This is my blog. It's been going for a couple of years now. I'll keep writing in it from time to time, often for no particular reason.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The end

What is the motivation behind Facebook and other forms of online self-presentation, such as, say, blogging? I posed this question (with respect to Facebook) to my undergraduates. Their answers included a desire for social contact and curiosity about other people (for which, perhaps, self-disclosure is the medium of exchange). Here are some other possibilities:

1. According to Cooley, we see ourselves through the eyes of others, or at least we try hard to. But what others? Whomever we come into contact with, I suppose, for those are the people whose reactions we can gauge. But then online self-presentation poses a challenge, for this is presenting ourselves to people we might not otherwise encounter, and whom we might not ever encounter in person. I conjecture--and perhaps Cooley anticipated this--that we see ourselves through the eyes of whomever we've received responses from in the recent past. Then once a blogger has, perhaps under pressure from a former colleague, presented himself to the blogosphere once and received some responses, he sees himself through the (imagined) eyes of those same people (or at least some typification of that sort of person), and feels answerable to them.

2. Once one has a taste of externalizing one's thoughts and imagining that others care to ponder them, thinking that is not externalized seems kind of pointless, perhaps like singing in the shower after performing in front of a large audience. I've had this experience after reviewing books for journals, of feeling deflated upon then reading a book for no one's benefit but my own. (It passes, unless one feeds the habit by writing Amazon reviews.)

3. Consistent with (2), one acquires the cognitive habit of thinking and experiencing on behalf of an audience, and perhaps of formulating a blog entry as the experience unfolds, so that half the work is done by the time the experience is complete. Whether this diminishes the intensity of the original experience, I won't conjecture. Obviously Twitter takes this to a new extreme.

4. When my students talk about maintaining social contact, I assume they mean contact with high school and college friends, and that a precondition for friendship is, at least in some circles, continuous self-accounting and monitoring of the self-accounts of others. This should probably be distinguished from blogging (or Facebooking) to combat genuine isolation, of the sort that my students are at little risk of but that probably besets folks stranded in the suburbs and beyond. The problem with this formulation is that it portrays online interaction as a last act of desperation, akin to talking to a Wilson soccer ball, whereas it seems that a genuine, if virtual, community readily pops into existence for anyone looking for one. And then who's to say that it's less "real" than a clutch of friends chatting at the coffee shop? As I tell my students: no moral evaluations. No, not even in the footnotes.
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That was from here: http://blogs.iq.harvard.edu/netgov/2009/03/the_social_psychology_of_faceb.html
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My footnote/moral evaluation:  I've come to the conclusion that my sparse, rambling interjections are not only poor entertainment, but the inherent narcissism of 'self-presentation' is superficial and adds little value to anyone's life, other than as a crutch for the ego, and is not how I want to interact with people.  Thanks anyway for having come this far on the Hoist-the-Spinnaker adventure (and thanks to Tim Smith for setting it up for me - who knew the consequences of putting a keyboard in front of a gibbon).  Bye :-)

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