Monday, February 18, 2013

What's Your Internet Identity Have Against You?

           You meet someone, hit it off, become friends on Facebook. You look at all their pictures, read all their statuses (even “like” a few of them), and listen to all the songs that they post. Once you meet in person, you get along very well. One thing feels odd, you already know a lot about each other’s lives because of the wealth of information Facebook supplies. On the one hand, it’s different to not get to know someone in person for the first time. At the same time, the two of you have already made it past the awkward stage and already have a lot to talk about, so many stories to tell. It cannot be forgotten, though, the fact that information one learns on Facebook is information written by the person as part of their online identity, and it’s often a distorted picture.
            This person may be a friend, it may be a potential significant other, or it may just be some weirdo. The point is everything you know about them at the start is based on how they want to be viewed, on what they want you to know. This is not wrong in itself on some sort of moral basis, that is, its breaking from tradition does not make it bad. It cannot be ignored, however, that the more traditional way of using one’s powers of observation, rhetoric, and the randomness of unplanned run-ins can teach one a lot more about a person a lot more quickly than a person’s contrived profile. Interactions with people may not be as perfect (a person may be sweating profusely in gym clothing, while the other is hungover with last night’s eyeliner smudged), but the decision to have that cup of coffee together will definitely be more interesting than a casual viewing of someone’s latest tagged pictures.
            To me, it feels like instead of hiding behind the identity we have built for ourselves (or has been built of us) on Facebook, it is important to try our best to show our true selves to people when we interact with them in person. If possible, to shatter the preconceived opinion and judgment someone has made of us. Even given this, it is still important (for social and professional lives) to have a nice profile on Facebook, one that shows who you are and what you are all about in the best possible light. This is because nowadays, the first thing any normal person is going to do when they are deciding whether they want to see you again or hire you is check out your profile on Facebook. So as contrary as it may seem to characterize Facebook as “important bullshit”, I think there is something to be said for it. It means nothing and can tell you very little about a person’s actual character or story, but its existence is important to put you on the same plane as everyone else of this generation and in this world. 


  1. I think that the readings make some compelling points along these lines. The most important one I believe has to do with this idea of the "true" self as the unmediated, necessarily "discovered" or "found" identity that one encounters or thinks one encounters in face-to-face interaction. If anything, the readings have made a good case for the idea that our identities are networked and as such they do not exist outside of network interactions. As such, the question becomes not "what is the 'true' identity, but rather, "how does the social media representation articulate with the overall identity formation that it contributes to?" I don't think that there can be any "true" identity unless we are dealing with something that doesn't depend on relationality. That is, that is a thing. Since humans are social, identity is dependent on the other(s) one encounters. And representation is complex and always mediated.

  2. I love the phrase, "important bullshit."