ONLINE DISTORTIONS: MY CURATED PRESENTATION OF SELF VIA SOCIAL MEDIA – ALC203 ASSESSMENT 1

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Recently, from my perspective as a freelance multimedia producer i posted a tweet that stated that for me content consumption is of more importance than dialogue:

As an established and long-time user of social media since the relatively early days of Myspace, my interactions through the many platforms available online tend to be less personal in tone and are most commonly utilised to spread a message to professional contacts and potential clients. Instead of conveying personal life moments and intimate information such as relationship milestones and family gatherings, I have adopted a more strategic approach to my usage to benefit my professional practices of music performance, composition and freelance multimedia production. Because of this, the lines between my public personas and professional representation often blur into a form where the real me is distorted online into a stylised / customised representation of myself – most notably with my personal details censored. I recently discussed this in a video published to my anonymous university twitter account:

The map of my social media usage is quite broad: messages intersect across platforms and are reposted by other profiles. In order to illustrate the breadth of my social media engagement, I have included the following presentation via Easelly to illustrate the differences graphically (and also represent how my cross pollinate my content to reach existing and new audiences for potential listeners and clients):

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Something that is worth taking note of in this infographic is the overlap of cross posting of messages between profiles and platforms. Because I am reasonably well known within certain artistic and musical communities, less experienced users are more likely to tag my personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages instead of my professional ones. This has led me over the last five years to be far more careful about the message that such accounts project publically. An example of this can be seen below – was I was younger and before I adopted this sort of approach, the tone of my posts were far more personal and somewhat flippant:

Likewise, often my posts were previously more carefree in expression and political in nature.

Gabriel (2014, p 108) describes how such an expression of self in youth blurs the lines between private and public domains:

“Youth exceeds the binary limits of adult and child and also, by association, those of reason and unreason, mind and body, presence and absence. Likewise, social media produce a similar kind of conceptual excess by collapsing boundaries of public and private, real and virtual. Young people’s lives are increasingly lived and expressed virtually, and these virtual experiences are both private and public, not to mention intensely ‘real’.”

Compare this with more recent posts from my professional and personal accounts. Note how I have allowed my personal account through its extensive network of contacts to become a beacon for professional message – my personal page even being rebranded so old tweets wouldn’t confuse my messages.

Indeed, my personal twitter account eventually succumbed entirely to a new online account whose message was solely professional:

Admittedly this approach is not without problem. Because of these distortions of my public representation online and constant overlap between my personal and professional social media accounts, I have found that I am more likely to encounter difficulties because of other people’s expectations: particularly around how they view their own use of social media. For example, some time ago I was on tour as a musician in Europe. My partner at the time joined me in France for two weeks’ holiday at the start of the journey. Over the course of that time they became progressively irritated and then upset: my social media engagement across my personal profile centered focused on the sights and spectacle of the travel in aid of promoting upcoming shows locally and spreading word of how things were progressing back to home. I was publicly concerned with keeping my audience engaged with content whilst I was away for three months. At the heart of the upset was that I was seen to be using these platforms regularly – but not sharing personal experiences. A quick look at at a couple of screen grabs from Instagram from that time shows how my online usage of the platform kept my private life just that – private.

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This is not to say that I wasn’t documenting personal moments and moments of my relationship: indeed, I was, however I considered these moments precious and akin to a family photo album: private and not for public consumption. In essence, something to be protected, Perhaps this reflects my place within generational shifts that have taken place in respect to integration technology into public life: being raised in the 1980’s as the advent of home computing was only just emerging. Poletti and Rak (2013, p55) discuss this disconnect between the online and the personal and how online representations of the self are a constantly evolving form of self-expression curated by the user (in my case an entirely manufactured and curated self expression):

“When it comes to the relationship between the multiplicity of uses and identity, there is a common tendency in both scholarship and popular discourse to assume that the identities of users are fixed, static, and merely represented or expressed through online activities. An alternative view is to consider the ways in which social networking sites operate as a space for the continued, ongoing construction of subjectivity— neither a site for identity play nor for static representation of the self, but as an ongoing reflexive performance and articulation of selfhood that utilizes the full range of tools made available through common social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.”

My efforts to stay connected with contacts and listeners did indeed work. To this day, people that I have had little contact with regularly ask me about the successes of the tour whilst at the same time I have managed to protect my own sense of privacy and control what is publicly visible. Likewise, whilst I was away from familiar shores, I was able to book shows ahead for my return and generate business going forward. Where others use social media for interconnected friendship circles, I have used it here as a tool through which some might see some of my interactions as superficial. Marshall (2010) refers to this usage of social media through the far more exaggerated prism of celebrity as “the parasocial self”:

“The parasocial self is a pragmatic understanding that it is impossible to communicate individually with thousands and millions; and yet in this shifted on-line culture some effort has to be made. Thus celebrities are not fully fledged friends with all the people that may follow them but superficially, at least, they are.”

In turning personal accounts into heralds of professional message, it should be noted that my “personal” social media accounts have few to no restrictions upon who can view them. Only in extreme circumstances have I ever restricted view or blocked someone’s access – mostly due to malicious trolling. In this manner I ensure that if someone recommends my music or skills, that I am easily contactable even if someone has no connections to me yet.

This brings me to the topic of the importance of personal privacy. Some may consider that in turning over my personal accounts for mainly professional usage that I have forfeited what many take for granted in their online interactions – or that in some way that I am “missing out” on social media interactions that many people engage in. To some it may also appear overly curated. My personal view on this is that I have never aimed to use these platforms in order to replace in person interactions with those who are close to me. Perhaps just as I was raised in a time when personal photos were a thing that was treasured and kept safe in family photo albums, this is a result of my age and having grown up without social media as a constant presence in my life enabling me to reconcile it’s place in my life.

 

My broader ALC203 – related online activity.

As a late comer to ALC203 my online activity up until now has been playing catchup to some degree. It has mostly been conducted in the form of twitter – catching up on the most recent Tiffit challenges –  for example creating a stylised selfie using Deep Dream to process my own image, the recent ALCconcept videos – an establishing blog post as well as interacting with and commenting on other ALC203 student tweets.

 


Credits:

Feature image selfie montage by Andrew Watson

Social Media by Yoel Ben-Avraham (CC BY 2.0)

Videos featured in embedded tweets by Andrew Watson – published as Semiconductor Media

All Instagram images featured mobile in screen captures by Andrew Watson

 

References:

Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: young people, social media and the performance of self-development’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 151, p. 104.

Marshall, PD 2013, The promotion and presentation of the self : celebrity as marker of presentational media, Routledge.

Poletti, A, & Rak, J 2013, Identity technologies : constructing the self online, Madison, Wisconsin : The University of Wisconsin Press, [2013].

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