transactions throughout the screenshots (Figures one and two) is it clear that the age-gap between myself and Rose shows levels of constraints on the medium chosen for the communication. However the use of this function can jeopardise unknown topic shifts. This can be seen in figure one, as my grandmother has enquired to whether I had finished work for the day, but gave no insight as to why this was important knowledge to her.

Figure two: No Love. Source: Facebook Messenger.

The medium Facebook Messenger has a lot of positive attributions. The platform gives the option for participants to video-chat, audio-call, group-chat and share images, and videos.As well as the different functions the platform is highly customisable (figure five). Participants can change the colour of chats, add nicknames and much more. This brings appeal to the platform. Small details such as the keyboard containing emojis and GIF’s options opens up much more for users to be able to include in conversations (Figure three & four).

Figure three: Keyboard. Source:Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger is a brilliant platform for Instant messaging, allowing ‘users to chat semi-synchronously over the internet’ (2012: 195) enabling people from all over the world to keep in contact. However, a constraint of a medium such as Facebook Messenger is that it instills continuous partial attention. This is ‘a stressful state in where people continuously, but only partially, pay attention to information from digital communications […] motivated by the fear of ‘missing out’’ which in recently has been linked to illnesses such as depression.

Figure four: Emojis. Source: Facebook Messenger.


In conclusion the ability of the platform is incredible for what it can achieve, while being highly adaptable to the user. The different options help the user to determine how much transactional cost they’re willing to include in communication. However, the downside of age-gaps, miscommunication and glitches all come as constraints to the medium. Meaning even though the medium is powerful – it can become a problem.

Figure five: Customisation. Source: Facebook Messenger.


Facebook. (2015) Messenger [online] available from <https://en-gb.messenger.com> [2nd January 2018]

Jones, R.H. and Hafner, C.A. (2012) Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. New York: Routledge.

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