For many of us, social networking’s sole purpose has been to communicate and keep in touch with your friends from near and far. However, some of us have been using social media networking to shape or mold our identities into something that is more glamorous and exciting to our online social circle. One of my biggest pet peeves on social media networking sites, like Facebook, is the way people, those of whom we know very well, mold their identities or lifestyles into something more glamourous. In today’s time, society cares about what the public has to say about their lives. Every Monday, our society ensures that their friends on Facebook or Twitter know that they had a “fabulous” weekend.
(This is usually how I feel about some of the statuses I read on Monday mornings.)
In Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Baym says, “SCOT proponents also focus on what happens during technological adoption, arguing that a wide range of social, economic, governmental and cultural factors influence how people take up and use media.” People in our society simply takes the technological platform and transforms them into different usages. As opposed to using Facebook for catching-up with old and new friends, people in today’s society are using this medium to broadcast their fun weekend plans and their lives of which they pretend are better online than it is offline. The stem of the issue is the way society is making use of the capabilities presented on social media networking sites. According to Baym, “People, technologies, and institutions all have power to influence the development and subsequent use of technology. They are “interrelated nodes in constantly changing sociotechnical networks, which constitute the forms and uses of technology differently in different times and places for different groups.” The technology is certainly available to us, however it is the way we use the technology that determines the impact on society.
Many people attempt to create this image of themselves in order to impress friends who they haven’t seen in many years. Facebook is like a daily high school reunion. Showing your old and new friends what you have in your life is a way of showing them that you have achieved success, a great family, and a happy life in general. The idea of empowerment is clearly represented in An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. Michael Wesch touches on the idea of people are given social platforms to talk about themselves, that eventually gives them the opportunity to be creative with their identities.
This also brings up the question of whether or not online communities reveal the true self or the fake self. In Social Relationships and Identity Online and Offline, Slater discusses the idea of disembodiment. This describes the reasoning behind the representation of identities online versus offline. Your online presence is different from your offline presence. While this idea is mainly geared towards no judgements based on gender or race, it also represents “bluffing” in order to make your lives seem “better.” Due to the ability to express oneself without fear of being judged instantly or the fear of shyness, some might agree that the online representation of oneself is usually equally as true or sometimes more true than the offline self. However, in instances like this, the representation of self is usually wrong or very different from the offline self. This is manageable for many people, since the communities in the offline world can be different from communities in the online world.
According to Michael Wesch, the individual is able to post new and original content, unfortunately this can also include new and original personalities and identities in general. New kinds of relationships are able to develop due to identities that are established online. Whether that is fake or real, formed and created identities pave new paths for individuals to connect or establish relationships with others online. This is an incentive for individuals to go beyond their comfort zones and establish personality traits that are not necessary true. The desire to impress your online social circle is very relevant in today’s society. The reason why this is one of my biggest pet peeves on social media networking sites is because of the drastic differences I have seen between the online representation and the offline representation of numerous friends and family members. While it is great to inform your friends and family that you had a fabulous weekend last week, it is somewhat hard to believe that your life can be so perfect. If you’re having a good day everyday, then there must be something very different about you, especially since a number of your friends and family are fully aware of your crying session just two nights ago.
I completely agree with individuals who find it easier to show their personalities and identities on a social media platform as opposed to an in-person conversation. However, there should be some sort of correlation between your offline and online life. The point of social media networking sites enabling you to voice your opinions and speak out without being shy is to say or express your offline world in an online setting, not to falsify your offline world in the online setting.