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Social Media and Online Identity

Introduction

The emergence of social media has brought many social issues that need to be addressed. As a key platform for social interaction, it can be argued that this emergent technology influences how people behave both online and offline. The article “Stranding online and offline profile, millennials search for identity” by Rachel Lowry explains how the youth struggle to maintain two identities in their social life. Most importantly, online profiles have emerged to be critical in many aspects, including employment. Such a characteristic makes social media a crucial social issue, which has also attracted the attention of multiple scholars. Lowry’s article is generally a collection of opinions and responses regarding the influences of social media, especially the struggles in maintaining a steady identity. However, it can be argued that the author’s arguments are justified by the extensive use of evidence in the form of both primary responses and expert opinion, including the input from researchers.

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Author’s Position

The author’s position is that social media has eroded the mechanism with which people develop and sustain their identity such that individuals keep moving between online and offline identities. Among the main claims in the article include that social media has become a tool for judging people and their behavior. Second, technology influences how millennials access and are screened for employment. The third claim is that millennials are experiencing an identity crisis. Lastly, the author claims that the authenticity of the social identities is jeopardized as people create fake stories to impress others. The main ideas are derived from the expressions of those people interviewed, including a book which is published on the issue. Therefore, it is true to state that the claims are supported by adequate evidence as will be evaluated in the following section.

Social Media Judgment

The first claim made by the author is that social media is a place that a person can be judged based on what they post or say on the platforms. The expressions of an interviewee, Mariah Hanaike, reveal that an individual fear being themselves because anything they do will potentially be used in other sites where other people will view and judge (Lowry). Hanaike simply summarizes the behavior of people on social media and gives the authors a starting point in presenting her position regarding the effects of social media on millennials. Lowry used these insights to further highlight that many individuals can only be themselves when they are alone. Lowry states that a previous study concluded that one in four millennials agree to the opinion that their true selves are only possible when they are alone (par. 4). Therefore, it means that what people view online is different from what can be observed offline.

Evaluation

An evaluation of the first claim can be used to answer some key questions, including the evidence used and whether the claim supports the thesis. First, it is important to acknowledge that Lowry only mentions a recent study for which she does not provide details. However, the quote for Hanaike’s opinions provided enough justification for Lowry’s ideas. Second, it can be argued that the problem of social media judgment is real and can be expressed by any person who uses the technology. Lastly, current studies can support the claim by presenting empirical evidence that social networking sites can be used as a means to judge people based on what they post and how they act.

The empirical evidence of people being judged on social media covers such key aspects as personality. For example, a study by Tadesse et al. expresses that such social networking sites as Twitter, Weibo, and Facebook are increasingly used by individuals to learn about others (61959). The focus of their study is on how people’s personalities can be predicted by examining online performances and behaviors. Even though Tadesse et al. mean to illustrate how researchers and experts can use social media, it is important to understand that the same mechanisms apply when other users want to learn about individuals. The same sentiments can be found in a study by Peters et al. who find that teens are particularly sensitive to social evaluation (2). In other words, adolescents tend to worry about how other people perceive them, which illustrates that social media is used to judge. All mentioned evidence supports the claim by Lowry that using social media can cause judgement. However, no opposing views are presented, but this does not affect the fact that the claim supports the thesis.

Employment Scrutiny

One of the areas where the millennials express their fears regarding the use of social media is employment. Lowry’s article explains the employers are increasingly using social media to scrutinize candidates (par. 23). The situation has become so common that many of the individuals interviewed in the article fear that the companies are already aware of the candidate even before the interview is convened. Therefore, the millennials are having to ensure that whatever they post on social networking sites is intended to sell themselves to the world and, most importantly, the recruiters. Individuals without adequate social media presence could risk missing the opportunities as their peers exploit them fully. Lowry finds that, by quoting an individual named Lake, paper resumes are no longer necessary. The key point is that sending applications for jobs is now not a good route to success, an opinion that Lowry backs with the views of a New York Times editor, Phyllis Korkki. However, the major claim is that recruiters tend to scrutinize candidates using their social media profiles, which leaves some in a disadvantaged position.

Evaluation

While the author’s claim focuses on employment scrutiny, it is important to understand that everybody and every firm seeks to take advantage of the opportunities presented by social media. Lowry’s argument is backed by real-life experiences of the individuals whose opinions are expressed in the article. While there are no opposing arguments, it can be understood that factual statements may not need a refuting argument. Additionally, the article does not seek to be argumentative, rather the author focuses on explaining and providing evidence for her position regarding the subject. The claim also supports the author’s thesis, especially because the millennials have to develop online profiles customized for potential employers. The online profiles create an identity that will differ from the offline one, further supporting the author’s arguments.

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The main support for the author’s claim regarding employment scrutiny can be made by considering the scholarly work and scientific evidence. According to Vitelar, personal branding has become a critical aspect for Generation Z, in which case social media becomes a crucial tool to serve this purpose (257). The need for personal branding is to create an identity that represents an individual in the networking sites, either for job-seeking, blogging, entrepreneurship, or other personal development and promotion initiatives. Additionally, the fact that all information that employers need regarding a person can be found on social media means that employers find an easier scrutiny mechanism than arranging for interviews and reviewing resumes.

An argument can be made that the article fails to present the other side of the story in that the candidates also scrutinize businesses on the internet to determine whether they can be good employers. Firms, therefore, also behave in the same way as the millennials on social media (Mičík and Mičudová 171). In other words, entities create online profiles, which are intended to attract new employees, especially millennials.

