It’s often said that simply “being yourself” will steer you toward success. I’d get offered that job I want so badly, if only I nailed being myself in the interview. If I remembered to just be myself on the date I’ve got coming up, it could easily develop into something more long term. All those kids in school would totally have wanted to become my best friend if only, you guessed it, I was being myself.

Yet what this ceaselessly advised concept fails to take into consideration is the contextual nature of self-hood. Each of the above scenarios calls upon a different aspect of who I am, a professional, a partner and a friend. I will be the first to acknowledge that in each of these environments my self-presentation is completely transformed. And this, I hope, is something we have all experienced, it’s called social skills. So why do we have more difficulty in an online world, accepting the occurrence of multiple selves as still authentic?

Mazur and Li (2016) argue that we utilise social media to enact public performances of identity. Marshall’s article furthers upon this idea of online performance, indicating ‘what is constructed via Facebook but equally through Twitter is a construction of character for a kind of ritual of the performance of the self’ (2010 p. 40). However Mazur and Li later clarify that these enactments are not counterfeits, but rather selective ‘experiments with facets of themselves and their identity’ (2016, p. 102). And this selectivity is not limited to online, as quoted by the Bard himself, the world is a stage, and we are simply actors in it. Social media does not cause the façade, though perhaps it gives us the tangible evidence of it occurring and that is unsettling. As Marshall states, ‘…these sites and the exchanges that develop on them are extensions in the production of the self…’, these extensions are still us (2010 p. 42).

Contextualising conduct is a difficult concept to accept in a society whose cognitive processes rely on clear labels and neat categorisation. Shaffer and Kipp indicate that as we mature we become more sophisticated self-theorists and are therefore increasingly more comfortable with the grey area that surrounds the malleability of identity across contexts (2010, p. 509). Below is a screenshot of the two main folders on my phone. I’ve divided my accounts into social and professional platforms and whilst these two aspects of my personality are compartmentalised, they’re still both sides of a greater me.  ­

15398915_10210345629653494_845361344_o
Screenshot of phone screen.

In April of 2013 Hillary Clinton was quoted in an address to the National Multi-Housing Council saying,

‘You just have to sort of figure out how to… how to balance the public and the private…’ (Wolfgang 2016, para. 6)

This line earnt Clinton a great deal of backlash from news outlets, fueling public perception of the in-authenticity of “crooked Hillary” (Engel 2016; Wolfgang 2016). Yet after analysing my own identity, I’ve come to appreciate Clinton’s words and the need to differentiate between what we keep private and what we allow others to see.

Upon conducting an analysis of my own online identity, I flicked back and forth between my public profiles searching for consistencies. In the end, I surmised into three adjectives the self I present to the public.

slide1
Alcy Meehan‘ created on Venngage.

Active

I try to keep up daily contribution on the Twitter feed, by either posting or participating in conversation threads and ensure I give prompt responses when engaged. Though having only published one blog post, there is room for improvement.

Contained

The platforms that I’ve made public, despite being open for consumption, are all sites that give me inbuilt control of what gets directly connected to my name and homepages. Therefore, they allow me to appear open, but with a great level of control.

Inviting

Whilst I do apply a level of formality on pages such as LinkedIn, more often the tone I adopt is a friendly one, and I usually invite direct discussion with others.

We’re constantly reminded of the permanency of the online world, explained well in this TedTalk. It interested me to see what essence of Alcy a Google search would yield. The first result that appeared was my LinkedIn profile, a comfort to know that if any employees where to be doing research, it would lead them there. Next, I found an array of articles from my local newspaper chronicling my attendance at leadership conventions, thus giving credibility to my leadership experience.

Tweets embedded from @AlcyMeehan profile. 

This brief search turned up quite a positive profile and I owe the absence of incriminating photos or content to my early understanding, in adolescence, of the internet’s immortality. Gabriel’s article challenges the negativity we associate with social media identity, especially in relation to youths cognitive and social growth. It is a populist idea that all teens have a limited capacity to reflect upon and pre-evaluate what they share. Gabriel instead argues, social media encourages early evaluation of self-concept and what identity teens want to project (2014 p. 105). This early understanding, I’ve demonstrated first hand, has now allowed me to continue ahead with a relatively respectable and professional online public identity, free of some great disaster…so far.

Despite all this my analysis did bring to attention the extent to which I undersell my career goal conviction. Adopting indecisive terms such as, “I don’t know what I want to do yet”, “I’m ready for multiple careers”, gave me an air of instability, a repellent for future employers. Therefore, I was prompted to change the language I was use when defining my goals to something more definitive, “I will continue to follow my passion for helping others by working in the field of
Psychology”.

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Screenshot of my about.me page.

Six weeks in and this unit has encouraged me to take a more active awareness in my online presence. Updating my LinkedIn, display pictures and undertaking the follower culls, works toward ensuring I’m putting my best foot forward (it’s the left foot in case you were wondering). And no this isn’t insincere or fake, if I didn’t take a shower for a week or withhold some of the things I’d like to say, I’d never hear the end of it! So please, don’t judge when I add a filter or draft and redraft my tweets online.

(1,033 words, not including citations and captions).

References

Engel, P 2016, ‘Hillary Clinton defends her ‘public and private’ positions on issues’, Business Insider Australia, 10 October, retrieved 6 December 2016, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/hillary-clinton-public-and-private-positions-2016-10?r=US&IR=T>.
Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: Young people, social media and the performance of self-development’, Media International Australia, vol. 151, pp. 104-12, retrieved 6 December 2016, Sage Journals Online.
‘In the Eyes’ by Chris Combe available here under a Creative Commons Attribution.
‘Juan Enriquez: Your online life, permanent as a tattoo’ 2013, YouTube, TED, 2 May, 5 December 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu1C-oBdsMM&feature=youtu.be>.
Marshall, D 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: Celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, pp. 35-48, doi:10.1080/19392390903519057
Mazur, E & Li, Y 2016, ‘Identity and self-presentation on social networking websites: A comparison of online profiles of Chinese and American emerging adults’, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 101-18, retrieved 6 December 2016, PsycARTICLES.
Shaffer, D & Kipp, K 2010, Developmental psychology: Childhood and adolescence, 8th edn, Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont,­ CA.
Wolfgang, B 2016, ‘Clinton says she has ‘both a public and a private position’ on Wall Street: WikiLeaks release’, 8 October, retrieved 5 December 2016, <http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/8/hillary-clinton-says-she-has-both-public-and-priva/>.

My broader online activity

See Tiffit Tally, please!

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