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Project of the Self

September 10, 2012

Stuart Hall, (MacNamara, J. 2010) refers to identity as the ongoing ‘project of the self’. He says instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished fact, we should think of identity as a ‘production’, which is never complete, always in process. Michel Foucault (MacNamara, J. 2010 ) suggests we engage in this production of identity by creating ‘ narratives of the self’, aided these days by what he calls ‘technologies of the self’. Chief among these technologies of course are media.

Stuart Hall [BBC UK]

The ancient Greek aphorism says  know thyself but in light of Foucault’s comments and today’s media society philosophy these days might advise  – show thyself.

Jordan McDonnell  knew he didn’t want to follow the usual rules about resume writing.

In order to stand out among others in the workforce, he decided to post his own story on Slideshare. The presentation titled.  “This is NOT my resume”  discusses more than his work experience and education. Jordans’ ambition was to create a resume that would go beyond the ordinary and capture his own unique personal biography. Social Media affords us all the opportunity to make our presentations of ourselves as fun, exciting, engaging and successful as Jordan’s. By his own account he has received extremely supportive attention.

However where some see social media as saviour some see it as the devil.

In their article ” Why social media is leading to a new era of identity”  the authors ask us to consider a number of issues arising specific to the use of social media and the concept of identity.

Issues such as the Synchronous Problem of Identity: How can one person’s identity exist consistently over time and space? Is person we were five years ago the person we are today? Or the problem of the Fragile Self that has given rise to the Pseudonym, the ability to create a number of identities, to(re)invent our identity, to mask or even allow for no identity.

As the writer Christine Rosen observed in her article Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism’.

“Does this technology, with its constant demands to collect (friends and status), and perform (by marketing ourselves), in some ways undermine our ability to attain what it promises- a surer sense of who we are and where we belong?

So here is my question: Does social media ultimately help people build their personal identity and better understand themselves, or does it hinder the development of one’s personal identity?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2012 11:04 PM

    Hi there Roxanne! Gosh you write beautifully! I certainly think that social media contributes to the development of personal identity, not so sure that it acts as a serious hindrance though. We’ve reached the point where many invdividuals have a social media prescence from birth, so I guess curating our social media self will become a natural and fluid part of our lives. Though… pondering this further, I guess society will be very different to the one we know if we reach a point where a well curated social media presence is more highly valued than the living, breathing person it represents.

    • September 12, 2012 12:29 PM

      Hey Louise I”m so new to this blogging thing I keep leaving myself a comment instead of message of can read my message to you below Cheers R 🙂

  2. September 12, 2012 11:53 AM

    Hi Louise

    Thanks for visiting and thanks for the kind words. Interested in your turn of phrase re ‘well curated’ certainly that concept links to identity and how people manage their own on line presence. Read an article by an academic who refers to the web as a combination of either on line performance or exhibition and that we (and others) curate that material and that space all the time…scarily she makes the point that the ultimate ‘third party’ curation is identity theft. I know this course is certainly asking me to engage with aspects of myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I also know what you mean about social media presence from birth birth…if those digital natives ever go native…look out!

  3. September 12, 2012 10:29 PM

    Hi Roxanne – loved your post, I think you have picked up on a theme which has not been covered in class much but which is a fundamental issue that we should be exploring more closely. Like yourself, I find the challenge of managing several online identities via multiple social media channels quite fascinating at times – certainly, the identity I have on Facebook is different to that on LinkedIn which again is different that on Twitter – and my blog is slightly different as well. I’m not on an online dating site anymore, but when I was I had an entirely different profile as well! I don’t feel confused by all of this – they are all different channels for exploring and presenting different aspects of my personality – and to be honest, I find this whole “project of the self” quite enriching. I think social media has enabled me to explore so many conversations and debates and world views that I would never have had the opportunity to be exposed to if I was not on these platforms. One final word about branding – I am very conscious of each medium though – LinkedIn is critical for creating and maintaining a professional brand, I have heaps of my cousins and family members on Facebook so I am always respectful of what I post on there. And I am very conscious of my blog persona as well as that is the most exposed and public medium of them all.

