The Student's Guide to Everything

The Student's Guide to Everything: university student and graduate life from a New Zealand perspective

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Location: London, United Kingdom

I'm a marketing communications professional, writer and blogger. I can't live without the internet, I love to travel and I'm a photography nut.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The "real" purpose of Facebook

Today I saw this article, in which a bunch of psychology majors got together and decided Facebook, MySpace and other social media is primarily used by teens and twenty-somethings to experiment with their online personas and identity, and to "perform" to an audience of "friends".

"These social networking sites have a virtual audience, and people perform in front of their audience," said Michael Graham, a former UCLA undergraduate psychology student who worked on this study with Greenfield and Manago for his honor's thesis. "You're a little detached from them. It's an opportunity to try different things out and see what kind of comments you get.
I use social media to keep in touch with my friends, keep them updated about my life and peek into theirs. And of course everything online is part of an elaborate construction of identity, from tweets or profile updates, all the way to which photos you post. So, yes, it can be fun to "see what kind of comments you get". But you're still "you", it's not about creating a fake persona.

Some people don't get it....

"I hate to be an older person decrying the relationships that young people form and their communication tools, but I do wonder about them," said Kaveri Subrahmanyam, associate director of the CDMCLA, professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and senior editor of the special journal issue. "Having 1,000 friends seems to be like collecting accessories."
I disagree. I actually view Facebook as my modern Rolodex. It's about networking and contacts, not "accessories". It's especially important for "weak links", people who are acquaintances, because social media allows you an intimate look into the minutae of peoples' daily lives without having to contact them all the time. I don't know where most of my friends live, or their cellphone numbers. Or even, shockingly, their email addresses. We all move around too much. But I know that if I need to contact them, I can find them on Facebook.

(Which begs the question, if you're not online, do you somehow not exist?)

A couple of things to keep in mind when managing your online life:
  • Remember to keep profiles private, since more and more employers are checking out prospect employees' social media profiles.
  • If you're looking for a job, make sure your profile picture is tame (i.e. no beer bottles in hand) and presents you in a good light. Anyone can see it.
  • Untag any photos of you on your friends' profiles that you wouldn't want a boss to see.
  • In the age of Google caching, nothing ever really goes away.
How do you use social media? Is it about being able to control the way you present yourself to the world? Or something else?



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