Who You Choose to Be Online: Networked Public Selves




Shewmaker, Caroline

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This study examines how members of the original Facebook generation changed their performances of identity as they moved from college to professional life. Young professionals between the ages of 25 and 30, who joined Facebook when it was predicated on the college-network design, were interviewed in individual or focus group sessions. These interviews revealed that Facebook users often believe their current online profiles are bound to the context of their collegiate virtual selves, so they control how and to whom their personal information is disseminated. Thus, they create idealized selves for audiences whom they think should be viewing their profiles. Facebook users understand that they have no way to know their actual viewing audience and limited ability to perform impression management in virtual spaces. They are aware that audiences ultimately control how any online performance will be understood and assume that critical judgments, especially about relationship status, will prevail. Users believe written text is easily manipulated and inauthentic, so pictures express the self more accurately and fluidly. Though the Internet was once thought to be a space in which people could develop multiple and unlimited identities, users treat Facebook profiles as reality rather than representations of a reality.



Facebook, Performance of Self, Identity, Social Network, Textualization, Professionalism