It is often interesting to observe how people interact and communicate with one another since these interactions and forms of communication depend on their relationship. For instance, I am not the same person when I interact with my parents than when I interact with my friends, and this is shown in the way I communicate with either of them: the words I say, the tone of voice I use, the way I choose to move my body in order to express or emphasize certain feelings, and so on. In this sense, everyone has simultaneous personalities that they use depending on their relationship with the receiver of the message, or the environment they find themselves in. Yusuf Estes get’s at this phenomenon during an American Muslim conference, by explaining the difference between a muslim child’s behavior in the home and in school.
Similarly, sociologist Ervin Goffman states that human behavior is divided into two parts: a front stage – where the actor formally performs – and a back stage – where the actor is present but the audience is not. In other words, as we interact with the people around us, we have two ways of acting; one where we are formally observed, and therefore, abide by what society and others expects from us, and the other where we are “hidden” from the world, and where we are free to be our “true” selves without the fear of being criticized or ridiculed.
Real Life “Personalities”
It can be said that we have multiple “social” personalities as we engage in different environments such as work, school, when we are out with friends, or when we are home with our parents. In essence, these different real life personalities are only shown to those we choose to show, which makes social interactions very complex since we are sharing (or selling) multiple versions of ourselves to different people. Some of the factors that determine the version we choose to express can depend on, if the person we are communicating with is: (an/a)
- Sports teammate,
- Close friend,
- Close family member,
- Extended relative,
- Authority figure, etc.
The question then is … if in real life we are constantly changing our personalities depending on the environment we find ourselves in and who we interact with, why are we unable to do the same on Facebook, and why hasn’t Facebook facilitated this process?
In just 8 years, Facebook has accrued over 1 billion active users, and within this massive group of people we find friends, brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, work colleagues, bosses and potential employers, sports teammates, and so on. As responsible Facebook users, we must be aware of our audience, and this means being careful with the media we post online, since these posts reflect on who we are as people and members of a society.
Therefore, in order to “facilitate” (and I use quotation marks because in reality, it is not that “easy” or “convenient” to do) the process of successfully directing messages to their intended audience, Facebook has created groups, where users can create a private space and share different things with different people. However, this doesn’t have the same effect as real life personalities because people are either generally unaware of the purpose of the groups feature or purpose, or simply too lazy to create groups and target different messages to different groups (like me). Thus, most of us now have what I will call, a Facebook personality, which is, in essence, the best online version of ourselves. Given this new “Facebook personality”, some users might be more public and open about their personality and things they share, while others might be more private, by monitoring their activity and what they decide to share with the Facebook community.
The (obvious) reality is that it’s much easier to control and alter our personalities in real life than in Facebook, but are all social networking platforms this complicated to navigate and personalize? It seems Google has solved this issue by creating Google+.
There are three things you should know about Google+:
1. It was created and launched in 2011.
2. As of December of 2012 it has over 500 million active users (about half of Facebook’s active user base).
3. One of the major reasons for its alarming growth is Google+ Circles.
Google+ Circles (click “Watch Video” to learn more) “are the online reflection of your real world connections” and as such, it’s a feature that makes it easy to share the right things with the right people, just like in real life. For example, with Google+ circles, users can share some things with close friends, others with their family, and almost nothing with your boss.
What is interesting about Google+ and Google+ Circles is that it successfully eliminated what I refer to as the “Facebook personality”. This new Facebook personality is synonymos to our digital age, where information is stored, transfered, and utilized as a combination of 1’s and 0’s. Given any Facebook account, we find that the owner of the account is either a public user or a private user, and in essence is either “turned on” to the public (meaning other users can access his or profile) or “turned off” to the public (meaning other users can’t access his or her profile). Google’s response to to a new type of digital 1’s or 0’s personality was the creation of Circles.
Therefore, with Circles, users are now able to have both a front stage (where the user/actor can formally perform in accordance to what is expected of him by his peers/audience) and a back stage (where the user/actor can engage in private behavior that might not be regarded as appropriate behavior given the audience), something that has become difficult and annoying on Facebook. This means being able to communicate with specific groups without having to worry about people who we dont want to engage with.
As an additional note, if you wish to read more about “multiple personalities and social media” check out the following Forbes article.