Social Networking Sites500/539SNS each contain unique mechanisms and functions which attracts a certain audience. This could be the users right to anonymity (or lack of), that attracts an audience, or the services that the platform provides. Examples of SNS are Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, 4chan, Twitter, Tumblr and LiveJournal. For example, Facebook users must use their real name; no pseudonyms or nicknames are allowed and they are strict on enforcing this.
Facebook states that this is so that everybody is aware of who they are interacting with. https://www.facebook.com/help/112146705538576?helpref=faq_content The basic uses of Facebook are that it allows users to become ‘friends’ and their friends’ posts will then appear on their feed, allowing them to connect with each other.
Users can write on each others ‘walls’, post and tag their friends in photos, post updates about their lives and life events and it has a messenger service too. Another function of Facebook is that it allows the user to connect their account to their Google account, which also promotes use of real names and identity. This supports the statement that various selves built on different SNS may all be linked to piece together somebody’s whole identity. Reddit is a popular site like Facebook as contents is usually images and written posts. It is a content aggregator; posts are categorised into ‘subreddits’ which users can subscribe to so that they are only shown content that they are interested in on their home screen. The site allows users to use pseudonyms which allows for greater self expression. Due to anonymity mixed with posts being categorised into topics, users can interact with each other on posts they are passionate about and are able to express themselves freely.
On Reddit, the user is often interacting with like-minded people, whereas on Facebook they are encouraged to be friends with people they know. This can result in not being interested in what the users friends are posting on Facebook.Twitter is a platform where users can post images or 180 character written posts, named ‘tweets’. Like Instagram, it only requires an email to sign up, so users may remain anonymous if they wish. Twitter users can follow their friends, celebrities and any other account that interests them. Instagram is an image sharing SNS, delivered mainly through the app. It is usually used to follow friends and businesses that the user is interested in. Terms in captions of images can be grouped together by hashtag so that similar items are found when the term is searched.
Users may remain anonymous as an email address is the only requirement for an account. They are also able to keep their profile private and choose who they will accept to follow them. An archive is kept of their posts and online activity. A similar site to this is 4chan. Like Reddit, the content is aggregated into categories, 4chan is an online image sharing site which originated for Japanese manga and anime.
It does not keep an archive, which means that users are able to post freely and anonymously, though it may be argued that this allows for inappropriate online behaviour. The mechanisms of each site influences how users are able to communicate and therefore present themselves.Construction of Self300/335To begin researching how the self is created online, it must first be determined how the offline self is constructed. William James (1842-1910) was a philosopher and psychologist who first suggested that the self is compiled of various aspects, and isn’t just one autonomous system.
He suggested that the self is split into 3 dimensions; material, spiritual and social. The material self includes, but isn’t limited to, the psychical body. The spiritual and emotional self is further from the body, though is still technically ‘owned’, so it remains part of the self. Finally, the social self is experienced through the material; it is through human interaction that the social self is formed (Leary, 1990). However, online there is no physical interaction.
What does this mean for how the self is built in an online era? James claimed that not all of these dimensions are experienced equally or to the same extent with each interaction. Therefore, a new self is formed and experienced for each new situation (Leary, 1990). By piecing together users various selves from different SNS, a picture can be built of them as each site contains portions of their personalities. When relating James’ theory to modern day society, it may be argued that this is old and outdated as it does not take into account factors such as social media. An updated version of this theory could include the online self and how this it aligns with and may be pieced into people’s offline identities.
This theory breaks down the self so that it can be contextualised to social media. For example being able to display different selves to different audiences. Erving Goffman (1922-1982) suggested that the self is a performance. He described his theory through an analogy of theatrical performance. Each Interaction is a performance between two participants; one the ‘actor’ and one the ‘viewer’. Throughout the communication they will switch roles repeatedly, the actor aware that they are being observed and therefore are abiding by social codes and conventions (Bullingham, 2013).
