As I begin to write this blog post, I can’t help but reflect on how fortunate I have been to grow up on the cusp of the Information Age. I can still remember a time where I ventured outside into the crisp autumn air, constructing bits and bobs out of nature without being distracted by Facebook notifications. I remember a time where we couldn’t reach family members on the phone because they were online on their bulky desktop computers, the sound of dial-up, the excitement I felt when I got my first gadget- a GameBoy Colour (or was it a Tamagotchi?) Most significantly, I can remember a time where I wasn’t consumed by my devices.
In 2016 this is far from the case as I find myself more reliant on my electronic devices than ever before. I know that such a statement is quite typical of a twenty-year-old university student, but the words cannot be more truthful. Technology, and more particularly, social media has become integral to the person that I am today. It has aided in the construction of my identity (both online and offline) and remains essential to the person that I wish to become.
For the remainder of this entry, I would like to discuss the extent of my personal online persona and reflect upon the way I portray myself differently on multiple social networking sites. I will also draw on scholarly research that further speaks on the matter of identity.
Deconstructing multiple versions of myself online
The rise of digital media in the 21st century has made many alterations to how we as individuals see both ourselves and the world. Nowadays, there is less of an emphasis on what is considered private with many of us experiencing this on a day-to-day basis.
Over-sharing ourselves online is a concept that is discussed in great detail by Agger (2015). Whether it be through platforms such as Facebook or even Twitter, he reflects how sharing information- including personal details, pictures and one’s relationship status- can be interpreted as revealing too much to the World Wide Web. He further goes on to unpack the term over-sharing, associating it with gossip and in some cases, a spinning of the truth (Agger 2015, p.3). For this reason as well as others, I have always chosen to have two versions of myself online to avoid over-sharing. I have one professional side to my persona on the web and one personal. I will continue to explain this further.
To keep a balance online between my own personal interests and those for professional and educational purposes, I have two separate Twitter handles. The one I have used for this digital media unit is @caitlynputt_.
Before undertaking media studies at university last year, I used Twitter primarily for engaging with fellow fans of television shows and tweeting individuals that I would not have the opportunity to speak with otherwise. I was not utilising Twitter as a professional network, but rather for socialising and rolling out the occasional random comment about the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. However, now I engage with my account strictly keeping in mind that I am presenting myself to future employers. I am quite certain that they would not like to hear me fangirling over the perfect hair of the surgeons at Sloan Grey Memorial Hospital.
Having a more professional Twitter account has allowed me to engage in scholarly discussions and connect to others in my aspiring profession of journalism. While I still utilise my other handle to interact with my followers and some celebrities, I am quite happy with my ability to keep the two worlds separate.
Tweets embedded from @caitlynputt_ and can be found here
This is an infographic I constructed on easel.ly that depicts the two separate sides to my online persona. The left indicates the side that I keep professional and academic and the right denotes social media platforms that are more restricted and personal.
Since the moment I created my first Facebook account back in 2008, I’ve been wary of what I post online. I wanted to keep my private life for exactly what it was- private. For that reason, I’ve always been particularly fussy about what I decide to publish and keep my privacy settings well guarded. I still remember how sceptical my parents were about the potential ramifications of a 13-year-old girl being online in an environment where anybody can literally be anybody. I could have easily registered online under a pseudonym and thus protecting myself from any online predators. Be that as it may, I opted for authenticity and portrayed myself in a way which was truthful and honest- an important belief that I still carry out today.
The availability of multiple online platforms for self-presentation allow users the ability to convey the truth. Further through this authenticity it conveys a sense of intimacy with those users connecting with material (Poletti & Rak, 2014 p.75)
I’ve never seen the point in lying about who you are online. How are you supposed to make valuable connections with others (and particularly in a professional field) when you are unable to identify your true self? I will admit to one thing here- I have fabricated versions of my online self before, but not in overly extravagant ways. More than anything, profile pictures have been carefully constructed to present how I want to appear to my peers and family. Granted that, the profile pictures I convey are different across all social media platforms. A ‘selfie’ that I upload to my Facebook profile will differ greatly from how I present myself on a more professional networking site such as LinkedIn. Profile pictures on social networking sites are considered crucial to online self-presentation (Kapidzic, 2013 p.14) and therefore in my opinion, should be edited and filtered as minimally as possible.
Over the duration of this unit so far, I believe that my online presence is growing stronger. I like to remain active on Twitter and tweet on a regular basis- keeping a good balance between original tweets, retweets and incorporating multimedia. I hope that over the remaining five to six weeks of the unit I remain an engaged learner and establish connections with other users. I would further like to enhance my online presence through this blog and on LinkedIn.
My broader online activity and engagement
On Twitter, I have been tweeting regularly and contributing to the hashtag #ALC203 with interesting articles and YouTube clips relevant to the weekly topics.
Before this unit, I was not aware of About.Me as a website and I did not have a LinkedIn account or a blog. However, since learning about these platforms, I have created accounts and found them quite useful. Blogging has been quite enjoyable.
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Agger, B 2015, Oversharing: Presentations of Self in the Internet Age, Taylor and Francis, retrieved 12 April 2016, http://reader.eblib.com.au.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/(S(fxxzyqndadxwe34eiod4ml3h))/Reader.aspx?p=1974410&o=154&u=AIbDEbg74F%2btZp83cYAVbA%3d%3d&t=1460522253&h=957DE8967598552D4A693131F9E1D7541B5D64C9&s=24315091&ut=484&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=1#
Smith, S and Watson J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.
Kapidzic, S 2013, ‘Narcissim as a Predictor of Motivations Behind Facebook Profile Picture Selection’, Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, 16(1), pp.14-19 doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0143