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.

References

Beckland, J. 2011. Why Mainstream Social Networks Complicate Our Identities. Mashable. Available at: http://mashable.com/2011/09/01/social-media-identities/

Casserly, M. 2011. Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me. Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/01/26/multiple-personalities-and-social-media-the-many-faces-of-me/

Changizi, M. 2014. Multiple Personality Social Media. Science 2.0. Available at: http://www.science20.com/mark_changizi/multiple_personality_social_media

Ellison, N. 2013. Future Identities: Changing identities in the UK – the next 10 years. http://www.gov.uk. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/275752/13-505-social-media-and-identity.pdf

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

Lytle, R. (2013). When One Social Network Is Enough. Mashable. Available at: http://mashable.com/2013/05/26/social-network-enough/

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

Radacati, S. and Yamasaki, T. (2014). Social Media Market, 2012-2016. http://www.radicati.com. Available at: http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Social-Media-Market-2012-2016-Executive-Summary.pdf

Statisticbrain.com, (2014). Social Networking Statistics | Statistic Brain. Available at: http://www.statisticbrain.com/social-networking-statistics/

Advertisements

Unfriended and Unfollowed – How social networking has changed relationship management

facebook

(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.

Bigakuseizukan – Who Are the Beautiful Students?

by Lilia Yamakawa

A friend asked me to go with her to a party sponsored by a website called Bigakuseizukan, Picture Book of Beautiful Students. Both the photographers and the “beautiful” students they photograph are students from Japanese universities. Since have been talking about people’s concepts of “beauty” in our Race & Ethnicity class, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do fieldwork and see what this group considers attractive, what the trends are, why students agree to be posted on the website, and why this website is popular.

In class, we discussed what beauty is and found that a majority considers one type of appearance as beauty. Like the contestants in the Miss Korea contest that we saw in class, I expected most of the students at the party to be similar: skinny chins, double eyelids, small noses. I thought there would be many people with the Japanese kawaii style, with the same brown hair, same length bangs, and wearing the fluffy white and pink cutie skirts.

It turned out not to be what I expected! Most of the people there had different styles: many different hair colors and styles, different facial characteristics, many different body types, with totally different styles of clothes. Kawaii wasn’t especially big. I was both disappointed and relieved by what I actually saw. I was in a way disappointed that I couldn’t see an expected trend with my own eyes, and also relieved to find that there were many kinds of beautiful students there.

I think this has something to do with the popularity of the Picture Book of Beautiful Students website. The models are students who might actually go to your school, and they all look different. When you look at their snapshots, you might feel that they are close to you and possible to reach. This sense of closeness would be hard to have if you are looking at a model of a magazine or on TV. Bigakuseizukan’s uniqueness is that it doesn’t show only one type of beauty considered as perfect. It really shows lots of different types of students.

Another question I had in mind was why do people say yes to being photographed and having pictures posted of them online? And why do they attend such a gathering? I had a chance to ask around yesterday. I got a lot of answers, but basically they fall into three categories. In the first category, there were many students who were running for beauty contests, such as Miss Ritsumeikan, Mr. Japan and Miss Universe. These types of people answered they did it to get their name out and remembered through the Bigakuseizukan. The second group said they tried it for their personal record and their future career. It will look good when applying for a job, which might have a lot to do with your appearance, such as newscasters and announcers. The third group was more vague, and they said there was no reason not to try it or that they just enjoyed modeling for fun. One girl said, “Well, everybody posts their selfies on Twitter and other sites like that, so why not post a better picture of yourself taken by a photographer with a real camera?”

One more thing I expected to find was that everyone would be outgoing. Instead, there seemed to be all sorts of types of personalities at the gathering, and some people seemed very quiet and reserved. I think you could probably say that they all had some sense of confidence in the way they look, though.

This fieldwork only lasted three hours, but if you were interested in finding out why people in a certain group are judged to be attractive, I think studying a group such as the Bigakuseizukan would be a good method. It would be necessary to find more things that the models have in common and to question both the beauties and the photographers in more detail.

Japanglish

I often see the words now, was, will and done at the end of Japanese sentences on Twitter nowadays. I have never saw anything like this when Twitter first became popular, but in a past year or so, a lot of my friends started using these 4 English words (although written in Japanese) used grammatically incorrectly.Likewise, a lot of Japanese people use “Japanglish” in their daily lives, thinking that they are using English words or phrases. In fact, many of these words derive from English, but are transformed so that it is easier for the Japanese people to pronounce, or memorize. For example, the phrase “order made” or オーダーメイド is Japanglish. In English, we would say “made-to-order” or “custom-made.” Other examples include “skin-ship” (スキンシップ) or “Consento” (コンセント). In English, we would say “personal contact” and “outlet” consecutively.

If you think about it, there are a lot of words that sound English, but are actually used only in Japan, and it seems as if this trend of using English is spreading even more recently due to globalization. More and more of these Japanglish are becoming popular, and new ones are continuously formed. For instance, the word “glocalization.” This is a new Japanglish word, often used to describe globalization and the current world system. As can be seen from the word, it is a mixture of “globalization” and “localization,” used in many ways to describe the relationship between global and local issues.

Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are “glocal” in the sense that it connects both globally and locally, and has a huge influence in our social behaviours. What the individuals “tweet” or “post” could have a major impact on our society, such as the demonstrations in Egypt, which the individuals posted on Facebook to gather supporters and to explain what is going on in Egypt.

And if you think about it further, the words now, was, will and done on Twitter by the Japanese people are also examples of glocalization. Young Japanese people take the English words (global) and use it in their Japanese sentences to “tweet” (local).

Works cited:

Unknown. “Wasei Eigo Towa.” Kimyouna Wasei Eigo no Sekaie Yousoko, n.d. Web.  23 Dec. 2011. <http://www.eieigo.com/index.php?FrontPage&gt;

by Nami Tatewaki