We tend to think of ourselves as being one person, one identity, one personality. But these days, more and more, people are beginning to have different characters that they play in their digital lives, and as discussed by Turkle in “Alone Together”, this new character is generally a “new and improved” self, one that we aspire to be. This character has none of the worries and insecurities that run through our minds on a daily basis, and is generally tailored to appeal to as many people as possible. The new creation is, as stated by Watson, a result of us being the “creator and the user”. As a result, we are more linked and still separated.
For me, it has been more interesting to note the “evolution” of the online life. When I first started using social media, or facebook specifically, I took part in almost everything there was to offer. There were quizzes, “flair” buttons, farmville… Yet today I barely use facebook at all. I do use it as a place to store photos so that my long-distance family and friends can easily see them, and I generally only update my status if something major has happened in my life. (For example, when I changed my major, I put it on facebook rather than text everyone directly.) And I think the same holds true for all social media – initially the new platform is highly used, but then the novelty fades and it becomes more of a chore. Another instance of this has been snapchat. At first it was fun – I can send weird pictures to my friends and let them have a clear picture of what I’m doing. But now, it’s another chore where a snap means that I’ll probably have to reply, and then it’s another conversation.
When I talk to my friends, they say the same thing. Everyone gravitates toward the new and the original, but eventually it fades and they only use the medium on occasion, or no more than they do their other social media platforms. Of course, there are some that eschew all social media – one friend only has a facebook, and only uses it to talk to friends in different countries that he can’t see on a regular basis. On the other hand, some friends are curators of their digital presence, joking that, “if you didn’t post pictures, did it actually happen?”
In the end, it’s important to remember that despite their failings. each new social media platform does end up leaving something positive. Instagram is a visual way to explore new places, facebook is an easy way to update the older relatives on your life, and so on. What’s important is to not create two separate identities, and to remember that our digital self isn’t a chance to create a new person, rather, a new way to express who we already are. To play off of Watson, our self authorship shouldn’t deform nor reform our sense of self, it should simply allow it to be present in a different arena.
Sources; Conversations with friends over how they use social media.