Focus Question: Referring to Livingstone (2008), how do people us social networking services to construct their identities, and how do social connections form part of those identities?

Identities are constantly constructed on social networking services. People use these social networking services to construct their identities through what they publish or upload onto these sites. These services allow individuals to choose how they want to portray and establish their identity. This enables people to present their professional or social identity by what their profile displays. This allows social connections to form part of those identities because of the interaction of common interests in a society of social networking.

A particular case in which the social connections online are constructing identities is evident in youth. Livingstone refers to the presentation of self and this is seen in social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. These sites enable communication on a broad spectrum of friends to complete strangers. Youth are major players in the construction of identities online due to these sites in which they establish their ‘profile’. This idea of a profile allows individuals to publish information about themselves such as age, gender, education and interests. These details allow other users on these social networking services to understand their interest and get a general scope of their personality. Their identity is portrayed through the extent to which their information is published.

Livingstone refers to transitions in identity development and this is evident in social networking services showing the progression of individuals in constructing their identities and making social connections with other user. Livingstone uses particular cases and researches individual’s social networking habits in acknowledging their transition in identity development. Livingstone’s findings suggest that as development of both social networking sites and individuals there is an evident shift in site usage. Initially seen in early teens the popular usage of social networking services is Bebo but as youth and these sites develop there is an evident change in sites as many move to Facebook. This shows how social connections form a part of our identities through what social networking sites are popular to our community of interests.

Identity, intimacy and sociability are the fundamental factor of the opportunities that social networking. It has presented a shift in identity development which is clearly evident in the case study of youth. Not only is social networking services present opportunities for users to create an identity but also there is also an evident issue of risks these sites present. The issues of security and privacy of these sites can cause users to misjudge other users as trusted ‘friends.’

Even as early as the 1968 Lickleder and Taylor emphasised that ‘a communication system should make a positive contribution to the discovery and arousal of interests,’ (Lickleder & Taylor (1968) p.26). This quotation refers to the concept of online communication creating not only a community of interest but also an identity of individual users.

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Referencing

  • Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression. New Media & Society 10(3), 393-411
  • Licklider, J.C.R & Taylor, R.W. (1968). The Computer as a Communication Device. Viewed 17th September 2013. Reprinted Science and Technology (1968)
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