Throughout this term, the topic of identity as projected through social media has come up multiple times, especially that of performed and constructed identities. The topic intrigues me. For the most part, I have observed minimal performance occurring in the posts of my Facebook friends except to small degrees. Performance that I have seen is usually just an extension of some identity they are already trying to project in real life, and so is not at all exclusive to the medium. Or, people may post only images that project having fun and being happy. But what other types of pictures would they show people if they were good old-fashioned sets of printed photographs?
As a way of extending my consideration in this topic, I thought it would be interesting to go and a little online stalking of some friends and family on Twitter. I do not have a Twitter account, and rarely go on there except perhaps when led there via a feed embedded in another site. There were three questions that I was looking at during this process:
- Do the posts of these individuals, whose personalities I know quite well, come across the same in their tweets?
- Do they project themselves differently on Twitter than on Facebook?
- Could the fact that I encountered their entire Twitter identity at once, rather than in bits and pieces over time, such as I have with their Facebook identities, affect any sense I might have of performance? I can’t really answer this last question, of course, but it was a factor I thought might be worth acknowledging.
What found out in looking at the feeds of these eight friends and family members? Nothing too shocking. Their posts aligned pretty much perfectly with their personalities as I have known them for many years, and with what they say in real life. Some people were perhaps more restrained than they would be in person. I attribute this to the wider audience, or to the quasi-professional nature of a few friends’ feeds, which they use almost exclusively for networking and/or aggregation of information related to their profession. Of course, it is quite possible that some of these individuals may have other accounts, under pseudonyms, through which they have in fact constructed an online identity. I considered this while searching for their feeds, but decided that I should only take my cyber-stalking so far.
Photograph: “Getting Ready” by Giusi Barbiani. Use allowed under CC BY-NC2.0. Taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/11590243@N05/5777362968/.