Bri's presentation about Facebook, as well as the reading from last week, had me thinking about impression management as I traipsed back to my room. Although I would be completely comfortable with the class exploring my Facebook profile, I still decided to adapt some things. There were several pictures I had taken of myself making purposefully weird faces, but these, I was convinced, had no place online. There are still several pictures I cannot explain briefly, but have kept up or kept my profile tagged to. In one snapshot, my face is painted and I'm puckering red lips at the camera. In the next, I'm attending a Baptist Palm Sunday sermon with a lunch lady.
To confess: since college, I've taken Facebook seriously. I am not so much the dandified liar I was. Changes in my circle of friends necesitated that I treat Facebook more like a tool and less like an ornament.
When I was younger, and thought I could write the great American novel in a single evening, I produced a separate myspace for my literary persona. I began to correspond with two individuals who I didn't know, and we became pen pals. When they wanted to friend me over Facebook, my perspective shifted. My friends knew who I was, and could see through my attitude online, but these two could only get to know me through my profile. I felt it due to invest a little bit more of myself and apply some discretion with the contents of my Facebook.
Facebook and other online spaces doe not require honesty to real life, as anyone who has faked their age to sign up might know. Yet, if we are not faithful to real life's details, what are we loyal to? Are there other options? One that leaps to mind is fantasy. Facebook can catch the refracted beams of a life we'd like to lead and broadcast that to others. Yet, is this limp mendacity the only alternative? Are there other causes for managing our profiles contrary to the facts of our lives?
One of my pen pals is named Kirsten. We've never met in person, and I doubt we will unless I make extensive travel plans. I only know her from her MySpace and Facebook profiles and our conversations we have using messaging features on either website. We have conversations about sex, sexuality, gender, love and identity. Consequentially, these are deeper correspondences than I keep with most of my friends.
What is interesting about her impression management is that online she is a woman, offline she reluctantly lives as a man. Online profiles allow her to interact with others and exhibit herself in this female persona she has trouble presenting to others in the street.
One might liken it to a shy student in an online class who is more gregarious in an electronic environment. However, a student in such a situation still goes by the same name, the same ID number online as offline. Also, between an online class and Facebook there are many differences, Facebook calls for different interactions and demands different information from its users. Kirsten practices a deft power of... omission? ...reinvention?
There are no pictures of her in men's clothes. There are no pictures of her outside of her house. She has pruned these visuals which don't apply to her true self. I've been writing to Kirsten for at least two years, and I don't know her male name. For both she and myself, "Kirsten" suits her better than her given birth name.
"Kirsten" is her "real" name.
How's that for impression management?!