The Internet age has brought forth a significant change in social interactions and personal connections. As in the case of any modern tendency, this phenomenon created both numerous advantages and challenges. On the one hand, researchers note that social networking gives plenty of chances to increase one’s quantity and frequency of bonding with others (Neves, 2015). On the other hand, negative consequences of the Internet, according to Agger (2015), can make people detached and unsatisfied with real life. Due to the complexity of the phenomenon, one needs to comprehend that modernization in everyday life can produce success and problems simultaneously, but overall, it is a movement in a positive direction.
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Personal and Community Relationships: The Former and Current Image
The first aspect affected by the Internet’s spreading is the nature of the interaction between individuals and communities. Thus, it would be impossible to avoid changes in socialization that have transpired in the last decades. These transformations open multiple new opportunities, although they cause problems as well. One fact should remain certain – relationships have evolved to a different level, even if the risks have increased exponentially.
Firstly, the bonds of family, friendship, and familiarization have acquired distinctive traits. One of the characteristic features of all of them is the reduction of face-to-face interaction and focus on texting messages through social media. Hence, communication frequently happens outside the real world, and it can serve as a positive and negative force alike. According to Agger (2015), “distance shrinks in an era of global connectivity, which is a good thing” (p. 58).
In other words, the limits of transport and borders already play no role, which is comfortable when family members need to stay in touch. The same way, friendship can be acquired or kept intact despite the distance, as well as the personal limits and limits of the communities. At the same time, Agger (2015) argues that, for example, in case of friendship, it became a sort of currency, which is required if there are no real life friends.
Secondly, the Internet age corrects the course of operation for most organizations, including business, in a similar manner. One can use the pages and group events on Facebook as a prominent example. The pages’ and events’ updates do not usually face any delay, so the users may react on them as quickly as the Internet allows it. It is especially valuable for the organizational or promotional tasks since the business must heavily rely on the networking information to form its strategy correctly and attract the customers’ groups. However, the network information can be often misguiding and lead to such unpleasant experiences as spam, propaganda, or manipulation.
Therefore, one can notice the positive notion of interactional transformation, which still contains severe challenges. The transformation also depends on the ideas of privacy and community. As the researcher notes, “in our culture of oversharing, there are no more private parts; everything is on view” (Agger, 2015, p. 34). It appears as a significant contrast to the religious and political concepts seen throughout the history which claim personal life to be untouchable. The community, in turn, is seen as a somewhat ethereal structure, instead of an assembly of real people, which was typical, for example, in such organizations as Masonic lodges of the 19-th century. Thus, the blur of privacy and community boundaries remains inseparable from the relationship evolution described earlier.
Public Self in the Era of Digitalization
Not only the relationship nature was affected by the Internet, but the changes became essential for everyone who is plugged into the social network system. Now, each person must worry about managing their public profile in communities like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. That is the place where one faces the question of defining their public and personal sides. Therefore, it is necessary to refer to the concepts of personal and public self, which are meaningful for understanding this part of the social networking activity, and its pros and cons.
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Public and personal selves are used to explain the expression of one’s personality in public and private dimension, respectively. The researchers note that a term of private self-consciousness “involves a focus on personal self-beliefs and a preoccupation with the inner world of feelings and thoughts” (Falewicz, & Bak, 2016, p. 59). At the same time, the public self-consciousness instead means “person’s general awareness of themselves as a social individual” (Falewicz, & Bak, 2016, p. 59). Hence, the public self definition is inseparably bound to the networking organization, especially in the case of social networks.
However, if one speaks about filling the social account, it is not always one’s self-awareness, which matters. Every person also insensibly depends on the algorithms constructed by the social media itself, and usually, it is the social media which offers the variables to fill. For example, the Facebook account divides the information into the subsections like personal data (date of birth, place of residence), visual material (photos) or interests (video, music, movies).
Nonetheless, it is still up to the user to fill these variables. In the study of Varnali, and Toker (2015), researchers state that “self-disclosure was significantly related to public self-consciousness and subjective norm” (p. 9). At the same time, according to Falewicz, and Bak (2016), the influence of public self on the self-esteem of the person is lower than expected and depends on emotions more. Thus, it is a disputable matter whether public self plays such a significant role.
The mold remains wide enough to construct a public image favored by the user and their social circle. Nonetheless, correlation affects the ways of users’ socialization and community forming. Firstly, the public image is still limited to the variables proposed by the media, as well as personal restrictions, thus, in most cases, users of the network try to keep this image intact during the conversations. Secondly, it includes non-revealing of information which is potentially unfavorable for the public image. The communities form under similar circumstances, and they also must avoid risks of containing harmful details about both the community and its members.
As one should guess, depending on the situation, non-revealing can become harmful or beneficial. On the one hand, the absence of information can save individuals from being shunned, for example, in the case of former inmates who try to re-establish themselves in society. On the other hand, the organizations offering illegal jobs tend to avoid mentioning certain conditions of employment, so that they can lure more individuals. In the end, public disclosure seems to revolve around both media algorithms and one’s awareness, and the revealing or non-revealing information can mislead or bring safety.
Re-enacting Public Self in Online Community
The public self reflects in multiple communities throughout the net, so one has a wide range for researching the public self dynamics. As a prominent example, the gaming community of Steam can be chosen, which provides a platform for discussing and playing a variety of online games. The gaming communities are quite particular regarding public information, so they possess more distinctive traits than other social media.
First, the influence of public self in Steam differs from other networks, since a gaming portal allows animosity to most of the users. Therefore, the expression of public self becomes rather game-centered, since the users try to showcase their mastery and experience of some game through the chats or in the profile (nickname, avatar). On the one hand, it aids the users in learning from each other or creating their groups on the common interest. At the same time, individual players can mock or bully other users, so they may raise their self-esteem if there is a lack of it in real life.
Steam is a gamers-only community, so the specifics of public self interaction certainly differ from the other media. As already mentioned, the main emphasis is made on gaming, while other communities do not necessarily require it. Of course, the media like Instagram or Facebook can be a template for presenting one’s gaming interests, but one’s self can find more suitable passions to showcase, like socializing, videos, or memes.
To sum up, the digital era created advantage, implemented by disadvantages simultaneously. In the relationships between people, it allows transcending the physical limits of conversation but can lead to the diminishment of the actual socializing worth. For organizations and business, it opens new ways of attracting the public, but the problems of manipulation remain as well. The vital part of disclosing the information is the public self concept, although the user depends both on the algorithms and personal vision to create the public image. At the same time, the interactions of public self with communities are influenced by the specifics of each media and adapt to their rules.
Agger, B. (2015). Oversharing: Presentations of Self in the Internet Age. New York, NY: Routledge.
Falewicz, A., & Bak, W. (2016). Private vs. public self-consciousness and self-discrepancies. Current Issues in Personality Psychology, 1, 58-64.
Neves, B. B. (2015). Does the Internet matter for strong ties? Bonding social capital, Internet use, and age-based inequality. International Review of Sociology, 25(3), 415-433.
Varnali, K., & Toker, A. (2015). Self-disclosure on social networking sites. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 43(1), 1-13.