The persona I construct is, like many users, different depending on which platform is used. Much like the meme it inspired:
The differences between my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blog are obvious. I basically keep a low profile on most of these platforms (sometimes referred to as a zombie) and consume content rather than create it. I connect with a few communities across each of the platforms, family and friends on Facebook, worldwide InfoSec on Twitter and local InfoSec professionals on LinkedIn. This is where my blog comes in. It represents my life more broadly in that it’s not about the things I like, the places I go to eat or the food I eat when there, but a place I can lay out my musings about the struggle I am in. I’d like it to be a place where people in a similiar position can come to share the burden, in a way.
As Maddox (2020:para 12) says, social media is used to build communities in an effort to “patch together permissive spaces where their common interests and connection can occur”. I’d like my blog to be a place where I can form connections with people in a similar position to mine. There are lots of examples of these kinds of connections, not always positive! Take this hypothetical example:
Facebook (and Twitter etc) can facilitate all kinds of conversations, like those that could take place between Jackson and Mark regarding the US election and Covid19…
Growing up I used to join in chatrooms, use IRC (Internet relay chat) and use ICQ to find and talk to people. Back then, an online identity consisted of little more than a username (I used MeaTHeAd, yes it’s embarassing) and your ability to chat! I even found my first love on an IRC client called mIRC. I’m pretty sure it went something like this:
From there I moved onto web design, I made a few websites but the one I put the most time into was about a band from the United States. It had everything, discography, lyrics, articles, reviews etc. In the ‘About Me’ section I gave some basic information, about two sentences worth. I was too afraid of being hacked, and I have to admit I carry those concerns with me today. It’s part of the reason I began this journey into cyber security in the first place. I came to understand the potential for the Internet to be used maliciously and it’s only increased in scope and severity since then!
Fast forward years later, Metal_Gal was long gone and I’d been unlucky in love. I decided to try online dating using Plenty of Fish (Tinder didn’t exist then) This was the first time I had to build an online identity, talking about myself, using pictures and all. I met a few girls there, most of which used absolutely misleading representations of themselves (what a surprise), before I met my current girlfriend and mother of my kids. This was 8 years ago. I guess the online representation of myself worked!
This brings me to another point, the constant need to analyse the truth of what is being presented on the Internet. Smith and Watson (2014) ask ‘how is authenticity surveilled online?’, and the simple answer is that it is not. Fact checking services and reputable media outlets exist in the news arena, but when it comes to dating profiles, Instagram and Twitter, it really is up to the individual to decide what is real and what isn’t.
Although I don’t contribute all that much at the moment on my social media, I mainly use it for browsing and laughing at silly jokes, I will definitely be using platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to build a profile into the future. In the line of work I am aiming for, these two platforms are especially useful for building relationships, keeping up to date with industry news and seeking out opportunities. I already regulate what I post now with an eye to the future, as it’s safe to assume that any potential employer would do a quick search of my social media accounts before hiring.
Frequent blog updates, profile picture changes and tweeting speaks to what Hills (2009) describes as the ‘performative self’. These actions are what he describes as ‘up-to-the-minute performances of self’ and is an example of how social media is a space for the continued and ongoing construction and articulation of oneself. I expect that with my move into the IT industry I will be more engaged with updating my social media accounts in this way. My online presence at the moment wouldn’t really benefit from posts like this:
Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95
Hills, M 2009, ‘Case study: social networking and self-identity’, in Creeber, G and Martin, R (eds.), Digital Cultures: Understanding New Media, Open University Press, Maidenhead, pp. 117-21
Maddox (3 November 2020) Social media and community building, alexiamaddox.com, accessed 16 December 2020