Yesterday reading Undercurrent’s latest post, "How Brands are Killing Facebook", Jim Babb presented an interesting take on the anatomy of a Like and how that simple act of Liking become tainted when brands are added to the mix. Babb sums it up best, stating:
Gated Likes ultimately devalue Likes for all. Even if you avoid erecting a Like-Wall, each time someone else bribes users to Like their page the act of Liking and receiving updates from a brand becomes less meaningful. Sadly, there is not much to be done to avoid others polluting the pool
Babb makes an importan observation, pointing out the contrived nature of the Gated Like, the lack of feeling and meaning behind it, but this is indicative of a bigger problem with brands on social networks. The more brands on a social network, the less meaning that network will have for the user.
Earlier this week, I read an article from Neal Perkins, Identity is Prismatic, a truly fascincating interpretation of the relationship between not only online and offline identities, but whether or not we are being limited to a singular, almost pre-defined identity. Neil talks about Chris Poole’s opinion that online sites like Facebook with their timeline are aiming to lock our identities in place and are making less and less room for deviation. Like Neil, I could not disagree more.
We are not limited to have one, singular, end-all-be-all identity online just like we are not limited to having a single offline identity. We have far more nuance than that type of thinking allows for. We adapt our identities based on the context, the role, the environment and the meanings we attach to them.
To try and explain what I mean, here are some examples. I am a daughter and I am a sister. I see these as two separate, albeit similar identities within the holistic self, which have varied traits and behaviors as well identical traits and behaviors (afterall, they’re both me). In the online context, I am @aaretz on Twitter and Anne Aretz on Facebook; I see them as separate versions of my holistic self with managed traits, behaviors, using selective traits, behaviors that derive a different meaning in that context.
I think that we are dealing with contextual identities; our representations and interpretations of ourselves change depending on where they are or how they are labeled according to ourselves. I do not think that it is necessarily a conscious thing, at least most of the time. When it comes to some online identities, I purposefully am very selective of how much people know about me (i.e. Facebook) and other places, not so much (like Twitter). In the digital context, I think that we create identities; we’re selective about how we present ourselves and how we hope to be perceived. These are not fake, inaccurate identities, merely shining different lights on ourselves to create a different result or outcome.