The Survey Geek (AKA Reg Baker) has an interesting post about the way that people’s Facebook and Tweets are taking on the nature of a performance. Towards the end of the post Reg comments “if people we listen to in social media are not true selfs but selfs constructed for our consumption, it raises some pretty significant challenges for working with social media information”.
Much I respect Reg, I think he has a slightly odd view of ‘real’ life if he thinks that the selves we present are not equally created for consumption by others.
Below is the comment I added to his post.
Whilst not everybody is going to rush over to a post-modern, post-structualist position, surely there are a few things that most of us will agree with:
1) All discourse is social
2) Meaning is not that which was intended, but that which is constructed by the parties involved
3) Social events have more than one meaning, either we accept there are multiple truths or that there are no truths
4) Most people are highly skilled at discourse, which results in much of the meaning that is created not being specifically spelled out in the text
One great example of the way all discourse is social is the group of sounds we make when we are on our own, in public. For example you are walking down the street and you stub your toe and utter "ouch" or you nearly drop something and say "oops" - these utterances are produced with amazing speed, at a time of stress, and are a message to the other people on the street that a minor something is happening, you have noticed it, you have it under control, and there is no need for them to be involved, but a bit of sympathy might not go amiss.
The point for research is that all social personas are constructed, as are all other aspects of our life. Some of the issues in social media may be different from other aspects of life, but I doubt that the issues are bigger in social media than in more traditional arenas.