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Evan Guest Mrs. Pratt English 1102-071 28 March 2013 Social Networking: Life Behind the Screen vs. Reality *Girl posts picture of bible scripture, uses hash tag #motivation Hasnt been to church in 6 months.*

*Teens post about having feelings for that guy/girl in their class Never speaks to them in person.*

*Man says hes 21, in-shape, and uses someone elses pictures... Hes 40, fat and ends up on Catfish.*

Weve all seen instances/examples like these; people behaving one way in person and another way online. In our society today, we have nearly unlimited access to social networking sites that give us the freedom to post almost anything we want. This could be the opportunity youre looking for to express how you really feel. But is it only because we feel protected behind the computer screen? After extensive research, I have accumulated the hypothesis that

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what you have prevalent on your profile is equal to a first impression; something for someone to look at before knowing you. And the way you behave online is like your own unique personality; something for someone to either like or dislike and interact with. But even after all of my research, I was left with one question: What really causes people to behave different online?

The Science:
Personal characteristics and traits directly relate to how people behave online. In the article by Muscanell and Guadagno, they say psychological research recognizes that the central aspects of personality can be described as a five-factor model (Big 5; Benet-Martinez and John, 1998, John et al., 1991 and John et al., 2008). According to the Big 5, personality consists of five main traits: extraversion- represents an individuals level of sociability and outgoingness, agreeablenessreflects the extent to which an individual engages in and endorses interpersonal cooperation, openness- an individuals willingness to explore new situations, conscientiousness- an individuals willingness to think logically and reconsider options, and neuroticism- a personality disturbance not attributable to any known dysfunction (kind of the wildcard) (Costa & McCrae, 1992).

The Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama conducted a study using 238 undergraduate students who frequently used Facebook and other SNS. The object of the experiment was to examine the influence of gender and personality on the individuals use of SNS (Muscanell/Guadagno); a possible answer to our earlier question: What really causes people

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to behave differently online? Participants completed an online survey and were informed that the purpose of the study was to evaluate individual opinions and experiences with online social networking sites. The survey was formatted to which each participant was to rate themselves on each one of the Big 5 personality categories 1 (strongly disagree) - 7 (strongly agree).

Big Five Inventory means and standard deviations (N = 238). Men (135) M Extraversion Agreeableness Conscientiousness Openness Neuroticism 3.72 4.48 4.13 4.62 2.07 SD 1.28 1.04 1.17 1.18 1.26 Women (103) M 4.25 4.96 4.58 4.01 2.67 SD 1.42 1.13 1.02 1.09 1.44 Overall M 3.97 4.71 4.34 3.83 2.35 SD 1.36 1.11 1.12 1.16 1.3

*M= mean *SD= standard deviation

The results showed that both men and women fell toward the middle of the scale in all five categories. Some interesting outcomes include Individuals high in extraversion were more likely to report posting photographs Individuals high in conscientiousness were more likely to report sending private messages

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Men who were low in agreeableness posted blog entries more often than men who were high in agreeableness

Women low in agreeableness reported engaging in IM more often than women who were high in agreeableness

Overall, these results indicate the importance of examining individual differences in online behavior. (Muscanell/Guadagno) After finding the Big 5 in my research I decided to test myself using the same format. Since the actual participants in the original experiment were rating themselves, I figured I could do the same. I looked at my past 10 posts: 4 from Twitter, 3 from Facebook and 3 from Instagram. I then rated them using each of the Big 5 personality traits from 1-7 and got these results. Extraversion 3.5 Agreeableness 4.2 Conscientiousness 4.25 Openness 3.8 Neuroticism 2.2

I seemed to relatively fit in with the undergrad participants used in the original experiment above. There are tons of scientific breakdowns that can probably prove this, but reality is everchanging and the world has many variables that science cant account for.

Marketing Ourselves:

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Covers online article states one of social networks purposes as a site for the articulation of ones identity-based interests through the construction of taste statements which act as identifications with objects and with others (Liu, 253). Wow, that was complicated. To sum that up, and to be frank, people want to show off. Whether it is by showing how smart they are, pretty they are or how tough they are, people are trying to be known; trying to advertise themselves to their friends and followers and what better setting to let it all show than behind a computer screen? However, there are advantages to marketing ourselves not in person.

Careful What You Post

Since presenting ourselves behind a computer screen is, or can be easier and less stressful than in person, we can market ourselves very well. This method of advertising ourselves may give us false confidence to say or do things we may not in person. I have witnessed several times photos and posts being put on SNS that should have been carefully thought about before doing so. I am a part of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on campus and we stress to our brothers about representing ourselves and being True Gentlemen. There have been a few instances where a picture has been posted on Instagram of someone with a beer in their hand or a tweet of the same sort, which have all been quickly followed by an order to take it off the web. Many people today tend to forget how easy it can be to retrieve inappropriate images/posts from the internet. Not only can young people getting in trouble for posting on SNS, but so can old. Young people continue to lead in social media use, but SNS have also become popular among older age groups. In particular, over the last 2 years SNS use has increased rapidly for the baby-boomer cohort (age 50-64) (Pagani). When we all grow up we will not only have to be careful what we say to protect our own image, but to protect other responsibilities that we have attained such as a job. It is said that today, managers are becoming more interested in social networking sites because

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they provide opportunities for strengthening relationships with customers (Pagani) that may be more difficult to do in person. Although it can be clich, I think its safe to say Be careful what you post.

Safe and Sound
The way society has turned, it is much easier to avoid face-to-face confrontation by simply reverting to social networking to resolve an issue or perform an act that you would be less inclined to in reality. In my opinion, I feel like the sense security is one of the main reasons a person tends to be much more open on social networking sites (SNS) as opposed to in person. But are we actually safer online than we are in reality?

My Interpretation
SNS have become so popular today that people have seemingly formed different identities than their real selves through them. Not only have they become popular, but the reliance and use of them is so high, that profiles have become eerily similar to an actual person. Life behind the screen of a computer can be viewed and interpreted easier than in reality. With the click of the button and a quick glance at a profile, we can usually tell age, birthday and even if they are in a relationship. When meeting a person in reality, there is no way we can tell that much information with just a glance; unless of course they are blowing out birthday candles on a cake that reads Happy 18th while holding their girlfriends hand. Overall, we have to watch what we put online because in the end, we have to back it up in person.

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Barker, Valerie. "A Generational Comparison Of Social Networking Site Use: The Influence Of Age And Social Identity." International Journal Of Aging & Human Development 74.2 (2012): 163-187. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. Cover, Rob. "Performing And Undoing Identity Online: Social Networking, Identity Theories And The Incompatibility Of Online Profiles And Friendship Regimes." Convergence: The Journal Of Research Into New Media Technologies 18.2 (2012): 177-193. Film & Television Literature Index. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. Nicole L., Muscanell, and Guadagno Rosanna E. "Make New Friends Or Keep The Old: Gender And Personality Differences In Social Networking Use." Computers In Human Behavior 28.(n.d.): 107-112. ScienceDirect. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. Pagani, Margherita, Charles F. Hofacker, and Ronald E. Goldsmith. "The Influence Of Personality On Active And Passive Use Of Social Networking Sites." Psychology & Marketing 28.5 (2011): 441-456. Business Source Complete. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.