Who are you? Your name. Your face. Who is she? They lady sitting across from you on the train tucked away inside a hoodie and headphones. Or that old(ish) man staring out the window with the reflection of his sharp navy blue suit and expressionless face stares back. Let’s talk closer. Your best friend, do you have one? And do you really know him/her?
Now look at them through the screen. The young woman becomes a party animal, 6 inch heels and jagerbombs every Friday night, a love for all things drama and cat related. The man, a budding biker, leather jacket and all. Your best friend? Are they who they show?
No, maybe the situations are a little too juxtaposed, i.e. Train Vs Friday night, but there is a truth behind this all. Are we really who we say we are? Behind every screen is a human being strategically crafting their profile for the whole world to see, whether that is 100% truthful to themselves or more of a pseudonymous profile or an anonymous one, is completely down to that person. After all we are the ones who control the social media we use. When online one of the major aspect that we question is the “truthfulness” off the screen, so when breaking down the idea of “identity” there are generally 2 types of people online. 1) Pseudonymous and 2) anonymous. “The concept of anonymity in online environments is best understood as a spectrum, involving multiple dimensions of identity expression… explicitly determining what identity information to disclose, withhold, or distort. Individuals may deliberately link their online personae to an offline identity or instead work to disassociate them” (Ellison N, Blackwell L, Lampe C, Trieu P. 2016) users can engage in “selective self-presentation” (Walther 1996); With networking sites such as Facebook and Google+ enforcing “real name” policies competing against sites such as Whisper and Instagram which allow pseudonymous and anonymous identities to be created, conflict of interest can arise. The question here is, which view it right?
‘Identity’ by Gareth (CC By 2.0) Feb 21st 2005
The answer is there is no right answer, it is a matter of preference, however scholars such as Danah Boyd and Bernie Hogan have continually argued the positives of using pseudonymous and anonymous identities believing that they, in a way, are a mechanism of defence in the way they protect the user’s identity and security all the while granting them the freedom to engage online (Marwick A. & Boyd D 2010 p.115). . These social sites are out way of networking and staying connected to the world as almost everything has become digital/technology related. Never the less many people have personal information they want to stay private. Said freedom also plays on the socially anxious minds of users, and this self-consciousness, over the years has been embedded into the thinking’s of today’s society and therefore, even if subconsciously, Danah believes that when creating an online persona, the subject invents an imaginary audience in their mind, one that they are appropriately crafting themselves to appeal to (Marwick A. & Boyd D 2010 p.115). This alteration in the identity building process can be small adjustments such as exaggerations or downplays of personal information (like address and age), or editing your profile picture ever so slightly. These “imagined audiences”(Marwick A. & Boyd D 2010 p.115) can also influence the type of content you would upload onto social media. Due to twitter being a Friendship directed micro blogging site, “the tweets posted are seen publicly. This inability to know the exact audience does not mean that tweets are seen by infinite numbers of people… nearly all tweets are read by relatively few people – but more twitters don’t know which few people. Without knowing the audience, participants imagine it.” (Marwick A. & Boyd D 2010 pg. 118) and most people have several audiences in mind when posting (e.g. their followers, their friends and themselves). Stereotypical thoughts about anonymous users and suspicions about the authenticity of their person has always been an issue because they are essentially unknown, however, some people choose to use said anonymous identities because they may have a conflict of interest such as differing personal opinions from their companies, or an abusive relationships which they need to reach out from to get help or any other legit reason to keep their name separate from their full identity. The few that abuse this freedom are what gives this a bad aura. However, if we were to get rid of both pseudonymous and anonymous identity options, and were only allowed to create “real name” accounts, users would find it very hard to adapt. As Emily Van der Nagel and Jordan Frith put very well: “different identity practices are shaped by specific contexts of use. much of the richness — even if that richness can at times offend certain sensibilities — of online communities may be lost in a rush to embrace the singular identities of the “real name” Internet movement.” (Van der Nagel E. and Frith J. 2015).
