Nowadays, it is not uncommon to be surrounded by friends and family, but, nobody is communicating with one another, well not through spoken conversation anyway. We are all guilty of ignoring what is happening around us in the ‘real world’ and focussing sharing and consuming online instead. ‘Online media’ is no longer merely a form of teen socialising- it has become an integral part of everyday life’ Hjorth, L. and Hinton, S. (2013). Social media is now the norm so does this mean we have become over sharers? Is what we’re sharing online really our true identity?
Co-founder of one of the largest social media sites Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is quoted saying ‘The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.’ Claiming that ‘Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity’.
I don’t know about you, but, as a 19-year-old girl if you were to study my social media profiles you would see a vast difference between what I post to my friends compared to my family. I would argue that this doesn’t show a lack of integrity, it simply shows that I am sharing content that is appropriate to the relevant audience.
In Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday life (1959) he uses images of a theatre as an analogy of the performance we take part in during social interaction. You can relate this directly to our online sharing habits. For example, when posting an Instagram photo, you have a desired audience in mind, therefore the image acts as a ‘performance’ for your followers.
When we are ‘on stage’ or ‘sharing content’ we are creating the ideal persona we want our audience to perceive. The backstage of the theatre could act as a gatekeeper for the sharing of information. Who we are ‘backstage’ is more likely to be closer to our true self.
As digital natives, we live in a prosumer culture. When sharing online we are controlling and producing our own media content. Graham Meikle (2016) discusses that in today’s social media environment, ‘young women in particular can find themselves not just sharing, but, being shared; not just choosing to make themselves visible, but, being cruelly exposed.’ It is important that as social media prosumers we are fully aware that the audience we wish to target, when posting, is highly unlikely to be the only group consuming what we share. At its best, social media can be our voice to the world, an empowering platform for free speech, a chance to show our lives and interests, but, we also run the risk of being abused and misinterpreted. Being ‘out there’ does not always have the desired effect. (Boyd 2011) The context of what we share is critical, when that context collapses, it can lead to abuse through such things as trolling and slut-shaming.
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What we share online is unlikely to be our true identity, as we tend to share our best self and even this can be manipulated by others. Sharing on social media is neither good nor bad, it’s a tool and how you use it will effect directly the reaction you get from your audience.