Facebook - self-presentation and Identity construction In the era of Social networking sites, social connectedness has become
increasingly online and virtual. Face-to-face communications are starting to be taken over by the computer mediated communication. It serves to the gratification of various personal and social needs such as keeping in touch with friends, sharing information about oneself and learning about social events (Tosun 2012). A qualitative study found that members increase their social productivity by re-establishing connections with lost friends, and viewing friends through their online profile (Dwyer 2007). This brings us to an important aspect of virtualization, the creation and maintenance of an online persona, which is not bound by restrictions that a conventional face-toface communication might have. This online platform provides the user with the ability to choose what to portray in his/her online identity. In a conventional social interaction users choose to use one or many of their identities based on the situation. For example, a user might have multiple identities such as a husband, father, son, brother etc. He chooses to use one or many of his identities depending on the social context he is in. This paper will focus on the need for self-presentation on online platforms as an act of bridging the socio-technical gap and discuss interaction between the technical feasibility of SNS (Social networking sites) and social needs of users. It will further address the types of self-presentation and user motives to use digital persona. The adaptation of this feature by various social groups distinguished by gender and age is studied to analyze the relationship between a technology and society.
Social networking sites as a Socio technical system A social networking site is a socio technical system comprising of users and technology. Users pursue a goal and must therefore interact with others through technology. The interaction
2008). The interaction between technology and social requirements constantly results in a coevolution as the technology tries to catch up to the social requirements and society adapts to the technology that does not leverage itself to provide 100% required functionality. 2009). When communication comes into picture. This was an important finding. This anonymity steered users to engage in play-act at being someone else (Zhao et al. 2009). the need for selfidentity and social profile were also on the rise.
. People used the Internet as a source of information and a platform to communicate to others. For many years. for it indicated that the online world was not monolithic. The main reason being that the ability to evaluate another person’s identity is critical if any communication is to ensue (Coenen et al. “The social–technical gap is the divide between what we know we must support socially and what we can support technically” (Ackerman 2000). This gap is caused by two factors: The difficulty in accurately capturing social requirements such as privacy. When technology is unable to meet the needs of the social dimension it is termed as the social-technical gap. As social interaction began to rise on the Internet. self-presentation and in creating a cognitive model for these social requirements (Dwyer 2007).with others brings in the social aspect (Coenen et al. trust. users would want to gauge the identity of the viewers with whom they are sharing information. It did not seem much of an issue with anonymous platforms. In our case: identity construction. The online persona or identity creation began in anonymous environments such as chat rooms and bulletin boards where users communicated without knowing the true identity of another. The primary detail required to analyze a social technical system is to assess its social needs. With the advent of online dating. “The results from a study suggested that people acted differently in such environments than they did in other online settings. people on the Internet have gone without an online profile. users began to look for trust and privacy.
they could not be verified with a campus profile. 2008). 2008). As Facebook began gaining popularity.
Identity construction and self-presentation The question of identity. How does the process of identity construction change when the complexity of online social structures is added? The study below will address the idea of identity construction in an online setting and how it is influenced by the society. This created an almost perfectly non-anonymous platform since the real name of users was displayed along with some personal information derived from their student account.and online self-presentations varied according to the nature of the settings” (Zhao et al. Users did not have the need to edit their profile as it already had important personal information. Since Facebook was initially provided as a means of socializing within the campus. The first college version of Facebook required the use of a registered official campus email address linked to the Facebook profile (Zhao et al.
