You Are [Not] What You Post

I will be vulnerable with CSMT, because I guarantee that at least 75% of the class will guiltily resonate with what I am about to confess. But that’s okay, because we’re all part of the norm.

On various occasions (not on every profile picture or status update, I promise), I have written captions for photos and statuses only to backspace as I lazily reclined on my sofa attempting to embellish my original verbal content.  And I think we all need to real with ourselves. Why do we post certain photos; why do we edit our captions before we publicize them, why do we check Facebook every hour to see if our ‘likes’ stats have increased? It is this idea that innately, most people just want to fit in. They want to be a part of the online community, a relevance to people’s lives. And it is in this desire to be accepted by one’s respective community that cultivates the presentation of the self.

In a Huffington Post titled, “Facebook Study Reveals Links Between What You Post and Who You Are”, executive editor Biana Bosker  reveals the research on the jargon differences for respective age groups. By analyzing 15 million messages posted by 75,000 users, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania discovered what jargons are most used by which people/personalities and demographics. The author goes on to say that the research points out the different topics teenagers, college/graduate students, and families discuss about via social media. For example, teenagers would more often use phrases like “ugh” or “bleh” and almost always discussed about school whereas college and 20-somethings more often used the term “sh*t” and posted statuses mainly regarding work and weddings. In addition, men more often said “f***” than women, and women more often said “excited” than men; younger men talked more of “getting drunk,” while older men usually preferred “drinking beer” (Bosker, P. 5).

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In conclusion, the author and researchers state that through the usage of common jargons, one can tell with some level of accuracy what age group and gender the user is. And although there is truth to that (since it’s been done), I cannot say that it is an authentic accuracy.

According to Hugo Liu’s “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances,” we, as consumers, display ourselves on Social Network Profiles (SNPs) and compose ourselves into a “taste statement,” which we then perform for the audience. According to Liu, “successful performers are aware of the impression they foster,” meaning, these performers, these users, are aware of the lingo they are speaking in so that they can fit in. As reviewed in class, there are four categories of taste statements – prestige, differentiation, authenticity, and theatrical personas. Prestige attempts to impress, differentiation seeks to loudly speak out that the user is unique, authenticity attempts to be perfect in its imperfections and therefore real, and theatrical persona is exaggerated character.

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That said, if that is the case, then the researchers’ data is not all that accurate. Although statistically it is accurate, since statistics don’t deviate too much, the authenticity of the accuracy is questionable. From Liu’s stance, these 75,000 users edit their posts and captions so that it will fit into their respective, expected categories.

We find a greater example of self-presentation on SNPs through Lim’s “Facework on Facebook: the Online Publicness of Juvenile Delinquents and Youths-at-Risk.” In this brilliant study, the authors research the usage of Facebook to maneuver public image amongst juvenile delinquents and youths-at-risk in Singapore. Granted, due to the limited number of interviewees for this research, the concluding data is submissive to change had there been more people to participate. Dr. Lim studies the Asian concept of face: the self-face (the concern for one’s own image), the other-face (for another’s image), and the mutual-face (the concern for both parties and their displayed relationship). Using this concept, Dr. Lim applies the term “Facework,” where the interviewees disclose their information on managing their Facebook accounts to satisfy their differing online communities and their gang (which more often than not, clashed).

In one of the interviews, Interviewee 12 states that when a gang member or leader publicize a fight and demands the other leaders to come, Interviewee 12 responded with an affirmative, yet would not go and tell him later in private in order to “save face.” In another case, because they had to cater to different audiences (i.e. families versus gang members), many of them made separate accounts – one “good account” and one “bad account.” Through this, they avoided “losing face” among differing social groups.

For these delinquents, Facebook was not a means to socialize and discuss school and jobs; it was “impression management” with serious consequences if facework was not conducted properly. Through these two different studies by Liu and Lim, we can see these delinquents and most likely many of us, myself included, manipulate our performances on our respective SNPs in order to present a certain version of ourselves to certain audiences. I understand that the research was done to discover more on the differing jargon and thus personalities of age groups using social media, but as seen by these articles, I believe that too many of us purposely alter our image for various purpose. That said, I think this research could show how grouped people tend to be, which can lead to this concept that everyone is striving to be placed in a certain category. Even, for example, a taste statement of authenticity is still a category. It’s still a desire to be grouped into a label claiming that I am not part of any label, which is very much still a label.

We’re all part of labels, we all have our respective lingo and discussion topics, but I think that beautifully brings us all together on social media platforms, even if that means we may alter our self-presentations here and there. It’s not like we’re a totally different person on our SNPs…or at least I hope we’re not.

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