So, picture this… It’s a Sunday afternoon in early March, the sun is shining, and the air is brisk. My cellphone rings as I am making brunch and tea. My late 70’s grandmother is on the other line. After asking about my week she asks a question I never thought I would hear her udder. “Do you think we could set up a Facebook account for me?” That was the day I thought the world might end. After peeking through my kitchen curtains, I realized in fact the world was not ending and my nana was serious.
Being an online user is now for everyone and social media use is no different. In class we had done quite a bit of conversing about cyber identities and the ability for people to exaggerate or lie about who they are. So never has there been a more fitting time for my precious grandmother to look at me and say, “Don’t use that picture dear, I look old.” EVEN grandmothers are trying to fib online.
Cyber Ethics is a website that states the importance of leading a transparent online profile. The say there are two main reasons that people indulge in fake online behavior, anonymity and distance. The feeling of being invisible to users makes it easier for them to be untruthful. The website findings show that users see the internet as a make believe place where there are no consequences to their actions. The world has become a much smaller place because of the access to internet. However, the distance put between users and those they interact with online gives users a sense of false safety. Many people who engage in using false cyber identities would not do so if it were a face-to-face environment.
Young teens, also known as Tweens participate in exaggerated cyber identities more than any other age category according to the article, ‘Social Interactions in Virtual Worlds: Patterns and Profiles of Tween Relationship Play.’ The article follows 10-13 year olds’ social interactions through an online game-like website. With nearly 1.5 million users, the avatars that were constructed, the information given and the relationships formed with other players were all measured. Findings tell us that Tweens are more comfortable giving away personal/financial information online than showing other users their physical appearance. It also found that Tweens engaged in flirting and relationship building through gaming.
Pop culture is also pulled into this realm as well. Class talk had mentioned the relevance and authenticity of celebrities online. In terms of social media cyber identities, whether we are exaggerating or down-playing something that happened to us, we all have the ability to become celebrities. The manner in which social media sites are created puts the user in the pilot seat to navigate any path they’d like. We all have that one person on Facebook that has the BEST husband ever, or the healthiest meals to share with the world and even those with the cutest cat you have ever seen. Twitter verifies celebrities for a reason, so that we can follow along with them and be an essentially a mini-stalker of their every move. However, some celebrities have sold out. Kim Kardashian for example was rumored to be paid for tweeting different company’s products to her nearly 18 million followers. A sense of false interaction is created through deals like this. Are we really getting to know Kim Kardashian and her personal tastes… or are we just seeing the hairspray she “uses” because it’s the brand that paid her the most money to use it? False cyber identities range from mild to extreme (poor Manti Te’o….).
As social media grows and as online profiles become even more popular, finding transparency will become increasingly challenging. As for my grandmother, she is now accepting friend requests and trying to find a cover photo that makes her look youthful.
Social Interactions in Virtual Worlds: Patterns and Profiles of Tween Relationship Play
Michael T. Giang, Yasmin B. Kafai, Deborah A. Fields, Kristin A. Searle