Social relationships are common today and many people engage in them, especially through the use of social media. Most of them, who are youths, expect that their posts can only be accessed by their targeted audience. However, since the social network is broad, even the unintended audience gets to be reached by a post. A common example is a post made on Facebook with privacy settings as 'friends'. The unintended audience, who are the friends of friends, may access the content especially if the friend comments on the post on the grounds of the account being accessible to the public. Dana Boyd, a technology and social media scholar and researcher at Microsoft Research, finds out the struggles that youths undergo while trying to impress a particular audience in social media. The aim of this essay is to argue about Boyd's perspective of impression management in a networked setting.
Impression Management in a Networked Setting by Danah Boyd mainly talks about the version of impression management according to Goffman. Impression management particularly lies within the social psychology circle (Hooghiemstra 60). According to Boyd, impressions made by people are a result of whatever is being given. Goffman also agrees that many individuals show what they would like to share and what they need to reveal as a byproduct of the people they really are and their reactions to the people around them (Boyd 122). She argues that individuals working in the same place share certain impressions through reliance on shared familiarity with the aim of defining situations in the same context. Therefore, according to Boyd, impression management is a tricky nature in a networked setting since distinct people work in distinct environments that are commonly networked. However, on the same note, it can be ascertained that contexts do collapse since the people sharing the same definitions have different senses regarding the systems of contexts and the nature of acceptance of their decisions. Even with the trueness in Boyd's point of view, some arguments can be made otherwise.I agree with Boyd that whatever that is being shown to others is dependent on the aims of sharing the message with the advantage of creating a good self-image. The message being conveyed is also a matter of what individuals unintentionally share as a byproduct of the reality in the person and the reactions being made to the recipients especially if it is new (Boyd 122). Since new information has an immediate impact, the audience tends to be eager to share it (Bansal and Clelland 100). In my point of view, Boyd's statement is true and mostly applies to youths using social media including Instagram and Facebook. The teenagers tend to post most of their updates to their friends only and maybe a portion of the intended audience. Impression management can be seen when they try to maintain their conversations and posts but is altered and collapses as soon as the friends of friends are reached with the message. This can be evident since there is a difference in senses between the communicator and the receivers hence, they may leak the information issued with to the friend's unintended audience.
Boyd argues that it is quite difficult to retain contexts due to the way networking works. Although there is some truth in the statement, it is not applicable to everyone in the social media circle but the secrecy of most information in the circle is dependent on the users of social media platforms. The youths that value the privacy of their information posted online tend to be more cautious on the vastness of the information. On the other hand, the value of secrecy may not apply especially to cases where the entire friends share specific information within the intended audience without the permit issued by the first owner or the first person communicating the content. For instance, one friend can find it more important to give particular knowledge with the purpose of creating an advantage to the one who posted it but all these ends up hurting them and the social relationship.
I agree with Boyd's perspective of self-presentations since they do not just arise. It takes a little effort to reach to self-presentation and this may include collaborations with other people with the aim of shaping impressions through the reliance on shared familiarity. Impression management tactics can be used for the sake of self-presentation since they are likable, competent and dedicated by friends (Turnley, William and Mark 355). All this can be done with the aim of having a particular context defined and accepted by every other individual. As a result, there may be an increased group profile, especially in the media using the profiles such as Facebook, Whatsapp, and telegram. Since it is a social circle, most of the groups' titles dictate to the visitors the content being discussed. Boyd's perception comes in where each member of that particular group is shaped by their posts, shares and the response they get from others on what they post. However, various other members may feel uncomfortable in the groups as soon as they find out that information shared by them is leaked to other external sources. In such occurrences, the organization may be altered since the one role of one member acts differently in regards to the expectations of other people since there is a difference in senses amongst the individuals.
I agree with the solution created by Boyd regarding the prevention of context collapse as soon as there is communication in a networked setting. Boyd indicates that individuals "should not engage in a context-dependent impression management" (125). Her statement is valid since as soon as information is posted and not restricted within a given context, there are no possibilities for fear of the information falling into the senses of the unintended audience. The context-dependent impression management develops an individual's self-confidence because of the knowledge that the information reaching them cannot do any harm regardless of the persons accessing it. On the other hand, such information, due to its open nature, may play a related responsibility as that communicated within the contextual limits whereas at a similar time not showing the original owners of the message with the aim of protecting the collapse of the context. For instance, information posted with the aim of reaching out to the public may be intended to communicate important information to a selected sample population. In that case, when the unintended audience in the public is reached with the information, it may not be meaningful to them. Boyd notes that many social media experts say that having two identities may be an example of lacking the integrity to oneself (Boyd 25). However, according to me, having two identities do not relate in any way too lacking integrity since it could be as a result of security reasons or the avoidance of hurting other people who are not okay with the presented identity. For instance, a teenager can be obsessed with partying too much but the parents may not be comfortable with the situation hence, they may tend to hide their identity while at the same time revealing that identity to the friends. Therefore, lack of integrity is not the only driving force to having two identities.I would agree with Boyd when she implies that teenagers are struggling to create another identity that would make them fit in the society where there is an existence of networking of contexts (Boyd 127). As teenagers struggle to have different identities, they differentiate the various social contexts. Even with the preference of a particular medium of communication, the intervening communicating parties may leak information to other social media platforms where they cannot be guaranteed of privacy. Most of the modern teenagers operate different social media platforms hence, tend to move interesting information from one of their platforms to the next. On that note, the information does affect the original owner. This is also applicable when other communicating parties issue information without the intention of harming the original owner of the message. The chain is common especially for the sharing of photos in the social media.
Conclusively, impression management is not viable in a networked environment due to the contexts of operation of different people in that network. Even with a sense of the most appropriate context, the receiving parties may not feel an equal sense, hence high chances of leaking information to the unintended audience. Therefore, the risk of context collapse can be avoided through communicating in a non-contextual impression management manner. Engagement of teens in contextual impression management, therefore, has its own benefits and limitations. Therefore, it is never easy to resolve the networked nature of social contexts.
Bansal, P., and I. Clelland. "Talking Trash: Legitimacy, Impression Management, And Unsystematic Risk In The Context Of The Natural Environment." Academy of Management Journal, vol. 47, no. 1, Jan. 2004, pp. 93-103., doi:10.2307/20159562.
Boyd, Danah. Impression Management in a Networked Setting, n.d., pp. 122-127.
Hooghiemstra, Reggy. "Corporate Communication and Impression Management - New Perspectives Why Companies Engage in Corporate Social Reporting." Business Challenging Business Ethics: New Instruments for Coping with Diversity in International Business, 2000, pp. 55-68., doi:10.1007/978-94-011-4311-0_7.
Turnley, William H., and Mark C. Bolino. "Achieving Desired Images While Avoiding Undesired Images: Exploring the Role of Self-Monitoring in Impression Management." Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 86, no. 2, 2001, pp. 351-360., doi:10.1037//0021-9010.86.2.351.
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