PR for the self: managing identity on social networks

The New Atlantis magazine has an intriguing article that considers the social effects of sites like MySpace and Facebook and discusses how we are increasingly using these tools to carefully manage our public image – something that was previously only a concern for celebrities and media figures.

The article describes by describing the social networking sites and how they work and discusses a little of their history, but shortly after, it tackles the psychology of how we use them to manage our online identities.

The world of online social networking is practically homogenous in one other sense, however diverse it might at first appear: its users are committed to self-exposure. The creation and conspicuous consumption of intimate details and images of one‚Äôs own and others‚Äô lives is the main activity in the online social networking world. There is no room for reticence; there is only revelation. Quickly peruse a profile and you know more about a potential acquaintance in a moment than you might have learned about a flesh-and-blood friend in a month. As one college student recently described to the New York Times Magazine: “You might run into someone at a party, and then you Facebook them: what are their interests? Are they crazy-religious, is their favorite quote from the Bible? Everyone takes great pains over presenting themselves. It’s like an embodiment of your personality.”

The article also covers some key studies in social network analysis, the science of understanding how relationships between people facilitate large scale social interaction.

And it also discusses some recent ideas on how these tools might be changing the nature of our relationships as a consequence of simply becoming part of the equation.

Link to article ‘Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism’.

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