Apr 12, 2010 0
This week’s reading by Sonia Livingstone discussed how forming an online identity via social networking sites (SNS) is a delicate negotiation between taking opportunities and taking risks. Her research showed that younger teenagers tended focus on the individual person with highly decorated profiles. Later, Livingstone notes, teenagers tended to use SNS to show themselves in the context of their social group with more simple aesthetics. However, as a side effect, risks were often taken both intentionally and unintentionally with the disclosure of personal information. The causes of these were numerous, ranging from indifference, to poorly designed websites and privacy settings, to a lack of Internet literacy.
I very much agree with the findings of her study about the transition between different SNS as an indicator or maturing interests. I myself went through the same transition. I began using a Myspace which featured a background of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication album cover. Around 9th grade I switched to Facebook and tucked away the Red Hot Chili Peppers into my “Favorite Music” category. Now, in college, Facebook has become a very basic part of my life. I receive e-mail updates so I don’t spend as much time on Facebook as I used to however. But, I still see it as a reflection of my personality and as a part of my identity. I choose to include some information in my profile such as favorite books, movies, quotes, etc. and a link to a YouTube video of the final fight in Undefeatably, widely regarded as one of the worst filmed martial arts scenes for its senseless yelling, shirtripping, and cheesy one line retorts. Presenting this information gives insight into my interests as well as my sense of humor, something very dear to me. This motivation plays directly into the concept of “I” versus “me” that was incorporated into her argument. My Facebook allows me to communicate who Peter Yen is as opposed to me trying to get to know myself. In this sense, Livingstone’s point about older teenagers using SNS to establish and maintain their social roles holds true to my case. I would not say that I grub for attention or climb the social ladder per se, but my activity, and especially my photographs, indicate my group of friends, and my extracurricular activities. In that sense Facebook is a good way to know where you fit into your social context or to figure out where another person belongs. This the basis for “Facebook Stalking” which entails looking through information and photographs of somebody with whom you are not friends. Often networks permit participants to view one another’s profile without having direct contact. While there is a joking stigma attached to this sort of “creeping” on people’s profiles, it is widely practiced and widely accepted. For many people, it may be flattering that people with whom they have not met personally are seeking out information on them via their profile. In any case, what is most important for Facebook, especially for people of our age, is the self-image that is presented.