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



The primary detail required to analyze a social technical system is to assess its social needs. users would want to gauge the identity of the viewers with whom they are sharing information. users began to look for trust and privacy. As social interaction began to rise on the Internet. people on the Internet have gone without an online profile. The main reason being that the ability to evaluate another person’s identity is critical if any communication is to ensue (Coenen et al. 2009). When communication comes into picture. for it indicated that the online world was not monolithic. 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. “The results from a study suggested that people acted differently in such environments than they did in other online settings. trust. In our case: identity construction. This was an important finding.with others brings in the social aspect (Coenen et al. For many years. self-presentation and in creating a cognitive model for these social requirements (Dwyer 2007). This anonymity steered users to engage in play-act at being someone else (Zhao et al. It did not seem much of an issue with anonymous platforms. People used the Internet as a source of information and a platform to communicate to others. the need for selfidentity and social profile were also on the rise. 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. When technology is unable to meet the needs of the social dimension it is termed as the social-technical gap. This gap is caused by two factors: The difficulty in accurately capturing social requirements such as privacy. 2008). “The social–technical gap is the divide between what we know we must support socially and what we can support technically” (Ackerman 2000). 2009).   2   . With the advent of online dating.

As Facebook began gaining popularity. what it is and how it is constructed. 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. 2008). is difficult to answer in everyday life. This created the opportunity for an identity construction by the user to choose what traits he wants to present to his viewer community.and online self-presentations varied according to the nature of the settings” (Zhao et al. The first college version of Facebook required the use of a registered official campus email address linked to the Facebook profile (Zhao et al. its functionality was restricted to a specific user type. the need to cater to users outside the registered campus circle gave birth to the online identity construction/self-presentation feature in Facebook. 2008). This provided the trust factor that users wanted to see during their online communication events. 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. 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. When users outside the campus circle came in contact with the network.   3   . The study results also indicate that the identity construction behavior varies between the initial anonymous environments and less anonymous ones like Facebook. Identity construction and self-presentation The question of identity. they could not be verified with a campus profile.

the social actor has the ability to choose his props and audience. The on stage space is where the positive aspect of the self and desired impressions are highlighted. The back stage region is where individuals can be their self without having to worry about their identity in society. This is like the time a person gets with himself where he does not have to portray to have certain traits. which is done by the interaction with other actors. 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. but there are certain traits that may leak into their selfpresentation in spite of efforts to hide them. the on stage space is analogous to the Internet where the actor is constantly interacting with other actors. In a social network. The space is entirely for him where he is his true actual self. His only goal is to keep coherent with the various stage performances. The   4   . an actor has to perform on stage everyday as he interacts with the audience and coactors. He compares the social interactions of humans to that of a theatrical performance. When actors move from role to role and switch between settings. Users have control over their identity towards specific audience. Users intend to showcase some information to their audience. The stage is analogous to a social context and the actors are the people present in a society. nor perform for viewers. Drawing from the actor stage interaction. The actor can chose his identity in the online space and control which traits are visible to the other social actors in that network. According to Goffman. The on stage space is considered to be for self-idealization where no negative traits are exposed. it creates the need for multiple identities – The true-self back stage and the multiple on stage persona.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).

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. Facebook is used in 2 ways: to maintain already anchored offline relationships and to create new ones online. Their identity construction will be on lines to portray a characteristic they are not comfortable showcasing in a conventional social setting. According to a study conducted by Zhao. The first user group of identity construction is a person who turns to an online identity to self-idealize and to hide negative traits. 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. Individuals need to express their true self in a social environment. We have thus identified the first user group based on their motive to use an online identity. True self involves ones actually existing characteristics but are not fully expressed in social life. People find it difficult to portray their true self on a face-to-face interaction especially when it is against social norms and expectations.actor on stage performs in a manner adhering to social norms and rules (Goffman 1959). When they are unable to do so. User groups are a key deciding factor in the acceptance and diffusion of a new technology/feature (Bijker 1997). Whilst the view of Goffman states that the backstage is for ones true actual self and idealization is highlighted on stage. modes of identity creation strategies were based on the extent to which visible and verbal   5   . there are contrary arguments. 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). Those aspects could be more easily expressed through ones online profile since their physical appearance is hidden (Tosun 2012). Grasmuck.

Another result of this study is the type of identity claims that users make. The second cluster of users is the “cultural self”. “Being popular among friends” was a claim that was present on almost all user profiles. The third mode is the explicit verbal description of self. movies they have watched. favorite food. They do not implicitly claim their identity by a bunch of pictures. The user aims at generating the desired impression on their viewers by showing without telling. places visited etc.techniques were involved. 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. They are more interested in depicting the depth of their social ties by portraying interaction and bonding in every communication they make. 2008). Such users engage in enumerative cultural description and tend to portray details about themselves by listing their hobbies. They expect the viewer to conclude on their personality based on the information they provide. 2008). “Well-roundedness” was another characteristic to emphasize the interest in   6   . 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. The farthest end of the continuum. neither do they explicitly describe about themselves. tv shows. Self-presentation on Facebook varied from implicit to explicit identity claims. The continuum of implicit and explicit identity claims on Facebook (Zhao et al. This type of user directly introduces themselves to their viewers by self-description (Zhao et al. Rather they give an intermediate level of detail about things they do or like.

