The Profile and Self
The second section, “The Profile and the Self: Is the profile more like a door, a window, or a painting?”, focuses on the self in terms of images and how identity is constructed and played with on Facebook.
In “Profile Picture, Right Here, Right Now,” Jeremy Sarachan writes that the text and the picture/image interact to create different perspectives and creations of who the user presents himself/herself as. Facebook’s status updates and photos constantly have users re-identify and re-create themselves, and Barthes’s photographic categories for analysis (pose, objects, trick effects, photgenia, aestheticism, syntax) allow Sarachan to provide analysis of different types of photos.
Mimi Mariucci’s “You Can’t Front on Facebook” demonstrates how the online environment promotes disinhibition, ignoring ‘real-life’ social conventions and demographic groups. Her article is provoking, expanding on the claim that “There is … reduction in the significance of features like race and ethnic identity, or sex and gender identity” (qtd. by Marinucci 70) because there is more of a peer-to-peer feel. This is echoed in some other articles. I would have liked to have seen her address the counterargument to this somewhere, saying that online interaction might actually reify race and gender and other categories in many ways.
Mariam Thalos’s article “Why I Am Not a Friend” privileges face-to-face relationships over electronic ones. Her argument is Facebook “does not provide credible means of self-presentation, which is a precondition for bonding” (86). Some of her claims, such as “Facebook imperils much that we care about” (75), are definitely worth exploring, but she comes off at times as making assumptions about Facebook and face-to-face communication. Her critique seems largely “generational.” Her article criticizes ideas that social networks can eliminate the cultural distinctions and discrimination found in society (79), which is an important point when juxtaposed with the previous article in this section.
Tamara Wandel & Anthony Beavers’s “Playing Around with Identity” discusses how “The virtual context of social networking…allows us to experiment with our very selves” (90). The internet, they claim, embodies the postmodernist “fragmentation of self” and “shifting roles” we play (93). Identity is constantly played around with, but in our own sometimes "futile", sometimes "fullfilling" (94) quests for identity, the authors also remind us that how we see ourselves also changes how others see themselves. They argue, finally, that "it is quite possible that computer-mediated communities support becoming a more authentic, grounded and valid self" (95)
Rune Vejby and D.E. Wittkower’s article “Spectacle 2.0” draws on the work of Guy Debord and the relatively unknown group, the Situationist International (SI). It is difficult to sum up this article without knowing something about Debord, but the article plays off of the idea that “people in modern societies have become passive spectators removed from enjoying authentic experiences” (100) by analyzing the Facebook experience within a neo-Marxist framework. Overall, this article, like many others in this book, left me wanting to dive into many of the sources that the contributors of this book used.