Impression Management for Diverse Audiences: Identity Practices on Facebook

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:10 AM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Nora SCHLEICHER , University of Applied Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
In my presentation, I  pose the question: how can we apply the concept of impression management as outlined in Goffman’s (1959) seminal work[1]to the context of social media and to the behavior of Facebook users in particular. Goffman claimed that we perform certain roles for certain audiences and attempt to keep these audiences separate. However, on Facebook, audiences become mixed in the form of diverse ‘friends’ potentially consuming the multimodal messages users of the social media site share with others.

How does this fact influence users identity performances on Facebook? What strategies they use to deal with this situation and how these strategies are reflected in their stance taking practices? Does the lack of physical contact with their audiences offer more freedom and agency in constructing their ’fronts’ resulting in more diverse and potentially subversive identities or, on the contrary, self-censorship constraining free identity performances result in more conformist, more socially acceptable identities on Facebook?

The data I use to attempt to answer these questions come from a representative survey on Hungarian high school students (aged 14-18) , from focus group interviews, as well as from discourse analysis of Facebook profiles of members of the same nationality and age group.

Preliminary analysis of the data suggests the existence of a variety of strategies used including the creation of double profiles, a control over the publicity and content  of the posts,   ’defriending’ certain people including parents, deleting earlier profiles and leaving Facebook completely.

The analysis focusing specifically on gender identity performances on Facebook suggests, on the one hand, strong peer group pressure, but, on the other hand, affordances of Facebook are also used to break away from traditional constraints of femininity.

[1] Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, New York: Doubleday