. is difficult to answer in everyday life. This provided the trust factor that users wanted to see during their online communication events. the need to cater to users outside the registered campus circle gave birth to the online identity construction/self-presentation feature in Facebook. Thus self-presentation began to take a new form on less anonymous platforms such as online dating websites and social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. The study results also indicate that the identity construction behavior varies between the initial anonymous environments and less anonymous ones like Facebook. its functionality was restricted to a specific user type. When users outside the campus circle came in contact with the network. This created the opportunity for an identity construction by the user to choose what traits he wants to present to his viewer community. what it is and how it is constructed.
which is done by the interaction with other actors. His only goal is to keep coherent with the various stage performances. but there are certain traits that may leak into their selfpresentation in spite of efforts to hide them. Drawing from the actor stage interaction. the on stage space is analogous to the Internet where the actor is constantly interacting with other actors. In a social network. it creates the need for multiple identities – The true-self back stage and the multiple on stage persona. The on stage space is where the positive aspect of the self and desired impressions are highlighted. nor perform for viewers. the social actor has the ability to choose his props and audience. The on stage space is considered to be for self-idealization where no negative traits are exposed. The back stage region is where individuals can be their self without having to worry about their identity in society.User groups and their identity construction and self-presentation strategies Self-presentation is composed of expressions given (information that is intended) and expressions given off (information that leaks out) (Goffman 1959). Goffman in “The presentation of self in everyday life” revolves his views around the belief that every human has two behaviors – on stage and off stage. Users intend to showcase some information to their audience. The space is entirely for him where he is his true actual self. an actor has to perform on stage everyday as he interacts with the audience and coactors. The
. According to Goffman. The stage is analogous to a social context and the actors are the people present in a society. The actor can chose his identity in the online space and control which traits are visible to the other social actors in that network. This is like the time a person gets with himself where he does not have to portray to have certain traits. When actors move from role to role and switch between settings. He compares the social interactions of humans to that of a theatrical performance. Users have control over their identity towards specific audience.
Grasmuck. Whilst the view of Goffman states that the backstage is for ones true actual self and idealization is highlighted on stage. there are contrary arguments. This is the second user group based on motives and users look to identity creation as a second chance to be oneself whilst hiding their physical appearance. modes of identity creation strategies were based on the extent to which visible and verbal
. they look for alternate frameworks in which they can express those traits. & Martin across 63 Facebook accounts including a sample of men and women hailing from 5 different ethnic groups. According to a study conducted by Zhao. We have thus identified the first user group based on their motive to use an online identity.actor on stage performs in a manner adhering to social norms and rules (Goffman 1959). Individuals need to express their true self in a social environment. People find it difficult to portray their true self on a face-to-face interaction especially when it is against social norms and expectations. User groups are a key deciding factor in the acceptance and diffusion of a new technology/feature (Bijker 1997). True self involves ones actually existing characteristics but are not fully expressed in social life. Their identity construction will be on lines to portray a characteristic they are not comfortable showcasing in a conventional social setting. Facebook is used in 2 ways: to maintain already anchored offline relationships and to create new ones online. The first user group of identity construction is a person who turns to an online identity to self-idealize and to hide negative traits. The study by Tosun in his “Motives for Facebook use and expressing true self on the Internet” suggested that individuals that are more likely to showcase their true traits are more prospective to use Facebook often since they tend to look at this as a chance to initiate new inter personal relationships (Tosun 2012). When they are unable to do so. Those aspects could be more easily expressed through ones online profile since their physical appearance is hidden (Tosun 2012).
They are more interested in depicting the depth of their social ties by portraying interaction and bonding in every communication they make. Such users engage in enumerative cultural description and tend to portray details about themselves by listing their hobbies. The farthest end of the continuum. “Being popular among friends” was a claim that was present on almost all user profiles. places visited etc. They do not implicitly claim their identity by a bunch of pictures. Majority of the users had no solo pictures at all or had pictures along with friends indicating the effort to construct a group social identity. “Well-roundedness” was another characteristic to emphasize the interest in
. 2008). Self-presentation on Facebook varied from implicit to explicit identity claims.
The continuum of implicit and explicit identity claims on Facebook (Zhao et al.
