Online Identities and the Growth of Social Media

Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005

Profile shown on Thefacebook in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Michael McDonnell

For many of us, the Internet has become an inescapable part of our everyday lives. For many it has always been an inescapable part of their lives, but what effect has this had on how we view and present ourselves? In the article “Face Value,” Mary Gray (2007) gives us a look at the early days of social media. She names three social media sites. Facebook, MySpace and Friendster, all three of which offered the same basic service, a space online to connect with people in your current real life networks, get to know them more easily and, through posting your own updates or pictures, let people get to know you.

In the intervening seven years, social media has grown. According to a study by the Pew Internet Project, 74% of online adults use social media. Facebook is still the largest single social media site with 71% of online adults using the site. The market has fragmented, however. More social media sites have sprung up to fill perceived gaps in the market. For example, Instagram is a platform for people to post photographs that usually the user has taken themselves. Tumblr allows users to share pictures, videos and articles that they find interesting or to share content that has been posted by people they are connected with. Twitter allows users to post comments or status updates with a maximum of 140 characters.

This proliferation of social media sites has led to the fragmentation of personalities. Gray points out that we have always had multiple facets to our personality that we would portray and allow people to develop an impression of us. The difference is that now, with social media sites, we can better tailor the image we want to portray and emphasize aspects of ourselves to different outlets.

The average person has two social media accounts. Statistically these are most likely to be Facebook and Twitter. Due to their formats, the same message is unlikely to be posted to each platform but must be edited. Facebook allows long form posts, multiple photographs in a post, links etc. Twitter on the other hand limits users to 140 characters per post. This forces users to edit their thoughts, to either cut excess material or reword their thoughts. This cannot be done without extra consideration as to what you want to say. On top of this, each social network has a different user base and communities within it. These different audiences can have an effect on how users portrays themselves.

This division of our personalities across multiple social networks has had the side effect of allowing businesses to integrate themselves more easily into our daily lives. The acceptance of multiple identities has facilitated the creation of multiple accounts being set up to appeal to different parts of the market. A newspaper, rather than just one account, can instead have one for each section, allowing them to deliver information to customers without flooding them with content that does not interest them. The specificity of each social network also makes it easier for businesses to study how they work and integrate their content into the network without negatively disrupting it.

One negative aspect of this change in how we present ourselves is that the increasing disconnect between our online and physical selves makes falsifying our identity or at least aspects of it. It becomes impossible to trust that a person is who they say they are. Also, if our online self becomes more malleable and adjustable, there is more likelihood that it will not mesh with our offline self.

There are definitely good and bad points to the use of social media in this way but whether it will lead to long term problems still remains to be seen. Ellison (2013) describes our online persona as being like an actor on a stage. As more people join multiple social networks, it’s as if we are trying to perform different plays to different audiences at the same time.


Beckland, J. 2011. Why Mainstream Social Networks Complicate Our Identities. Mashable. Available at:

Casserly, M. 2011. Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me. Forbes. Available at:

Changizi, M. 2014. Multiple Personality Social Media. Science 2.0. Available at:

Ellison, N. 2013. Future Identities: Changing identities in the UK – the next 10 years. Available at:

Gray, M. 2007. Face Value. Contexts 6(2):73-75.

Lytle, R. (2013). When One Social Network Is Enough. Mashable. Available at:

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, (2013). Social Networking Fact Sheet. Available at: sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/

Radacati, S. and Yamasaki, T. (2014). Social Media Market, 2012-2016. Available at:, (2014). Social Networking Statistics | Statistic Brain. Available at:


How could social media transform racism?

by Miho Tanaka

Could internet communications change the structure of race? The revolution of media has changed how people communicate and connect with the others, and forms of media have been constantly changing as internet technology has been developed. Internet communications have enabled us to communicate each other without borders. In other words, people have gotten unrestricted tools to get to know the others having far different cultures and backgrounds.

In this post, I attempt to discover the relevance between media and race and how the emergence of social media could make changes, especially in the United States. Therefore this post looks first at the development of media from tangible products to intangible services, secondly how race awareness or consciousness has been transforming as the forms of media have been changing, and thirdly some expectations that could positively or negatively influence race structure in relevance to the changes of media.

