Social networking websites have become a tool of communication in recent times. Social networks have allowed people from all corners of the world to engage in the activity of identity creation and relationship development. This has been done in a positive and negative way. Positive because these profiles help market a person and even hook them up with friends and family who have not been in touch for a very long time, and negative because they have been the cause of multiple lies and fake identities. Ongoing dialogues have been created among people who know each other and those who don’t therefore sparking relationships which have enhanced communication in the advent of the internet and social networking. These computer mediated environments have helped understand how people manage and define their identities in the social networks or cyberspace while deeply immersed in pretence in order to attract a following. [Thesis Statement]
The social networking world gives their users a kind of celebrity status where people choose to develop a fan base through a highly orchestrated fan page and profile that is created when a person carefully moulds themselves in order to attract more people to like their photos, blogs, comments, updates and everything that define profiling in social networks. The kind of image that a person creates greatly influences the extent to which they are going to be accepted by the online society. This means that truths, half truths and lies can be used in equal measure just like in the case of Manti Te’o. In his case, one fails to understand whether the lies were the source of his good performance in the game or it was a way of seeking sympathy from his fan base. But one may reach a conclusion that his creation of Lennay was a way of getting more influence and getting more fans thereby increasing his levels of popularity.
The kind of impressions made in the cyberspace are most likely not truthful. Identity construction has been made easy because people are now re-conceptualizing their images. The hybrid and flexible types of identities found online in many cases are deceptive. A person can lead several lifestyles depending on who they relate with online. Friends or people in different websites could know one person in several ways because it is a normal thing to lie online. Sometime back not so long ago, a person could have a single identity all thanks to the place they lived in, their family name and reputation but now, people have created an ideal person of themselves in an effort to make themselves socially acceptable. Funny enough, the ideal persons created in many cases are just but a hoax.
Many in the virtual world live a fantasy. People wear an imaginative look to represent themselves in order to impress the people in their social circles and that is the reason why they pretend to be someone else and not the real people who they are. This is the reason why people alter their name, photoshop their photos, give a different impression about their professions or occupations (Young 38). A person’s true identity will therefore remain hidden behind the screen until something happens that will prompt the unearthing of the truth just like in the case of Lennay Kekua, who was a creation in Te’o’s life. The fake and nonexistent person was meant to be a bridge between Te’o’s fantasy world and the real world and true enough, he achieved his goal.
Impression management is not a very new theme in social sciences. For a long time now, people have always tried to create a very different impression of them, which are very different from whom they really are. The digital omnipresent identity just happens to be a development of social networking. Putting their best cyberface forward has become a common norm (Suler 2) and people can go to any limits to impress and draw attention to themselves. The boss at the office can know you differently; your friend at the evening classes will have a different impression of who your mother and father know. Social media or networking will go a long way into describing and painting who a person really is. It becomes apparent that even photos that people post online speak a lot about them, the messages they write communicate differently too. This can help unearth some truths about how people feel about themselves and who they would have really wished to be because fake identities signify the ideal person that the persons would have really wished themselves to be (Rosenbloom, The New York Times).
Creating a profile that one posts seminude or nude photos can speak volumes about a person. It comes as a surprise that, the same person in those photos can never walk in the streets with the kind of photos they take and post online. Two scholars, Schau and Gilly note that people may be what they have self presented but they are a great deal more (387). This means that there is always the other side of us human beings that speaks volumes about us which we may not have presented to the public. This applies to social networking and the real self in real time and what people are capable of doing in an effort to create and manage their identity in several different ways.
Suler, John. Identity management in Cyberspace: Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. 2002. PDF File
Young, Kristy. "Online Social Networking: An Australian Perspective, "International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, January 7th 2009. 39-57
Rosenbloom, Stephanie. Putting Your Best Cyberface Forward. The New York Times. 3rd January 2008.
Schau, Hope Jensen, and Mary C. Gilly,. "We Are What We Post? Self-Presentation in Personal Web Space," Journal of Consumer Research, 30th December, 2003. Pp 384- 388
Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The MostHeartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax. PDF File