The second cluster of users is the “cultural self”.techniques were involved. This type of user directly introduces themselves to their viewers by self-description (Zhao et al. 2008). tv shows. neither do they explicitly describe about themselves. Another result of this study is the type of identity claims that users make. The user aims at generating the desired impression on their viewers by showing without telling. the implicit identity claims are predominantly visual involving the use of photographs with friends and social involvement in a community of friends by numerous wall posts and comments. favorite food. They expect the viewer to conclude on their personality based on the information they provide. movies they have watched. The third mode is the explicit verbal description of self. Rather they give an intermediate level of detail about things they do or like.
One interesting observation based on age differences is that “Younger participants constructed their identities through visually elaborate and individualized profiles. is comprised of anything the user wants to portray. The impression of possessing this trait was achieved through the use of positive thought-provoking quotes. Women tend to change the appearance of their websites more often than men do. that drives them towards a more dynamic profile page. From personal observation I see that women are more interested in finding out how popular they are based on the number of likes they receive for their pictures and posts. This re-emphasizes the claim by Goffman about trying
to idealize on an on stage setting. The online identity as the social actor creates it. Profile images are a form of implicit identity construction. “While the nonanonymity of the environment does seem to make people more “realistic and honest” in their self-presentation. The qualitative analysis of the choices people make while choosing their Facebook profile image would throw light on additional user groups based on gender and age differences. Also Women are more likely to display a photograph of them smiling in an online dating forum.hobbies and other activities. the reduction of “gating obstacles” in the online setting enables the users to
“stretch the truth a bit”” (Strano 2008). This may not apply directly to Facebook since the primary purpose of Facebook is not dating for more than 16% of the population but can be extended to Facebook identities (Strano 2008). Men are driven by highlighting an achievement or special event and hence have lower dynamics on their profiles. while older adolescents preferred an aesthetically plain profile appearance that highlighted social connections through "links to others' profiles and by posting photos of the peer group socializing
. The last was “thoughtfulness”. The first aspect that reaches the eyes of the viewer is the profile image.
There is clearly a distinction between users of different gender and age group.offline” (Strano 2008). The reason for this being that older population probably already has strong anchored relationships offline and just want to keep in touch with them online. whereas the younger generation is also on the lookout for new connections that creates the visually elaborate profiles. The percentage of women who have their profile images showcase friends or special events is much higher than men giving proof that their profile tends to me more dynamic. Below are some graphical representations of results from the study: Gender based variations
Age based variations
Original data available in Appendix A (Strano 2008).
Men -8. which creates the necessity to manage multiple online personas. The users have the capacity to choose what traits they want to explicitly show off to their audience base (Miller 1995). Based on a study of 63 corporate Facebook user profiles the 3 types of indiviuals were identified in a context of multiple identity management. They do not have to manage their identity for the corporate world since their primary motive to use Facebook is to keep in touch with their college mates. “Dressed to Impress” and “Living in the business world” (DiMicco & Millen 2007). They are: “Reliving the college days”. They tend to carry the identity construction that was made during the initial use of Facebook as a socializing
. Users separated by gender and age differences have different motives and needs that have to be accommodated in the design of a feature. Though there are some traits that seem to be common among men and women. There are some pieces of information that I may want only my school friends to be aware of. As the user moves from one stage of life to another. I have friends from my school. This creates a multiple identity management on a single Facebook account since I want different friends to view different pieces of information about myself. The “Reliving college days” individuals primarily use Facebook to stay in touch with their college friends. They may use more than one SNS (Social Networking site). It is common that users what to share only a specific part of their life to specific audience. Their only primary target audience is friends from college and hence would not require an alternate identity. they interact with people from different phases of their life (DiMicco & Millen 2007).8%.9%) (Strano 2008). undergraduate and graduate phases of life. the profile image being a depiction of how attractive and fun loving they are seems more essential to women.(Women – 19. Another type of multiple identity management comes into play when the user has 2 or more audience groups on the same platform. Users may not always have a single self-presentation online. Drawing from personal experience.