Development of media: Imagined communities

Media is one of the strongest tools to foster and penetrate some ideas, biases and stereotypes to its viewers and construct their perception toward their world. Newspapers, magazines and printed advertisements were the major media for the last centuries, however new types of media such as online media, social media and so forth have appeared in the last decade and these dynamically influence people’s lives. Jessie Daniels (2013) posted on Racism Review that newspapers used to play a role to function for creating “imagined communities” among those who engage with the communities. However Joanne L. Rondilla (2009) argues that globalization and technological advances have changed the formation of imagined communities (p.64-65). Rondilla borrows Hall’s description of globalization and cites that globalization is:

the process by which relatively separate areas of the globe come to intersect in a single imaginary “space”; when their respective histories are convened in a time-zone or time-frame dominated by the time of the West; when the sharp boundaries reinforced by space and distance are bridged by connections (travel, trade, conquest, colonization, markets, capital and the flows of labor, goods and profits) which gradually eroded the clear-cut distinction between “inside” and “outside.” (p. 64-65)

Online media has enabled us to shorten our communication style and has released the West-dominated time-frame. An imaginary space platform, in the case of online media, works as an intersection of people in different areas. She concluded that “globalization involves the flow of ideas, products, images, and so forth, that, through technological advances in the media, closes the gap between perceived differences among people” (p. 65). Considering how media has been changing especially in the 21st century the range of imagined communities must have expanded. Now social media has started to function just like newspapers, as people go to online in order to affirm their racial identity and to seek community around that identity (Daniels, ibid).

Media’s objectives

Popukin, Kabashima, and Taniguchi (2008) point out that public media controlled by national institution and private media owned by private companies take different roles (p.71). Public media seeks societal objectives including political and national purposes, since it considers the viewers or listeners as voters for next elections, while private media seeks profit since it considers the customers as buyers (ibid). As Harris (2009, p. 1) insists, racism is constituted through “economies of difference.” In other words, “economies of color” have great power over market capitalism. Before the emergences of social media, the messages of media were always sent from companies or institutions to consumers based on the senders’ objectives, which are often “selling more products and increasing revenue” or from public organizations to the supporters to achieve some kinds of political goals.

However social media totally broke the previous rule and now the senders of message also include individuals or users on the internet. They do not have to seek certain outcomes because they can send any messages even if they are not tied from some groups, therefore their messages might be sometimes emotional. Racial minorities also got a chance to speak out their feelings and experiences on the internet.

Changes of race awareness

Daniels clarified the fact that “people go online to affirm their identity and to find community, often along racial lines.” In 2009 the chart of popular social network sites shows was ranked in as 13th (Daniels, 2013). There are further more social networking sites focusing on the encouragement of African Americans and the other minority groups in the U.S. For instance, Atlanta Blackstar is one of the media which strives for becoming the central voice in black media. It applauds black peoples’ achievement and self-esteem, and simultaneously analyzes and reflects black culture or its representation in societies, which is often considered as a negative phenomenon.

Especially some media focusing on encouragement of isolated minorities such as and Atlanta Blackstar are considered an enhancement of self-esteem among them. According to Verna Keith, self-esteem is defined as “the evaluative dimension of the self” (2009, p.33) and borrowing Porter and Washington’s definition, it is “feelings of intrinsic worth, competence and self-approval rather than self-rejection and self-contempt” (ibid). Among black people in the United States, media would be used for both sides, in negative and positive ways. In negative ways it is used for accelerating black culture and its representation, and the images are often applied to all black people without considering characteristics of the individuals. However in positive way it could be used for encouraging themselves and applauding black culture and its experiences. In this case the idea of “double consciousness” would be related.

Double consciousness is presented by W. E. B. Du Bois and according to Craig (2009), the concept “provides a useful way to think about the interrelationships between white and black systems of representation” (p.84). Double consciousness is two dimensions of how black see their world from their view. One dimension is that blacks have to see themselves and judge themselves as whites see them, which describes the internalization of racist systems of representation. Another is an internalization of dominant views of oneself and a critical awareness of the structure of racism along with an ability to recognize the presence of racism (ibid, p.84-85).

Until the emergence of social media, only the former dimension had covered people’s viewd, but social media gave them an opportunity to share their second insight, a critical awareness of the structure of racism. If it might have been the great chance to recall black consciousness and lighten their self-esteem, what kind of positive aspects would appear?