There is always 2 sides to every story, so in this info-graph I created, I looked at what these sides were:
After analysing how others present themselves online, I reflected on my own online persona. Through my twitter account which I tweet both personal and Uni related tweets, I notices that I use an extensive amount of hashtags when writing a post, and realised that whilst going to type a tweet, I will write what I want to write, then re-read it and “perfect” it, or I’ll spend 5 minutes finding the right meme. When thinking about this, I mainly do it because of the wider audience; through the process of conceptualization, I target specific and different audiences, even though this too is imagined, through the use of mentions and hash tags I am able to rest assured that my tweets have meaning and direction. Although I use one account to tweet both personal and professional tweets from, I don’t find myself lying or saying anything that I wouldn’t normally say; I use my real name and a picture of myself that shows my character as much as any other picture of mine.
I am usually a very shy person, however through social media I find myself being myself, through this I have gained much self-confidence. This reverse effect demonstrates that my online persona and I are becoming more and more like one across all social media platforms and in real life. Which leads me to question if technology has changed the idea of ‘Identity’ all together. Is social media now not just a representation of ourselves but an extension of one’s self, embedded into everyday life? My answer is yes, yes 100% yes. Even though a small stubborn part of me wants to deny it. In a way I treat my social media as a virtual journal of events and thoughts, documenting my life, some people think of this as a negative however I find it fascinating to nostalgically learn and reflect on my development as a person. Through using social media, I am learning who I am little by little.
My Broader ALC-Related online activity
After week one of this unit, I rushed home and reopened my cobweb covered twitter account which had been dormant since, what I thought was early 2016, (turned out to be late 2016) and I honestly surprised myself because I could not remember the last time I tweeted. I “revamped” my twitter account, changed from an egg to a face, changed my user name to my full name and created a short but sweet twitter bio. Since then I have been urged to tweet more and more and have re-discovered the fun of it. Through this unit I also created a blog, which at first I was dreading, however now am excited to post, I also went through my other social media accounts (such as Instagram) and revamped-vamped those so that I had consistency throughout my online presence. I also created a LinkdIn; even though I had heard a lot about this website, I never fully understood. Now I feel as though not only has my online presence increased from covering 3 platforms to 5+, but I now have a strong virtual presence.
To end, I believe this quote by Any Warhol perfectly describes social media from my point of view: “The ides is not to live forever, but to create something that will”
(1109 words excluding caption in-text citations and listed references )
Ellison, N, Blackwell, L, Lampe, C & Trieu, P. 2016, ‘”The Question Exists, but You Don’t Exist With It”: Strategic Anonymity in the Social Lives of Adolescents, Social Media + Society, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 2, DOI: 10.1177/2056305116670673
Gareth 2005, Identity, photograph, retrieved 8 April 2017, https://www.flickr.com/photos/trois-tetes/5195847/in/photolist-sCxz-LXzoz-svEXiE-5UEzCb-bQjCC6-dJTM5R-o2qDx9-38YPEX-7KopC9-ovjPVg-beuJRX-biWJHi-beuK5X-T7UsTJ-4kmVrW-gDwVDf-6neJyd-apkkmH-6R6gnF-bB3ptg-7yQsMa-4D7uKU-7hLPZV-9rf48H-beD3ek-evKTf2-7mADH4-6v6KeC-4tLRpH-NRXmg-6Lbjme-93TYVs-mkfson-7skoP7-9rLLjH-9nuXqb-f9ttn5-7SFwPc-gUiWLR-jEfuaS-98f7PD-61YrtT-SfMMZC-dDtWTx-buyDbM-6neGDU-5QZ1fu-38KAuA-oFemB1-N1bYT
Marwick, A & Boyd, D 2010, ‘I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse and the imagined audience’, New Media Society, Vol. 13, No. 1, 7th July, pp 115-118.
Van der Nagel E. & Frith J. 2015, ‘Anonymity, pseudonymity, and the agency of online identity: Examining the social practices of r/Gonewild’, First Monday, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 1, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i3.5615
Walther, JB 1996, ‘Computer-mediated communication: impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction’, Communication Research, 1, p. 3, Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 April 2017