Sunday, 1 August 2010

I read an interesting article in the New York Times about social media usage today.

Basically, the article talked about how our individual identity is now very much changed, thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. It started off by introducing the words of sociologist Erving Goffman, who said that our life is in fact, nothing but a performance:

We act out a role in every interaction, adapting it based on the nature of the relationship or context at hand. Effectively, it makes the greasepaint permanent, blurring the lines not only between public and private but also between the authentic and contrived self. If all the world was once a stage, it has now become a reality TV show: we mere players are not just aware of the camera; we mug for it. 
 And through a research, it was found that his theory is indeed accurate.

“On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are. But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance.” 

I find that theory highly interesting. In fact I'm finding media studies fascinating. It's just that we have never been brought up to realise just how influential the media is. Just yesterday I was reading some material for one of my subjects this semester, and basically that chapter highlighted the fact that sometimes, the media is referred to as the fourth estate. The first three have been taught in history lessons- the executive, legislative and judicial powers.

When you think about it, we do indeed update our Facebook or Twitter statuses as a performance; it is not who we are.

I consider myself to be a rather private person. I do not see the need to advertise myself and all my activities online. So my updates show just a fragment of my true self, by giving out insignificant details of my life, or something that stirred my emotions. It thus becomes a performance- I blog for people to read, I post a joke on Facebook (this just happened yesterday) to make people laugh, I Tweet to make my presence known.

Now consider someone who says everything online. What they ate, what they did, who they met, etc. Are those updates really meant to inform other people of what happened in their lives, or is it because they feel obligated to their 'followers'?

But when every thought is externalised, what becomes of insight? When we reflexively post each feeling, what becomes of reflection? When friends become fans, what happens to intimacy? The risk of the performance culture, of the packaged self, is that it erodes the very relationships it purports to create, and alienates us from our own humanity.

The author of the article said that despite all that, she will still keep Tweeting. And I would still continue blogging, Facebook-ing and Tweeting. Social media isn't perfect, but it has its benefits and advantages! 

Lastly, here are some funny commercials on The Ellen DeGeneres show:



P.S. Yesterday, this blog turned three!
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