Positive and negative aspects

Now this paper will look at whether the emergence of social media is positive or negative. Grasmuck, Martin, and Zhao (2009) explored racial issues which often come along with injustice frequently included by the African American, Latino, and Indian students on their Facebook wall. The authors theorize that these wall postings accelerate “a sense of group belonging, color consciousness, and identification with groups historically stigmatized by dominant society” (ibid). That means racism still occurs in social media.
However Daniels also examined that some dominant groups rarely signed up as their racial categorized group and they foster an idea of “racelessness” through it. In addition according to Popukin, Kabashima, and Kawaguchi, the internet doesn’t work for erasing racism and even ignorance is very dominant on the internet (p.64). Though the internet has been penetrated and larger number of people now have access to talk openly about issue of racism, the open network works not only to improve the issue but also to foster blindness toward racism and colorism.

Through this post, I have looked at the relationship between media and racism and how it has changed. As media has been developing, the racial awareness and consciousness has changed, however media could not only influence racism in positive way. In social networking sites and social media, people have started to get around with the others belonging in the same group but simultaneously race blindness and racelessness have gotten bigger power than before. Whether the feud between more powerful voices and encouragements which minorities got in social networking and racelessness that racial dominant group of people often foster would weaken or not will be the next challenge of racism we will face.


  1. Craig, Maxine Leeds. (2009). The color of an ideal negro beauty queen: miss bronze 1961-1968. In Glenn, E. N. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press (pp.81-94).
  2. Daniels, Jessie. (March 2nd, 2013). Race, Racism & Social Networking Sites: What the Research Tells Us. Retrieved on December 23, 2013 from
  3. Gordon, T., Jones, J. & Morris, S. (2014) Atlanta blackstar: about us.
  4. Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  5. Harris, Angela P. (2009). Introduction. In Glenn, N. E. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  6. Keith, Verna M. (2009). A colorstruck world: skin tone, achievement, and self-esteem among African American women. In Glenn, E. N. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press.
  7. Popukin, L. S., Kabashima, I., & Taniguchi, M. (Eds.) (2008). Changing media, changing politics. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.
  8. Webb, L. S. (n.d.). How colorism affects light skinned girls and women. Retrieved on December 21, 2013 from
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Unfriended and Unfollowed – How social networking has changed relationship management


(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

by Anastasia Maillot

Social networking has been the center of controversial discussions and criticism since the concept was born. In her review of Facebook, titled “Face Value”, Mary L. Gray mentions that Facebook users will create bonds on a very loose basis, such as one common interest, and will therefore assume they know the person well enough to “Friend” them. This brings up another rather problematic aspect of Facebook: defriending. Or, when talking about Twitter, unfollowing. This concept has, in my opinion, changed how people, especially younger generations, manage their relationships.

Since the birth of social networking, getting in touch with people has obviously become much easier. A Facebook user has nearly unlimited access to other profiles that can be friended or defriended. Creating ties with extended family or friends or even strangers around the globe has never been this simple. The frightening part is that cutting bonds with those you never want to be involved with again is also much easier. In fact, it is perhaps the most powerful and feared tool in social networking, as it provides no explanation to why you decided to unfriend or unfollow someone. The fact that it’s quick, easy, simple and doesn’t require you to come face to face with the person erases any guilt that might come along. It is also fundamentally different from deleting a person’s phone number, because some social networking sites will notify the user if someone decides to unfollow them. In short, it is a virtual slap on a person’s face, a wordless message that expresses disapproval or rejection.

Moreover, social networking and Internet in general tremendously helps us forget that on the other side of the computer screen is another human being just like us. In other words, Facebook helps us reduce one person into a name written on our computer screen, a pixel object that can be deleted at any time we wish. It is tempting to forget that each day we are dealing with real people, because it makes defriending morally much more acceptable.  But we forget far too often that the Internet is not a separate world, as Barry Wellman states in “Connecting Communities: Off and Online”, but is tightly connected with our real lives and the people around us and can greatly affect our future and our relationships. Whatever happens online will definitely have an impact on our daily lives outside social networks.

At the same time, as we are encouraged to forget we are dealing with real humans, we are also seduced by Facebook into thinking we have solved whatever problem we were having by deleting a friend. We refuse to look deeper inside and think about the real issue in a relationship, because it is too much hassle and requires too much of our energy. Hence, we are not providing other human beings the respect, devotion and honesty they deserve, that we would most likely give them should we communicate with them face to face. These days, however, hectic everyday lives have caused us to forget the importance of true communication in a relationship and has turned it into a “chore” that Facebook helps us take care of, either by ignoring, blocking or unfriending.

