8th January 2014

Do you have a social self?

By Anna Wilson on Wednesday January 8, 2014

It’s no secret that Facebook has undergone a research process to understand how and why people post on social networks.

The recent research focused specifically on self-censorship which is defined as: ‘filtering after a thought has been formed and expressed, but before it has been shared’ – so basically Facebook wanted to know when that filter between brain and mouth (or keyboard) kicks in?!

The results showed:

  • 71% self-censored – of the sample (5 million users in the UK and the US)
  • 51% of the sample censored at least one post, 44% at least one comment in the 17 day period
  • Posts to groups were censoredmore (38%) than status updates (34%)
  • Males censored 26% more posts than females (the frequency of censorship increased as the proportion of their male friends increased)
  • Users with older friends censored fewer comments

All interesting reading, perhaps a few surprises, but the overwhelming question is why are people censoring themselves?

The answer – ultimately, you can be whoever you want to be online. Social networks afford users a time delay (and anonymity) that the real world does not; users can edit photos, ponder comments, think up witty lines/intelligent statuses and craft videos to impress their mates and generally create a more idealistic version of themselves… basically users can create a social identity for themselves and manage people’s perception.

The phenomena of the ‘Social Self’ isn’t new; in 1959, Dr Erving Goffman identified that ‘people present themselves differently in distinct social circles’ however the prevalence of social networks has simply exacerbated this trait by making it much easier for people to craft an ideal identity. Whether this shows that social networks need to adapt their structures to allow users to tailor specific comments/posts to a specific group of friends (a la Google+) is a question for another day.

In the last few years we’ve seen an extreme emergence of this, especially with platforms like Second Life being hailed as addictive and increasing instances of catfishes. <I look exactly like Angelina Jolie… honest>

So how do you know if you have a social self? Well, in the style of a 1992 Cosmo, I’ve created a handy guide:

Cool Customer Mildly Obsessed Wildly Addicted
A low battery sign does not induce a cold sweat You speak in hashtags You regularly trip/fall over things because you’re staring at your phone too much
Sunny days mean a nice walk… not screen glare You think in 140 characters The physical world no longer holds any joy for you, the only things that makes you laugh are cat gifs
A pin is something you use to put a notice on a board You call people by their username/handle You wake up at 3am sweating with visions of a fail whale
No filter means grainy coffee When you go somewhere new the first question out of your mouth is ‘what’s the wifi password?’ Your ultimate goal is the perfect profile pic

Which one are you?

Anna on Google+