When I first read “There is a performance aspect to social networking sites..” out of Jill Rettberg’s Chapter 3 in her book Blogging: digital Media And Society Series, I almost laughed because I thought the idea a little ridiculous. Since social networking has become popular its users have been warned about the negative effects it will have/has had, on our ability to perform socially. That being said, how could Rettberg claim that there is a performance aspect to our online relationships, ? That we actually have to perform socially on any social media site? Immediately after having these thoughts, I pulled out my phone to start a text to a good friend, and only sent it after having revised the text three times, to make sure I had gotten my point across in my own fashion. That’s when I got it. This is the same as what happens online. We as individuals try to do our best to display our best ideal self with everything we post online, whether it be a text, post on Facebook, or a blog posting, as well as in any text message.
As I read further, Rettberg talks about the social scholar danah boyd’s term Publicly Articulated Relationships to further explain why there is a performance aspect to social networking. The Idea with publicly articulated Relationships, is that not only do have to worry about presenting ourselves as individuals on these sites, but that all of our online relationships are articulated publicly, so who are communicated with online, and the way we do it matters as well. This is especially so when considering sites like LinkedIn that are business based and so look at your online relationships, who you know and are connected with, as just as important as your offline job qualifications.
Rettberg also points out that boyd has presented four characteristics of online communication that make it different, and in many ways more of a challenge to moderate than offline communication.They are:
- That social networking is persistent, in that once you put something on your site it can be accessed again at a latter point in time.
- Things you put online are searchable; anybody can use google to find out things about you
- Things you post such as pictures or even conversations are replicable, they can be modified in a way that they are indistinguishable from an original.
- You have an invisible audience online, you really never know for sure who is passing by for a look at what you have posted on say your Facebook page, or Blog.
That all being said, our performances on social media sites gets tricky when we have to account for a variety of different audiences. We all have different networks of people we communicate with in our lives from coworkers, friends, to family members, and usually the way in which we communicate with them differs. Offline it is relatively easy to keep different arenas of our social lives separate as the time and place we communicate with our different networks of people differs, and we don’t usually allow them to cross. However, online with social networking it is more difficult to control who sees what. Some things we say to friends or even pictures taken of us at parties, would make us cringe with embarrassment and even shame or get us in trouble if heard/seen by our parents, or even grandparents, who are both now commonly seen on the Facebook scene as this Facebook post demonstrates:
What I find interesting myself in regards to all of this, however, is that I’ve found that because I have had to monitor my social performances, specifically on Facebook (especially after friending my parents, and other family members), In some ways it caused me to become somewhat more authentic with who I am, and who it is I want to be (It probably also has to do with that fact that I was becoming more of an adult). It made me think though, I don’t want to be ashamed of any part of my life. If a certain aspect of my life makes me feel shameful, perhaps I should reconsider why it is I am doing those things, or why it is I feel ashamed of parts of myself. So, alternatively, it allowed my family, who would sometimes only see me in a single light, to see a more rounded version of myself, and I proceeded, at least in the beginning with a, “This is me, take it or leave it” sort of mentality, I am not going to choose to feel ashamed of any part of my life. There is no other hidden side to me, what you see, is what you get, from all parts of my online, and offline relationships.
What do guys think, can having to perform online, shape our personalities, for the better? For the worse?