The 21st century has brought about many new interesting inventions. Information, friends, family and co-workers are closer than ever to us thanks to social networking. While the positive aspects have been tremendous, it can’t be ignored that the quickness and simplicity of Internet and Facebook have caused us to grow passive and impatient with our relationship management. Relationships are cut off and created on a whim without further thinking and consideration of what we are really doing, undermining the very meaning of friendship and family that once existed. This development is both frightening and alarming and it remains for us to see whether we can preserve our respect for other humans an our relationships even with the increasing development of social networks.

Globalization through Social Media, Any Dangers?

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ji Soo Kim

The time when globalization was done ‘one-way’ by television, radio, films and newspapers has passed. Social media, which refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks, has developed and extended to every part of our living. Through social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., I can share, agree, or ‘like’ the news and ideas shared around all over the world and shape my own beliefs through the exercises. It became my daily routine to check the ‘Newsfeeds’ when I wake up in the morning, and ‘Like’ friends’ posts.

The advantages of globalization through social media are countless. We can participate creatively and actively to share our own opinions in media. Free communication discloses different information, and benefit from its speed and variety. Then, here comes the question. Did everyone benefit from the expansion of social media use? Can it be explained only as benefits to our society?

My criticism by answering this question is that globalization through social media leads to selected globalization. Globalization through Social Network Services (SNS) sets a barrier to the poor, the elderly, and is unilateral globalization from the West.

As Facebook is ranked as the most used SNS, I will explain my opinion with using Facebook statistics. Facebook users reached 1.11 billion in March 2013, which is a huge number. It seems like significant proportion of population is communicating through Facebook. Let’s look at the details. (The statistics are from Wikipedia and are based on the end of 2012.) Can we say social media is a true medium in which everyone can freely communicate? 52.9% of the US population utilizes Facebook, while 5.2% of Indian population uses it. In India, due to poverty, Internet users account for 11.37% out of the entire population. This means that the other 88.93% do not have any idea what is happening on the internet world, and thus are excluded from a world which only the rich can afford. Looking at other less developed countries, the situation is not different. Facebook users constitute 8.9% in Bangladesh, 3.9% in Nigeria and 4.2% in Pakistan. These countries are more isolated from the world because they do not have access to Facebook.

It is not only the poverty that restricts people from online communities. Since internet availability is more difficult compared to televisions or radio, and is harder to use, people aging 50 or more suffer from adopting it to daily life. I asked 13 friends, aged 21~23, whether their parents have Facebook accounts. Only 2 responded ‘yes,’ saying that one of their parents has an account. A father of my friend, Younghun Lee (51) answered, “It seems complicated. I have enough people to talk to in real life world. I get annoyed when my son stares into smartphone checking new stuff on Facebook on dinner table. If I want to check news, I turn on TV, If I want to chat with people, I do in face-to-face.” To many, SNS is complicated compared to what we have been using so far, TV, radio, and newspapers. Also, for teenagers, or young adults, social media could be a special zone where you could be free from parents, and express your feelings, but for the parents, it is a zone that sets them far apart from the children and the world.

Reaching my final point, social media was developed mostly in the US. Although Facebook now became a ‘global’ online community, Western citizens still consist the majority of Facebook users, and are the ones that lead online globalization. Developed Asian countries such as Japan show that only 13.5% of the population uses Facebook. South Korea’s Facebook users also remain 20.95%. Statistics support that Western countries use SNS more than other countries. The other countries in Asia and Africa are following the ‘trend’ slowly, trying to catch up with the rest of the Western world. Globalization occurs in Facebook, but unfairly. It is not an intercommunicating globalization, but rather globalization from the US and Europe to other countries.

Social media is considered to be one of the greatest benefits new technology had brought to humanity. That is why the dangers and disadvantages of it is underestimated and left ignored. Disadvantages must not be hidden under the shadow of the advantages because the bigger the dangers grow, the fiercer the dangers become. The online globalization through SNS draws a line between people who can freely use new technology, internet, and those who cannot. We are the young generation who are included in online community, but those excluded cannot have their voices heard to us because they do not have means to share their voice. Those who cannot afford to gain access to internet, find using SNS complicated feel isolated for being unable to participate in the new world. Also, while true globalization is resulted from multilateral interactions, currently, it is done unilaterally from West to the rest of the world. Such dangers SNS has brought to us must not be overlooked, but thought carefully to be examined thoroughly by us, the young generation.

