This interactive website is a digital component to Angela's Doctoral Dissertation, The Structured Self: Authenticity, Agency, and Anonymity in Social Networking Sites. Her goal is to have this website act as a more accessible outlet to her research than a dissertation or even an academic book of which few are aware or have access to. Therefore, the site is committed to reaching out to a general audience, removing academic jargon, and catering to as wide of a group of typical social media users as possible.
Social networking sites allow people to create, broadcast, and interpret the self in new and evolving ways. While early online social media studies praised the internet for providing an anonymous space in which to experiment with identity, more recent research suggests that social networking sites have become not anonymous, as they compel users to perform identity in new ways. Through a novel application of affordance theory, this paper argues that instead of attempting to apply outdated definitions of privacy to social networking spaces, we should instead be discussing our right to anonymity. I argue that privacy is immaterial due to the fact that from the moment we log in and interact with a social media interface, we have shared some type of personal information with someone. Anonymity, on the other hand, is defined as the unlinkability of our many identifications. Thus, instead of attempting to define ideas such as "personal" and "private," we should instead fight for the separation of selves, both at the social and institutional level.
This study investigates the ways in which the crafted, non-neutral affordances granted in social networking sites have implications for our perceptions of marginalized communities. To do so, I employ Facebook as a case study and speak with emerging adults to better understand how issues of gender and race are represented through Facebook's affordances. I find that users adhere to Facebook's promoted conceptions of gender and race, often describing gender as "more important" or "less controversial" than race. Further, users expect certain prompts for identification because these are the same categories that are present on the US Census, job applications, and medical forms. Thus, Facebook has come to be understood as the official social space; users expect their networks to "accurately" perform their identifications--gender calls for an explicit, required check box, but race can be simply deduced through profile pictures. Ultimately, I argue that before analyzing user-generated content, we must first investigate the technical affordances that are driving their behaviors.
Insofar as we understand bullying to have become more prevalent, many argue the onset of
social networking sites have led teens to bully or be bullied more often. In early internet
studies, scholars argued that paradox existed wherein cyberbullies were "nerd" types who
were likely to be bullied offline, but due to their technological prowess, they morphed
into the bullies once behind the computer screen. However, now with online spaces becoming
less and less anonymous, most social networking users proudly display many links (e.g.
pictures, legal names, etc.) to their corporeal, offline self. Therefore, the traditional
notion of the bully seems to prevail once again.
If this is the case, then why does it seem that bullying, now often known as cyberbullying, plays a larger role in society, filling our daily discussions with concerns regarding bullying and seeing advocacy attempts around every corner? One answer perhaps is that there is a cultural shift in how we define identity and the other. This paper argues that social networking sites are cultivating new cultural norms that, as a byproduct, also make it easier and more accessible to bully one another.