Men are driven by highlighting an achievement or special event and hence have lower dynamics on their profiles. 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. The last was “thoughtfulness”. is comprised of anything the user wants to portray. the reduction of “gating obstacles” in the online setting enables the users to “stretch the truth a bit”” (Strano 2008).hobbies and other activities. 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   7   . that drives them towards a more dynamic profile page. 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. The first aspect that reaches the eyes of the viewer is the profile image. One interesting observation based on age differences is that “Younger participants constructed their identities through visually elaborate and individualized profiles. The online identity as the social actor creates it. 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). Women tend to change the appearance of their websites more often than men do. This re-emphasizes the claim by Goffman about trying to idealize on an on stage setting. Profile images are a form of implicit identity construction. The impression of possessing this trait was achieved through the use of positive thought-provoking quotes. “While the nonanonymity of the environment does seem to make people more “realistic and honest” in their self-presentation. Also Women are more likely to display a photograph of them smiling in an online dating forum.

Below are some graphical representations of results from the study: Gender based variations   Age based variations   Original data available in Appendix A (Strano 2008).offline” (Strano 2008).   8   . 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. 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. whereas the younger generation is also on the lookout for new connections that creates the visually elaborate profiles. There is clearly a distinction between users of different gender and age group.

8%. As the user moves from one stage of life to another. Users may not always have a single self-presentation online. 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. undergraduate and graduate phases of life. There are some pieces of information that I may want only my school friends to be aware of. Though there are some traits that seem to be common among men and women. “Dressed to Impress” and “Living in the business world” (DiMicco & Millen 2007).(Women – 19. they interact with people from different phases of their life (DiMicco & Millen 2007). Drawing from personal experience. the profile image being a depiction of how attractive and fun loving they are seems more essential to women. They are: “Reliving the college days”. It is common that users what to share only a specific part of their life to specific audience. They may use more than one SNS (Social Networking site). which creates the necessity to manage multiple online personas.9%) (Strano 2008). I have friends from my school. Users separated by gender and age differences have different motives and needs that have to be accommodated in the design of a feature. Another type of multiple identity management comes into play when the user has 2 or more audience groups on the same platform. 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. They tend to carry the identity construction that was made during the initial use of Facebook as a socializing   9   . Their only primary target audience is friends from college and hence would not require an alternate identity. Men -8.

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. Reliving college days b. User groups based on Profile images a. Separated by gender b. 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. Cultural self who is an intermediate 4. The other two types are managing their self-presentation to some extent. they also form the basis for any new or future change that is ought to happen in the field (Bijker   10   . Explicit user who tells via self description c. User types based on identity claim a.platform on campus. Implicit user who shows rather than telling b. Dressed to Impress c. This is because they have at least two sets of viewers: Professional colleagues and old friends. Based on multiple identity management a. The user groups discussed above are summarized as follows: 1. Living in the Business world User groups influence on Technology While the diffusion and acceptance of a new technology largely depends on these groups. Users who look to self idealize on Facebook and hide their negative traits 2. Separated by age 5.

the user traits in the first place are also influenced by the sociocultural context in which they prevail (Baumeister & Mark 1996). there were some design changes made to accommodate the needs of new users. “Adaptation   11   . initially Facebook was meant to be used by college students with a registered email address. But in the current design. 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. Identity as a product of sociocultural context While technology is shaped by social needs and behavior of its users. The evolution of online identity construction as a feature has been changing as the new user groups had fresh needs. The need for a campus email address was no longer enforced. As more people start using their cover photo as an aspect of their online identity.1997). but as the target group expanded. Over the years we could expect a change or ability to control this feature. Identity itself is a characteristic that is affected by the social setting. While the users groups need to attain closure (Social groups see no problem with the new feature) to eliminate the need for alternative designs. 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. Technology would thus keep evolving as the user base expands and as the users increase. their diverse motives alter the technological feature to accommodate the new social needs. The design features and privacy controls lend it to be used by diverse user groups in specific ways. the cover image is by default visible to everyone and cannot be controlled. they also help in changing present design to accommodate user needs. For example. The user groups thus play a vital role in the evolution of a technology and the way it changes over the years (Bijker 1997). a need for privacy and trust would arise thereby causing design changes.

2008).may be the best way to conceptualize the complex. and rising tension between desire for uniqueness and difficulty of achieving it) have led to changes in the nature of identity. loss of traditional value bases. changed interpersonal patterns. increasing freedom of choice. 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   12   . 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. it is rather a social product. multilateral relationship between individual identity and sociocultural context. Depending on the characteristics of the environment in which they find themselves. Also from another study results “identity is not an individual characteristic.” (Baumeister & Mark 1996). these changes sometimes create new problems. individuals will choose to claim identities that can help them better situate within the given social environment. This argument is developed by considering how several historical changes in the sociocultural context (i. but is influenced by the sociocultural context.” and ‘‘hoped-for possible selves” are products of different situations rather than characteristics of different individuals” (Zhao et al. Although identity adapts to changes in its sociocultural context.” ‘‘real selves. ‘‘True selves. The difficulty in accurately capturing social requirements such as privacy. including the specially problematic nature of modern selfhood. the outcome of a given social environment and hence performed differently in varying contexts. Identity is not a product of the society. it is not an expression of something innate in a person.e. because it recognizes the causal importance of culture yet also recognizes individual choice and change.

As a result.   13   . Sherri Grasmuck. The technology is unable to accurately capture social needs. Erving. 2. and Jason Martin.5 (2008): 1816-1836. which will lead to the co evolution of technology and society.since this creates a socio technical gap (Dwyer 2007). This in turn alters the behavior of the society and new needs are born. Goffman. "The presentation of self in everyday life. "Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. This process will be a continuous one. a new technology is developed for a user need. Zhao. Thus the society adapts to the evolution of any new technology and that technology shapes the society that created it. These two processes will go hand in hand and cannot function on their own since neither of them is in isolation. the society interacts with it and tries to adapt to it." (1959): 1-17. Word count: 3640 References 1. which results in a product that does not accommodate the need completely. Shanyang." Computers in human behavior 24.

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