Wednesday, October 31, 2007


In her article "Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites", Danah Boyd discusses Erving Goffman's concept of "impression management". According to Boyd, "Impression management is a part of a larger process where people seek to define a situation through their behavior. People seek to define social situations by using contextual cues from the environment around them."

Boyd goes on to say, "Learning how to manage impressions is a critical social skill that is honed through experience."

Since maturity, and the ability to function in society align with experience, the emergence of social networks serves to complicate the social roles of adult and teen. According to Boyd (and her statistical findings), social networking sites are primarily frequented by teens (12-17 and occasionally 20somethings), which means that this age group is learning impression management far more quickly than their parents. This clearly complicates social, and hierarchical roles, as socially adjusted adults stumble to catch up with their "more socially adjusted teens."

This also complicates the concept of sociability through the subtraction of the literally body and replacement with a digital "invisible" body. It seems to me that person to person contact is a skill that is far more complex due to the complexities of body language (something that cannot translate digitally). Are we reducing ourselves through these networking sites (I would be as guilty as the next) or is that just antiquity talking?

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