Blog Post

Friends, Followers, or Fans: The Creation of a Public Private Life

A couple of months ago, I was reading the New York Times and I happened to stumble across an editorial article on the effect that Twitter and social networking sites have on the way that we portray ourselves to the world. The article referenced Sherry Turkle, a MIT Professor who deals a lot with psychology and the computer, and her new book “Alone Together”. In this book Turkle states that, through the use of Twitter, our entire “psychology becomes a performance”. Now, the first thing that this article made me think was, I didn’t know that Sherry Turkle had come out with a new book I should probably read it, and secondly it implanted an examination of myself and the way I use social networking sites.  This is because, just like the author of the article and many other users of sites that allow you to write status updates, by posting updates about myself I am constantly creating a projected image of how I want to be perceived by others.  Keeping this article in the back of my mind, I have also noticed how the use of Twitter and Facebook creates a very movie-like lifestyle. As a friend of mine once stated, listening to your iPod as you walk around creates a kind of soundtrack to your life. In the same way, it can also be said that status updates create a kind of dramatic digital aside for our real lives. Through the use of Twitter and social networking sites, the lives of many people are becoming a documentary style drama, a la “The Office” or “Modern Family”. You walk around listening to your soundtrack, you interact with some people, and then you give witty asides to your chosen audience of “friends” and “followers” about what you really thought while having certain daily interactions.

                This type of lifestyle, where we are constantly projecting an image, to such an extent that even the very thoughts one thinks become a means to enhance a created persona, makes me wonder about how this way of living effects the relationships we have with other people.  For many people, social networking sites are a means to better connect with real life friends. However, if we’re using these sites to further enhance the persona, it’s just a way for us to create relationships that aren’t about who we really are, but who we want others to perceive us to be. Although it can be said, in a somewhat solipsistic manner, that no one can really know any other person, it is interesting to me how the blurring of the lines between real life and scripted comedic dramas in television and movies is reflected in the way that we interact with each other.

 

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1 comment

I really like your post and I think your question about how this reflects our relationships with other people is interesting and it actually got me thinking not only about how our tweets and Facebook status updates reflect this created persona, how we want people to see us based on our updates, but also about how we want people to respond to those updates.  I agree with Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times article that our updates portray how we want people to see us and understand what are essentially our manufactured lives (in a brief moment by moment series of updates), but something she doesn’t touch on is that often those manufactured updates, meant to portray how we want to be viewed, are also created (sometimes) to anticipate an expected response.  A funny CNN article reviews the 12 most annoying Facebook status updates, but it hits on this point in which the most annoying updates are those that seek a certain response.  I think this plays into your question about how this reflects our relationship with other people.  When we tweet and update our status we are creating something about ourselves that seeks a response from others about that perceived reception, so not only are we creating a specific view of ourselves we are also trying to create a certain interaction and reciprocation based on those updates.  We are essentially trying to create complete, but fabricated (although based on our “real” lives, those updates are fabricated moments that are uploaded and that’s how I’m using fabricated) interactions.  Just as you say in your post, almost a lot like a scripted series.   

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