This post is intended to analyse and reflect on my own social identity, why I use it and then discuss what I would like it to become. It identifies some current thinking about those who use social media and offers a definition of its users.
I first logged on to Facebook in 2008, and at first I was very timid about the information that I uploaded and people that I friended. As I have been inadvertently taught, as Marshall describes, ‘The pedagogy of the celebrity in the twentieth century can be read as a very elaborate morality tale that mapped a private world into a public world.’, (Marshall 2010, p. 37) that is to say through our media pummeling of celebrity antics we understand what and what not to post, tweet, act and live, and while some seek to emulate most are paying attention and there has come a natural avoidance of unfiltered social content.
With time it was easier, this I can tribute to what de Backer states about two forms of gossip, reputation gossip and strategy learning gossip (cited in Marshall 2010, p. 37). Through reading and learning what others are posting, therefore utilising the strategy gossip, you come to an understanding of how to conduct yourself online. Now, certainly, I am much more comfortable sharing information and digitally exposing my own character. The majority of my comments and posts are things that make me laugh. As Young describes though, ‘Presenting oneself online using a personal webpage, blog or social networking site requires purposeful selection of text, pictures, graphics and audio to create an impression.’ (Young 2013, p. 3). Does this mean that I am leaving out all the characteristics of my personality that I don’t want people to see? I think that you can look through someone profile and get a general image of what hat person is, but you can never truly know them until you meet them. I mean we have all thought grandly of some celebrity and them met in real life and suddenly have a completely different opinion afterwards (for me it was ‘meeting’ David Boon). Mehdizadeh (cited in Young 2013, p. 12) states, ‘…Facebook presents a unique opportunity for a greater, or a different form, of self expression than is possible in face-to-face context.’, so I suppose if met David on a ‘cranky day’, and that image stayed with me the use of social media could be used to show the true self. This is how I think of my social identity, I am quite stand-offish in real life, but Facebook and other sites allow me to be myself.
When discussing users of Facebook, Toma and Hancock (cited in Greenwood 2013, p. 233) state that:
The extraordinary amount of time people spend on FB [Facebook] may be a reflection of its ability to satisfy ego needs that are fundamental to the human condition … [that] pertain to how people wish to see themselves-socially attractive and embedded in a network of meaningful relationships.
Greenwood continues saying that, ‘Online profiles may function as a reassuring social mirror that confirms existential presence and value.’ (Greenwood 2013, p. 223). This is all good, but there are studies that have shown that Facebook use decreases emotional well being (Kross et al cited in Greenwood 2013, p. 223). Certainly looking at someone else’s photos of their amazing Thai holiday makes me feel a bit depressed but then I remind myself that everyone is putting on their best and leaving all the mundane things out, and honestly should I care? I prefer what McKenna (cited in Sparks 2013, pp. 266-267) suggests in that the effects of social media is positive:
For people who are impoverished socially and have few people in their social networks, use of the Internet may expand social horizons and lead to a greater sense of connection – thus increasing a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.
At the moment I use Facebook, and other sites, for about 75% of my social output, and it predominantly exists to keep in touch with my family and friends, whom I don’t have a lot of face-to-face contact. This slide show is a brief representation of photos that I share:
They are mostly my kids, DIY projects, and an occasional selfie. This is how my current social identity exists.
When it comes to defining aspects of social media participation, Bernoff and Anderson (cited in Croteau and Hoynes 2014, p. 307) suggested these titles:
At the moment I would describe myself as a conversationalist-joiner-spectator. In the coming months and certainly as I hope to move into my study field orientated workplace, I hope to move more toward the creator spectrum. The question remains though what do I do with my existing profile? Personally I don’t think I have anything untoward on my Facebook page but then I control what is displayed as Young (2013) states:
…the ways in which we perceive, present and represent ourselves has evolved over time; from pre-modern period where identity was based on social status at birth, toward an identity formed today where the individual more readily controls how he/she is perceived by others.
I decide what I say about me and it is all dependent on what is happening right now and it can change and evolve to form a different collage as to who I am. There are some aspects of my current social identity that I would like to improve on. The first is that I am starting to feel disillusioned with Facebook, this is most likely due to the abundance of advertising and being bombarded with information that sometimes leaves me thinking, why? I have been leaning toward Twitter as my main social media outlet, but even that has its problems. I would like to continue the evolution of my website, which I have owned for about three years – mainly for a clean email, and until recently have done very little with it. The initial idea behind the website was to be a showcase area for my writing. However utilising what I have learnt recently I feel it can be turned into a mecca, of sorts, of all my online identities.
There is also the thought that should I have to change my online identity when looking for work? As I previously stated most of my posts, tweets and comments are thing that I find funny, and some get likes and some get none, the enjoyment is really for my own amusement. A prospective employer may see thing differently. For an example I offer a scene from Gattaca (1997), Vincent Freeman is in an interview and they take a DNA test to determine if he is suitable for a job. That isn’t too far away from a prospective employer trolling over your online identity to decide if you fit into the company.
While we are all genuinely free to compile any form of identity we wish, most of us are aware that is not just our friends that are looking. Certainly this is something I keep in mind.
(word count, not including citations ~ 942)
Croteau, D & Hoynes, W 2014, Media/Society: Industry, Images, and Audiences, 5th edn, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
Gattaca 1997, film, Jersey Films, Los Angeles.
Greenwood, D N 2013, ‘Fame, Facebook, and Twitter: How attitudes about fame predict frequency and nature of social media use’, Psychology Of Popular Media Culture, 2, 4, pp. 222-236.
Marshall, D 2010, The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as a marker of presentational media, Celebrity Studies, 1, 1, pp. 35-48.
Sparks, G 2013, Media Effects Research: A Basic Overview, 4th edn, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Boston, MA.
Young, K 2013, ‘Managing online identity and diverse social networks on Facebook’, Webology, 10, 2, Article 109, <http://www.webology.org/2013/v10n1/a103.html>, retrieved 04/08/2014.