18 March 2012

Journal #3 - online information

- How do we shape our ability to critically evaluate the credibility of information available online?
- How do we represent ourselves online?

How do we represent ourselves online and muddle through the truths and non-truths of other online identities? Excellent question!

I begin with myself. How I portray myself online is pretty much how I am in real life...well, the way I am now in real life. I have to agree with some of our reading assignment that identity is fluid and ever-changing. So my identity now, may not be the same in the future...for example, this post may last much longer than my opinion of my online identity. I can freely admit that in chats and IM's of the past I have outright lied to my fellow chatters, on purpose, because I knew I'd never meet them face-to-face, and so, why not be somebody else. Oddly enough, now I don't care how I am perceived and pretty much say whatever I want. For this reason, I think how we want to be perceived shapes what and how we say things online. And that is probably where the un-truths come into the picture. The speaker wants to be perceived as this or that, so he/she may tell half-truths or non-truths ("touch-ups" according to our reading) to get you thinking those thoughts. When you are chatting away with someone, or reading their blog, how do you sort through what they are really saying and what they want you to think??? I guess the real question is do you really care? If you are vested in what this person is telling you, then it makes a difference to find out the truths vs. the non-truths. Online, this may be a bit more of a challenge since there is no body language to cross-reference with the information the speaker is stating. But, I don't think the absence of body language is necessarily a bad thing. Without emotion and without facial and body miscues, lies and un-truths may be easier to spot. Sometimes, while reading a tall tale, the reader just has a "gut feeling" that the author may be stretching the truth. I would say that the reader's subconscious, without the distraction of the person standing in front of them, is putting together bits of information that are starting not to add up. When 2 + 2 = 5, alarms start to go off and your subconscious starts to grab your attention until your conscious can put the pieces together for itself. Therefore, I would have to say that there is no clear-cut recipe to figuring out online myths and reality. If it matters to you, if you are vested in the truth, then listen to (well, read carefully) the facts and see if they add up. Otherwise, it is best to take things "with a grain of salt" so to say.

03 March 2012

Journal #2 - How do we define who we are, and shape or reaffirm our identity using social networks?

After reading the material, I began to realize exactly how much we confuse children - teenagers, especially. Dannah boyd really spells it out with several contradictions that we set up for teenagers. For example, we "sell sex to teens but prohibit them from having it; we tell teens to grow up but restrict them from the vices and freedoms of adult society." She's right, this is hypocrisy! It's no wonder that teenagers are so confused! I begin to understand the importance of them having their own "space" to figure out who they are. They need social interactions to figure out the cultural importances, rules, morals, faux pas, and so on that they are expected to not only understand, but to manipulate without fail. For this reason, teenagers set up profiles online to help them express themselves and understand the world they live in. By viewing others profiles, they can compare the similarities and differences. Soon a culture exists - one that is truly theirs. And then a cultural norm exists, where things are socially excepted or rejected, making it an organic, evolving thing. This allows them to experiment and evolve as individuals. They can try out different perspectives. They can be whoever they want to be. And if they try out a false identity, they often can't keep it up because their peers soon detect it. But that's ok, because they find who they are not. For example, as stated in the reading, a boy pretending to be a girl couldn't keep the conversation going along without being caught. This reaffirms to the boy that he is indeed male. This suggests that the more social interactions online that teen encounters, will actually help the teen understand their true identity. The acceptance or rejection of behaviors (a.k.a. being "cool" or being a “dork”) helps develop a cultural norm that teaches teens to live with society - maybe not accept everything, but at least learn to live within it. So, online identities help these teens understand their limitations...well, at the very least complain to sympathetic listeners, who understand completely since they are teens too. This interaction helps confirm who the individual really is.

Also, in an online environment, teens can discuss topics that may not be socially acceptable in face-to-face conversations. Race is a good example. In AsianAvenue, BlackPlanet, or MiGente, they can discuss racial issues with some degree anonymity. Some of the racial slang or issues (maybe even questions about races) may not be socially acceptable as a conversation in a school yard or classroom. But here, online, these teens can talk openly and freely discuss sensitive issues like race without worry. In a sense, it also helps reaffirm their identity, because they are finding out what it means to be Black or Hispanic or Asian or whatever race. Therefore, discussing races or problems or issues in this manner gives teens the views and opinions of others of the same race. The norms of this culture are different, based upon the race, and what is “cool” in a race-oriented website may be very different from a teen-oriented website. The individual can contrast and hopefully resolve the two opposing viewpoints within their own thoughts and opinions, consequently reaffirming the individual’s identity.

In conclusion, I have to agree that social networking sites helps teens find the answers to the confusion that society places upon them. By interacting with other teens, with peers within their own race or culture, helps the individual to understand his or her own ideas and thoughts. By seeing the constraints placed by their peers about accepted and rejected ideas and behaviors, the individual can modify their own thoughts and behaviors to live within that society. Exploring, trial and error, and lurking are all great ways that individuals can discover their true identity on social networking sites. And the small degree of anonymity provided by the Internet makes this form of discovery more accessible than facing your peers in a ‘real-life’ situation.