Social Networking

by Julia Helbing

“Social networking … it’s the way the 21st century is communicating today!” (WISN 2011)

A social network is a social structure of individuals or organizations. You can find them between people, like families and friends, but you can also find them using the internet on for example social networking sites.

I think that this quotation became a very true quotation over the last years. Nowadays, people all over the world use social networks, especially social media, to communicate or trade all over the world. They became very famous because every action and interaction is happening in the very same minute. If you order a book on Amazon in England, but you are in Japan, the seller will still get a notification about your order just some seconds after you placed it. Social networks are also very important in the product of designing, e.g. a new shoe. I saw a report on TV about the Adidas Designer Team. They have laboratories all over the world and still manage to work together hand in hand. If the work in America is done at nighttime, the design and all progresses are forwarded to Europe. In Europe, it is daytime so the work can be continued without any delay.

Social networks bring the world closer together. It is very easy to communicate with business partners even if you are located far away. In some business branches it became very common to hold business meetings online, especially with Skype. You can talk to each other in real time, and thus can make urgent decisions in the blink of an eye. This is very important concerning that some business transactions need such urgent decisions to react to changes in the environment. But Skype also became a very useful tool for everyone. I use it to talk with my family in Germany. I also spoke with my family via Skype when I was in Germany too, because you cannot just call, but also video chat with your partner.

With the expansion of the usage of social networks, the usage and the number of social media has also increased. Millions of people have created a Facebook account, to share their thoughts with friends and families and to stay in contact with them. The same happened to Twitter, many people set up their accounts to tell the people what they are up to or what is just happening. Many musicians or politicians also use social media nowadays, which is ought to bring them closer to people that are interested in following those people.

In my opinion, the world today could not work without social networks like it is working now. Many business processes would take a lot more time, which will affect production process in the end. It would also affect the life of every people. We are used to the usage of social networks every day. If they would be limited or very hard to reach, I think many people would have to change their lifestyle.

Social network service and social movements

by Kaori Isobe

Throughout 2010 to2011, many people in Arabic countries gathered up and did social movements. This is called Arab Spring. Since long time ago, social movements were occurred a lot by protesters. However, Arab Spring was a bit different from former ones. Want was a difference is that many protesters uses social network service to get and spread information by using social network service such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social network service is an online service and site that focuses on facilitating the building of social networks or social relations, real life connections, activities and so on. As spreading the Internet environment, the number of SNS users is increased. For instance, Facebook is strongly growing and reached over 1,000,000,000 users in October of 2012, compering to 600,000,000 users of January, 2011. Including me, users are able to write and post about what they think, pictures, links from other site and so on. Also users are able to share posts so that their friends are able to see my pots. If suppose am I post something like ‘Let’s do protest!’ or something like this on my Facebook page. If my friends like my post, push ‘Like’ to my post, and my friends’ friends will be able to see this. Then my post will spread to other people easily.

In a case of Arab spring, according to statistics, about 80percent of Facebook users in Egypt and the republic of Tunisia used Facebook to get and spread information about social movements. As social movements getting extreme, the number of Facebook users was increased. Furthermore, this social network connected to networks in real-life, which mean people who didn’t use Facebook, also could get information rapidly from real life connections with Thor friends who used Facebook. Social network service is related to social movement deeply because it’s easy to spread information and emphasize. This situation makes people get involve in social movement much easier. This is one of reasons why many people could involve in Arab Spring.

Social network service is working through the Internet, so sometimes it’s dangerous. There is a possibility that someone attacks your page with specific skills, or some information might be wrong. Thus, we have to be careful. However, as I mentioned in above paragraph, social network service has power. Young people are likely to use social network service than elderly people are. It’s getting much easier to make young people participate in social movements, and they may be going to be interested in society much more. Then the society will become much better.

Moreover, in recent years, young people tend not to be involved in society very much. This is because young people don’t have interests in society even their generation will be coming soon.  Or some of them try to change society with complaint. However, their voice is still small. I have many things to ask the government but people around me do not have interests.  I hope young people, especially in Japan, will have much more power to change society like Arab Spring.  And social network service is a good way to do it.