  4. September 14, 2012 8:04 AM

    Hi Roxanne, for me, social media does feel a bit like performing, since it’s in such a public sphere – so (perhaps down to my introverted nature) there is a bit of pressure ‘to perform’. There is also a bit of competition, as Rosen points out, to attain friends and status. In this sense, I don’t think I do attain a surer sense of who I am or where I belong through social media – too much performance anxiety!

    Having said this, I don’t think I have different personas across different platforms. As I posted on Sarah’s facebook group, I did start a twitter account under a fake name – but that account followed all the same people, and said the same things as ‘me’. In this sense, because it’s the real me, I end up feeling quite exposed by social media. Particularly on LinkedIn, where my professional status is not where I would like it to be, sometimes I wish I was better at faking it….

    • September 25, 2012 1:17 PM

      I’m with you pyjamajournalist, I don’t find I build my identity very much on social media because I feel exposed and suffer performance anxiety!

      But to answer your question Roxanne, I don’t think it really hinders the development of my personal brand (I don’t know what that is though . . . perhaps I don’t have one . . . is that a bad thing? Hmm). I feel a certain pressure to ‘improve’ my brand on LinkedIn, but am loath to do so. I don’t feel particularly impressed by the number of connections a person has on LinkedIn, and I’ve seen the glossy LinkedIn profiles of former colleagues who were absolutely atrocious to work with, so I’m not impressed by those either. So I don’t expect anyone to be impressed by my own gloss, and tend to stick to basics.

      I may be hindering my future career prospects, but I tend to ‘sell’ my brand in the actual, walking around, physical world and rely on the connections I make there too. So far I don’t feel I’m missing out – although I may be missing a brand . . . .

  5. September 23, 2012 12:02 AM

    Hi Roxanne – thanks very much for sharing the Rosen article. I’m also exploring persona building, self-mediation and branding for my written assignement and this is really useful. Another really good case study I found yesterday is on the topic of identity creation through blogging. The article is called “Social Media and Self-­‐curatorship: Reflections on Identity and Pedagogy through Blogging on a Masters Module” and is HIGHLY topical for us as a group! It’s well worth a read, the link is below, cheers Kerry.

  6. October 9, 2012 8:39 AM

    Hi Roxanne, I agree with Lou your post and writing are great as usual.

    Now answering your question, I work in an IT environment, where everybody is checking all online profiles as part of our days jobs so I keep one identity for all platforms with my real name and picture. I could say I am happy about this: firstly, I am an extrovert person ( minority in the class according to your survey) and secondly I do not have anything to hide.
    The article “Why social media is leading to a new era of identity” mentions that we can construct online an identity that is completely true to ourselves, I thing this is my case.

    • October 14, 2012 4:07 AM

      Hi Consuelo, love your attitude about not having anything to hide. You have certainly been true to this in the effort you have put into this course. Your posts are always full of life and opinions and a point of view…….just like the you I see in the ‘real world”. Thanks a lot for visiting my blog.

  7. October 16, 2012 11:51 AM

    Hi Roxanne, I love your topic and such a great question, i’ve often asked myself. I believe social media often helps to build one’s ‘public’ or online identify, more than genuinely and truly helping someone to know themselves and their personal identity better. I don’t know that it necessarily hinders the development of one’s personal identity, but I think there’s a lot of show and tell for kudos or status, with the focus on how a person may look and appear to others, rather than a personal exploration of self.

    • October 17, 2012 2:34 AM

      Hi Anna, I think you are right and there is definitely a performance element to ones’s public identity and along with that go the feelings of kudos and staus. But I suppose you can’t help but be a bit chuffed when someoen takes the time to come to your site to comment ,especially if they like your ideas and /or are willing to challenge and extend your thinking by their sharign their own ideas. And although I agree I didn’t set out to discover my identity through this exercise I have learnt alot about myself. Cheers Roxanne

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