Am I Famous Yet? The presentation of self in the online world

Challenging Vocabulary and Concepts:

  1. Digital architecture
  2. Interface analysis
  3. Microblogging: is a combination of blogging and instant messaging that allows users to create short messages to be posted and shared with an audience online. Social platforms like Twitter have become extremely popular forms of this new type of blogging, with users using microblogging to become popular and verified on social media sites.
  4. Identity management
  5. Identity tourism

As Jose van Djick (2013) stated, “social media are popular stages for self-expression, communication and self-promotion”, and with different social media platforms, a person can present themselves in, oftentimes significantly, different ways. This comes as a result of incentives offered by respective social media platforms. Twitter, for example, offers a verification checkmark for exceptionally popular or celebrity profiles, therefore encouraging users to post in certain ways to gain this validation and status symbol (Hearn, 2017). As such, verification on social media sites has largely become an aspiration for many of the current generation and the concept of microblogging is encouraged in order to reach this status. The more followers a person has, the greater the supposed achievement, and many publicly celebrate gaining such a following with posts dedicated to thanking those users keeping up with their posts. Below is an example of such a post, with successful YouTuber and blogger, Emily Canham, reaching 700,000 subscribers. Even those who are not aspiring to become ‘famous’ on a social media platform, still post in the hopes of reaching an audience, whether that is millions of people world-wide, or simply your favourite grandparent on Facebook. The whole point of social media platforms is to gain a following, likes or subscribers, and, try as they may not to get drawn into this mentality, every user posts with this aim.

In terms of self presentation on social media platforms, users tend to vary images of themselves to project a certain persona for the different audiences on each social network. For example, a profile created and presented on LinkedIn would be drastically different to a profile on Instagram as the target audience and aims of the site are not the same; where LinkedIn is about creating a professional, self-promotional profile to attract work, Instagram is a picture-posting platform mainly for sharing with friends and to gain online followers and ‘likes’ on these posts. This varied self-presentation seems to be very much the norm in this generation, with the vast majority of user profiles presenting distinct images of a person on separate social medias in order to conform with what an audience on that platform would expect to see. Even I present myself in a variety of ways on different social media sites, depending on audience and purpose of the networking site. For instance, on Twitter I only retweet or share other people’s posts, without posting my own and the content of this is far different to Facebook, for example, as I have no family members as followers. On Facebook, I share and like posts and post certain pictures myself in order to keep family members that I have as friends on Facebook up to date with what I am doing. On Instagram, however, I often post pictures of myself and my friends, creating more of an online presence in comparison to my other social media profiles. The reason for this is because I have a limited following on Instagram so feel more comfortable sharing about myself on this platform. Obviously, through my online behaviours on social media networking sites detailed above, I am, unfortunately, definitely not on my way to becoming verified or ‘famous’!

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

This highlights Bullingham and Vasconcelos’ (2013) suggestion that social media users are “keen to re-create their offline self online, but engaged in editing facets of self”. In all social medias, I re-create certain aspects of my offline self depending on what platform my profile is on. Therefore, the idea that “when in ‘front stage’, people deliberately chose to project a given identity” (Goffman, 1990; Bullingham and Vasconcelos, 2013) can be evidenced in the vast majority of users’ separate profiles on different social media networks. So, in keeping with the aims of social media, follow me on my social media profiles and help get this girl verified (an example of the shameless self-promotion necessary to gain the large following necessary to become popular enough to be verified)!

This leads to the question of whether you present yourself differently on each profile of social media platforms and, if so, why do you think this is the case?

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