Managing Online Identities

Meme culture has been growing and changing since early 2010. We’ve evolved from the 2012 ‘Grumpy Cat’ meme to the modern memes of 2017 e.g., ‘Arthur Fist’ and ‘Confused Mr Krabs’. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 9.55.47 AM
Grumpy Cat Don’t Give A Shit By Meme Binge (CC By 2.0)

These early 2010 memes are funny, however they are unfortunately irrelevant. I want to talk about the more recent ‘relatable’ memes which have Dominated Facebook and Twitter.

During my first ALC203 tutorial I remember freaking out at the fact that I was required to create and post my own digital content for all members of the public to see. Before then all I used social media for was to scroll through news feeds and binge watch 20 second cooking videos on Facebook. I’m not ready to actually participate. I didn’t even have an online identity before this unit and i was not particularly eager to create one. I assumed that, since I creating a Twitter solely for the purpose of this unit, my profile would have to be somewhat flat and professional, that I’d have to create a sort of ‘brand’. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (2013, Pp 79) discuss the internet and social media as a means to create a digital CV which is branded and displayed through avatars and multimedia.                                                                                  

“The self today is an entrepreneurial self, a self thats packaged to be sold.” (William Deresiewicz, 2011)
Made with Canva By Christine Ling (CC By 2.0)

I’m not interested in this idea of creating a fake and ‘professional’ online brand. In all honesty, I cant really be bothered creating some sort of fabricated online identity. Im not saying that everyone with a twitter or social media profile is fake. However I am not concerned with altering my profiles for the purpose of turning myself into a brand. I don’t find this to be very convincing. According to Jeff Pooley (2011); “the best way to sell yourself is to not appear to be selling yourself.”  

Tweet
Via Twitter

Social media networks create endless opportunities for one to alter their identity. For example; on Tinder, a dating and vanity driven app, users may present themselves as idealised versions of their true identity. They may do this by creating younger, richer or thinner representations of themselves. Sites such as Twitter and Tumblr allow for a more loose and free exploration of identity whereas Facebook does not allow for users to ‘play’ with different versions of themselves. This is because Facebook enforces much more strict protocols and templates whilst Twitter and Tumblr allow for uses to present themselves through a pseudonym or anonymous account. 

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This is Why I Typically Keep My Speakers Off By Meme Binge (CC By 2.0)

Through researching online identity I’ve found that even recent articles and books from 2014 are not entirely useful and relevant when it comes to discussing self-representation in the online world. This is due to the fact that online social environments are always rapidly and dramatically shifting. Ironically Goffman’s work from 1959 has been much more relevant to my research. Goffman (1959) introduced the idea of “impression management” and how individuals will alter their behaviour when under the public eye and selectively give clues to their true identity. This idea of “impression management” is extremely relevant to how users behave in the virtual world.

The behaviour of an individual is most commonly determined by previous response patterns to particular stimulus and also by the the social norms of a setting (Barker, 1968). This suggest that online participation can be viewed as a performance and that the audience is making some kind of demand of the performing user (Hogan, B. 2010. Pp4). However, according to Bernie Hogan (2010, Pp4) the difference between online and offline ‘performance’ is that ‘performer’ has the ability to travel backwards in time to modify previous content. This concept was comforting for me as no matter how stupid my content may be It wont be that detrimental to my online success as I can always go back in time and amend my previous identity.

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 10.33.29 AM.png
Via Twitter

I am guilty of using “impression management” to determine my online identity. Aren’t we all guilty of this though? In a way? Like many others in the unit, I’m very cautious of how people perceive me therefor I put up a front on my social media and carefully release details of my offline identity. Social media can be very stressful, I’m sure I’m not the only person who has taken down a status or selfie when it didn’t get enough ‘Likes’. However, if you can forget about the unspoken rules of social media (If your Instagram picture doesn’t get enough likes to change from names to number then you should take it down, the picture was unsuccessful) then it can actually be quite entertaining.

When drafting my Twitter content Initially though that I needed to share professionally presented information relevant to the unit. Then I though, Screw it, I don’t want to do that. A majority of students in the ALC203 unit are around the same age as me therefor they are probably interested in the same internet trends as I am e.g. Memes. My online identity was shaped from the realisation that I could create what I like to call “Educational Memes”. Rather than sharing like to useful articles that no one would even read, I discovered that Meme culture was much more likely to engage students, and I was right! My Tutor even displayed one of my images in his article ‘Celebrity Culture and Role Reversals’ (2017). The image was also displayed during a tutorial and referred to as a “Mosaic” however I don’t think the tutor realised that the meme actually replicated a classic meme format.

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 10.35.30 AM
Via Twitter

Meme culture and meme language has effectively shaped my online and offline identity. Purposely misspelling words (ur, tho, soz, pls, dat), not out of laziness but in an ironic and also somehow non ironic/confusing way is also a huge part of my online identity. I found that I connected more with other students and even teachers by engaging in an informal discussion about my questions and difficulties I had with the unit. This in turn allowed other students to relate and know that they are not alone in what ever struggles they may be having with the work.

My Broader ALC203 Related Online Activity

My online activity prior to this unit was very minimal. However after creating an active Twitter I am very interested continuing to make blogs whilst keeping my social media active. However my level of activeness varies across several social media platforms. Facebook is primarily a symmetrical network, meaning that whoever I follow also follows me too. I am very strict with the content I post on Facebook as the users who follow what I post have closer relationships with me than those who follow me on Twitter. The Gamification of ALC203 has also been a big motivated for me to keep my Twitter active.

Reference List

Barker, R. G. (1968). Ecological psychology: Concepts and methods for studying the environment of human behavior. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Brown, Adam. Celebrity Culture And Role Reversals. Exploring Digital Media. N.p., 2017.

Deresiewicz, William. Generation Sell. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2011.

2017.Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Hogan, B. The Presentation Of Self In The Age Of Social Media: Distinguishing Performances And Exhibitions Online. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 30.6 (2010): 377-386. 

Poletti, Anna, and Julie Rak. Identity Technologies. 1st ed. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. Print.

Rosenbloom, Stephanie. For Only The Authentic — Cultural Studies. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2017. 

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