Explicit user who tells via self description c. Implicit user who shows rather than telling b. This is because they have at least two sets of viewers: Professional colleagues and old friends. Users who tend to use Facebook as a chance to show their true self which they are unable to do in a conventional social set up 3. The user groups discussed above are summarized as follows: 1.platform on campus. Living in the Business world
User groups influence on Technology While the diffusion and acceptance of a new technology largely depends on these groups. they also form the basis for any new or future change that is ought to happen in the field (Bijker
. The other two types are managing their self-presentation to some extent. Separated by age 5. User groups based on Profile images a. The information about their corporate space is very limited and could probably be thought of as mere information to their old friends rather than a split corporate identity. Dressed to Impress c. Reliving college days b. Separated by gender b. User types based on identity claim a. Based on multiple identity management a. Users who look to self idealize on Facebook and hide their negative traits 2. Cultural self who is an intermediate 4.
Technology would thus keep evolving as the user base expands and as the users increase. The design features and privacy controls lend it to be used by diverse user groups in specific ways. there were some design changes made to accommodate the needs of new users. While the users groups need to attain closure (Social groups see no problem with the new feature) to eliminate the need for alternative designs. they also help in changing present design to accommodate user needs. The identity construction on Facebook has a variety of user groups and hence would require design flexibility to satisfy all users while providing the essential functionality. The profile image and other contents on the Facebook profile can be have a specific set of audience that can be controlled by the user. The user groups thus play a vital role in the evolution of a technology and the way it changes over the years (Bijker 1997). For example. their diverse motives alter the technological feature to accommodate the new social needs. But in the current design. but as the target group expanded. a need for privacy and trust would arise thereby causing design changes. The need for a campus email address was no longer enforced.1997). As more people start using their cover photo as an aspect of their online identity. Over the years we could expect a change or ability to control this feature. The evolution of online identity construction as a feature has been changing as the new user groups had fresh needs. “Adaptation
. the user traits in the first place are also influenced by the sociocultural context in which they prevail (Baumeister & Mark 1996). the cover image is by default visible to everyone and cannot be controlled.
Identity as a product of sociocultural context While technology is shaped by social needs and behavior of its users. Identity itself is a characteristic that is affected by the social setting. initially Facebook was meant to be used by college students with a registered email address.
loss of traditional value bases. but is influenced by the sociocultural context. changed interpersonal patterns. Although identity adapts to changes in its sociocultural context. it is rather a social product. Depending on the characteristics of the environment in which they find themselves. trust and self-presentation and in creating a cognitive model for social requirements would cause the interaction between the technology and society to stay alive
Technology and the society – A broader perspective The interaction between online user identity and the technology that supports it will be always interconnected and influence each other. The difficulty in accurately capturing social requirements such as privacy. individuals will choose to claim identities that can help them better situate within the given social environment. because it recognizes the causal importance of culture yet also recognizes individual choice and change. the outcome of a given social environment and hence performed differently in varying contexts. ‘‘True selves.” (Baumeister & Mark 1996).” ‘‘real selves. it is not an expression of something innate in a person. multilateral relationship between individual identity and sociocultural context.may be the best way to conceptualize the complex. these changes sometimes create new problems. This argument is developed by considering how several historical changes in the sociocultural context (i. including the specially problematic nature of modern selfhood. Identity is not a product of the society. Also from another study results “identity is not an individual characteristic.” and ‘‘hoped-for possible selves” are products of different situations rather than characteristics of different individuals” (Zhao et al. 2008). increasing freedom of choice. and rising tension between desire for uniqueness and difficulty of achieving it) have led to changes in the nature of identity.e.
The technology is unable to accurately capture social needs. and Jason Martin. Erving. These two processes will go hand in hand and cannot function on their own since neither of them is in isolation. Sherri Grasmuck. the society interacts with it and tries to adapt to it. This process will be a continuous one. Shanyang. "The presentation of self in everyday life. 2. As a result.since this creates a socio technical gap (Dwyer 2007). Zhao.
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