Our identities play an integral part of who we are and cannot be changed nor altered. Despite this, online social media allows us to take on several different personas apart from the one we adopt in reality. Often, there is the misconception that the identity we portray online and the one we portray in reality are one and the same. However, the identity that we convey online is actually far different from the identity we choose to express offline. The identity we choose to display depends on the social setting that we are placed in. The identity we want to convey online correlates to the social media site we decide to post on, in order to appeal to a specific audience.
Facebook provides a space for users to update a much broader network of family and friends, displaying their identity as a member of their community. Typically, users post statuses that update their friends, usually close friends or family members, about important life events.
The image shown provides a clear overview of what these “significant life event” posts generally look like. This feature is unique to Facebook, focused upon displaying the user’s accomplishments to a broad audience of people. Another area that supports this concept of updating family and friends is the “photo album”, granting online users the ability to upload pictures of significant life events. For instance, if a person took a vacation to Hawaii, they have the ability to upload multiple photos of their vacation on Facebook, in a “Photo Album”, in order to inform their close network of family and friends about their recent event. A Facebook profile captures the essence of the persona a user portrays on Facebook. From my personal experience with Facebook, I typically have former high school and middle school teachers, and family members on Facebook. My identity is solely formal and I share links to educational blogs that I find interesting. I rarely post “rant statuses” on Facebook, as I reserve my most opinionated posts for Twitter. If I were to post a status, it would typically be about my day or thoughts on a controversial topic.
My Facebook profile represents components of what I want others to see. The information included in the profile is primarily straight-forward, listing information such as: sex, age, job, and etc. Because the profile is made to describe an individual in a straight-forward manner, it illustrates their existence as a unique individual in the community. For instance, my profile currently states that I attend University of California, Berkeley and work at Banana Republic. If someone were to access my Facebook page, they would have a brief overview of how my life is structured- a retail worker at a fancy store and a student at the number one public university in the world. Facebook primarily serves as an all-inclusive social media site where users can perform several different tasks and reach out to a wide network of people, making the persona portrayed on Facebook more straight-forward and safe.
On the other hand, Twitter revolves around words and language, serving as a hub for users to post their unique thoughts and opinions, highlighting their ability to identify as a relatable person to others. Twitter allows users to “retweet” others posts that they also identify with. For example:
This image captures one of the main functions of twitter. The user behind this post intentionally creates a relatable tweet, so that many other users can follow them and retweet or favorite the picture. Since followers can identify with the same experience that is represented within the post; this strengthens the connection between the original user and the followers, forming their persona as a relatable public figure. As a college student, seeing this relatable tweet would attract me to retweet it and follow “The College Life” page because I can relate to the idea presented through the same experience that I’ve had on Fridays, where I would spent all my money of food or clothes, instead of saving it towards my tuition. Twitter also reveals my more carefree nature when I am able to post rants and to have to worry about my language, since most of my audience is composed of my fellow classmates.
Instagram acts as a space for users to share images and emphasize the appeal of not only the artistic quality of their pictures but their own physical appearance as well. On Instagram, we often upload pictures with filters to make ourselves look attractive not only to enhance our pictures and present ourselves as photographers, but also pictures of ourselves to enhance ourselves as models. The better the picture, the more people will see it and “like” it.
This picture illustrates how this user applies many filters to make herself look attractive so that she is able to attract a modern-age audience and receive thousands of likes. The Instagram “modeling” profile where other ‘Instagramers’ are able to go on and see endless selfies of that individual. On my Instagram profile there are infinite selfies and photographs of food with appealing filters. I only post photos that I believe will be most appealing and receive the most likes. It is essential to take pictures at a good angles– whether it is a selfie or an image of a delicious meal– so that it can appeal to the audiences’ eyes and cause them to hit the “like button. Being a user of Instagram reveals that one has the identity to show off their characteristics to the public’s view in order to gain attention and receive likes.
Tumblr is a more of a private space for users to express their thoughts in a blog format, displaying their identity as an opinionated individual. Tumblr is a blog where users can express their thoughts in a closed intimate space. Due to this environment, how they present themselves is more open than compared to other forms of social media. For instance:
This individual posts many pictures of her favorite shows. By looking at her tumblr, the audience can already assume she is a “Doctor Who” fan. Tumblr allows users to present an identity that is more realistic to their external identity, compared to other forms of social media. Back when I used Tumblr, I would express my feelings through blogging or rebloging images that illustrates my internal emotions. Tumblr is a place where users have the opportunity to express their inner identity that they don’t feel comfortable revealing offline because they’re afraid of judgement by others.
Snapchat has a unique feature that allows users to be casual about what they post because their images are only displayed for a limited amount of time before being deleted, displaying their fun-loving personality. Snapchat allows you to share what goes on during the day, especially embarrassing moments, in a short amount of time. For example, this Snapchat I posted a couple weeks ago on my storyline was an overview of the intensity of the football game I was at. I wanted to show my friends the “fun” side of being a Cal student.
Although various forms of social media allow us to convey different aspects of ourselves, there are opportunities where these social media sites overlap in how users convey parts of their identities on these different sites. In particular, this is seen when one is given the option to “share” a post across several different social media sites. Thus, this starts to build communities. For example, if I share a link to a blog about the recent cases of race-driven violence from law enforcement, that conveys where I stand on important issues. Therefore, Facebook is more than just a place for me to share with friends and family what is going on with me. This is often a result of our obligation to prove that we are not only individuals, but individuals with different personas that make us more complex overall.