Identity Crisis

The title of the article hints at the main claim made by the author, which is the fact that millennials are having to keep switching identities. Such a scenario can be described as an identity crisis, which implies that the youth no longer understand what their real identity is. Lowry used first-hand experiences of individuals and a published book by Van den Bergh to support the argument that online identities are different from offline ones. The main cause for such a scenario is that the millennials have been pre-wired to create and achieve success stories. Such critical requirements mean that their daily strife is geared towards finding means to represent themselves online. Those that do not find real or genuine stories to tell have no option but to create fake stories. Identities created out of such strategies are not real, which explains why many explain that they can only be themselves when they are alone.

Evaluation

The claim of identity crisis is connected with the argument of authenticity as will be discussed in the following section. However, the article succeeds in supporting the fact that online and offline identities are different and having to constantly switch between the two creates the phenomenon of an identity crisis. What Lowry represents as a behavioral problem could be perceived by scholars as a cognitive issue affecting all social media users. The identity crisis is described by researchers as the condition where individuals cannot establish how to view, create, and define their identity. According to Arfini et al., personal identity is contextually framed, which means that the networking sites have created a context in which people’s identities have to adjust (193). The keyword in this statement is ‘adjust’, which reflects a scenario where a change in context causes a change in identity. Therefore, Lowry’s ideas of stranding between online and offline profiles are supported by scientific literature.

The identity crisis could also be the result of a globalized social sphere created by influencers. Alishahi, et al. explain that social media creates an identity crisis because the globalization of communicates creates a scenario where individuals do not know their identity elements, including religion, race, language, culture, and ethnicity (2). The role of influencers has been reviewed by scholars who reveal that hybrid identities have been created in an attempt to adjust to the online communities (Ayish and AlNajjar 27). The concept of identity denotes a sense of belonging to a group. Therefore, what the article by Lowry fails to mention is that social media has created a global online community that is culturally diverse. The result of diversification is that the influencers have a chance to determine the norm, meaning all those who need to be part have to adjust to new norms and form a new identity. The challenge comes when such online identities do not work in the real world where the media users have to adopt new identities for the context of the physical world. However, the article supports the thesis and uses real-life experience as evidence to support the claim of an identity crisis.

Authenticity of Identity

As mentioned earlier, the claim of identity crisis is related to the problem of authenticity. The argument is that the crisis results in a situation where people have to switch between identities as they move across different contexts. People with more than one identity can be seen as having fake identities, which is the basis of the claim by Lowry that social media undermines the authenticity of personal identities. The root cause of the problem is the fact that the millennials are having to constantly worry about missing opportunities, especially employment. The need to create success stories leads to the development of fake profiles, stories, and identities. The millennials are aware that they will be scrutinized by potential employers through what they post on social media. Therefore, there emerges the need to market oneself, even if it means creating misleading profiles.

Evaluation

The problem of authenticity is real and has even attracted the attention of scholars. For example, Salisbury and Pooley define authenticity as the situation where the users’ online profiles match their real-world (2). The scholarly work on the issue of identity authenticity means that Lowry’s claim that social media undermines the genuineness of users is justified. Therefore, employers can no longer trust that the social media posts reflect the true identities of potential candidates. As in all other claims, the evidence can be deemed adequate to support the argument. Additionally, the claim supports the thesis because it shows one key problem of changing personal identities across contexts. Lastly, there are no opposing arguments for this claim because the author focuses more on presenting evidence than on creating an argument. As mentioned earlier, the article by Lowry is majorly a collection of opinions and evidence to explain the situation. Therefore, the author cannot be criticized for not creating alternative arguments regarding the issue.

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Recommendation

The arguments in the article have all been supported by quoting expressions and opinions from various people. However, the author pays too much attention to proving evidence than articulating the issue. A large percentage of the article comprises direct quotes and a few statements from the author. While there is nothing wrong with using supporting opinions, there is a need for an author to let the audience know his or her position on the issue. Currently, Lowry’s position can only be inferred from the few statements the many quotes used. The use of first-hand experiences is also another key strength of the article. However, social media is a subject that has been scientifically studied and, therefore, it is recommended that the author could use scientific facts to further support the arguments. The issue of personal identity can be cognitive, social, or even behavioral. These theoretical frameworks would help understand the underlying issues affecting the users and their online interactions.

Works Cited

Alishahi, A., M. Refiei and H. Souchelmaei. “The Prospect of Identity Crisis in the Age of Globalization.” Global Media Journal, vol. 17, no. 32, 2019, pp. 1-4.

Arfini, S., et al. “Online Identity Crisis Identity Issues in Online Communities.” Minds and Machines, vol. 31, 2021, pp. 193-212.

Ayish, Mohammad and Abeer AlNajjar. “Arab Millennials’ Articulation of Identity in Cyberspace: A study of three MENA YouTubers.” Arab Media & Society, 2019, pp. 26-40.

Lowry, Rachel. “Straddling Online and Offline Profiles, Millennials Search for Identity.” 2013. Desert News.

Mičík, Michal, and Kateřina Mičudová. “Employer Brand Building: Using Social Media and Career Websites to Attract Generation Y.” Economics & Sociology, vol. 11, no. 3, 2018, pp. 171-189.

Peters, S., et al. “Social media use and the not-so-imaginary audience: Behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying the influence on self-concept.” Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 48, 2021, pp. 1-8.

Salisbury, Meredith and Jefferson Pooley. “The #nofilter Self: The Contest for Authenticity among Social Networking Sites, 2002–2016.” Social Sciences, vol. 6, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-24.

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Tadesse, Michael, et al. “Personality Predictions Based on User Behavior on the Facebook Social Media Platform.” IEEE Access, vol.6, 2018, pp. 61959-61969.

Vitelar, Alexandra. “Like Me: Generation Z and the Use of Social Media for Personal Branding.” Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, vol. 7, no. 2, 2019, pp. 257-268.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 30). Social Media and Online Identity. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/social-media-and-online-identity/

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