The Self Curated Online600/800 How the self is expressed online – sherry turkle/katie davis study/Goffman’s theory can be contextualised to modern day technology as he did so with telephones. He suggested that humans are designed to have physical interactions and telephone communications are a weak method of communication. Each participant is unable to pick up on instinctive visual cues and read the other’s body language like they are able to in person, which makes communication unnatural and difficult.
Because of the distance between participants, it becomes easier to mask things that the participants would like to cover (Bullingham, 2013). This can be contextualised to social media as each user posting is the actor and others on the site are the audience. The distance between them may be sat next to each other, or they may be on opposite sides of the world.
Users may highlight aspects of their life that they would like to enforce and conceal those that they would not. They are essentially able to build a whole new online identity. Goffman stated that once an impression has been made, participants must keep up this self and personality to ‘save face’, comparing it to the concept of wearing a mask (Bullingham, 2013). In not doing so, they risk being thought of as inauthentic. Relating to online self-construction, Sherry Turkle (1948-present) is an American psychologist and author. She supports James’s theory of multiple layers to the self, though was stated that all of these layers must all work cohesively to create one whole functioning self (Turkle, 2011).
Turkle has published many books focussing mainly on technology and how it is affecting modern society. Her earlier work was optimistic about the future of social media, though as it has become more advanced, the more recent work is quite pessimistic. Turkle believes that social media teaches that others are a problem to be managed and kept at the right distance.
It allows users to be close enough to be ‘friends’, but they don’t want the real life interaction. To sum up, she stated that ‘we sacrifice connection over communication (TED, 2012).However, Turkle does appreciate the benefits of social media. She claims that the online world is a good ‘testing ground’ for people to test out various selves and personalities online and gauge how they are perceived before using them in real life. She does however warn that if users put these selves online, they must be prepared to own them offline, otherwise this could cause problems (Krotoski, 2012*). She also suggested that social media is an outlet for narcissism.
When social media wasn’t very common and occupied only a small portion of users’ days, they were able to control what they put online and cherry pick aspects of their personalities they would like to project. However, as users are spending a prolonged amount of time on SNS, it is no longer comparable to USING a different or ‘fake’ self for an interview or meeting somebody new, users are needing to withhold these personalities for an extended period of time. Modern social media can be likened to reality television shows in that as a population who are primarily online, it becomes more difficult to ‘fake’ a personality when users are being constantly observed by others. Therefore, if, as Turkle suggested, a new self is being tested online, this may feed into users’ offline personalities too, as the borders between the online and offline self blur (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2015). It may be argued that the ease of altering SNS settings enables users to easily recreate themselves and their perception online.
Identity can be displayed online through use of avatars, which compliments Goffman’s idea of ‘masks’ and performance. Avatars are particularly important on Second Life, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), a virtual world where users create an online life and interact with others in time, as appearance is the only way that users can identify themselves (Bullingham, 2013). Turkle suggested that avatars are an ‘ideal’ version of users; they’re often much fitter, taller or better looking than the user themselves. Users don’t put themselves down in their avatars, they simply magnify their good qualities (FIND QUOTE).
Although Goffman was more focussed on basic human interactions and not alter egos, this does give a greater insight into modern day personalities and how people adopt various personalities throughout their lives, days and perhaps each single interaction (Bullingham, 2013). When presenting themselves online, MMORPG users can come close to an accurate representation through use of avatars. Photographer Robbie Cooper created COLLECTION titled ‘My Avatar, My Alter Ego’. Cooper photographed MMORPG users next to their online avatars.
These images highlight how some people use their avatars to truly reflect themselves online while others submerge themselves into the concept of role-playing and create a whole new identity. There are no restrictions on identity appearance on MMORPGs, so anybody can and does appear to look totally different to their real life appearance (Moutat, Cooper, n.d.)..
These images reinforce TURKLES statement that users of avatars don’t dwell on their negative features, they reinforce their positive ones. DISCUSS KATIE DAVIS STUDYWhen relating the self to online, a trait users often look for in others is authenticity. Users find their online friends to be more trustworthy if they are authentic, they hold them in higher regard (Krotoski, 2017).