August 16, 2014
Social Media Users Exercise ‘Strategic Self-Presentation’ When Sharing Content
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
While people strive to present authentic images on social media websites, many of them admit to having faked part of their online profiles in order to conform to expectations and social norms, researchers from Aalto University in Finland claim in a new study.
Writing in the latest edition of the journal New Media and Society, authors Suvi Uski and Airi Lampinen explained that they focused on two social networks (Facebook and Last.fm) and concluded that users practiced “strategic self-presentation” by framing real information about themselves in the context of group-held expectations.
While both Facebook and Last.fm differ in the manner by which users share content, the authors noted that there was an emphasis on maintaining a profile that seemed to be as natural as possible. They also discovered a prevailing disdain for “profile tuning,” a practice involving intentionally sharing content designed to create a false image.
“What our study reveals is a common belief that sharing content in a way that is considered to be excessive, attention seeking or somehow portrays that individual in a fake manner is judged extremely negatively,” Uski explained. At the same time, this revelation revealed an interesting paradox regarding the authenticity of information being shared.
“While social norms required individuals to be real in their sharing behavior, presenting oneself in the right way through sharing often necessitated an element of faking,” Lampinen said, noting that falsification was particularly noticeable on Last.fm, a music-sharing platform which automatically shares content.
“We found that it was not uncommon for some users to purposely choose to listen to, or indeed not listen to, particular music according to the image that that individual wants to portray to others,” Lampinen added. Facebook users, on the other hand, have a higher degree of control over what they choose to share with others, but they often opt not to share anything over concerns that their posts will send the wrong message to their fellow users.
As a result, a person’s desire to be viewed as authentic in social media can also be extremely difficult to accomplish, as a desire to conform actually prevents people from truly sharing content without being held back by self-restraint. Thus, the study authors conclude that authentic social media images are more controlled than previously believed.
“We identified social norms that were formed around the prevailing sharing practices in the two sites and compared them in relation to the sharing mechanisms,” they wrote. “The analysis revealed that automated and manual sharing were sanctioned differently. We conclude that although the social norms that guide content sharing differed between the two contexts, there was an identical sociocultural goal in profile work: presentation of authenticity.”
Last month, researchers from Oregon State University reported that girls and young women who tended to post sexy or revealing pictures on Facebook or other social media websites were more likely to be viewed as less physically and socially attractive and less competent to perform tasks by their female peers.
“This is a clear indictment of sexy social media photos,” said study author Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology who conducted the experiment using a fictitious Facebook profile. “There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy, but sharing those sexy photos online may have more negative consequences than positive.”