The Impact of Social Networking Sites in the Identity Formation

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During the old days when teens spent hours alone in their rooms or with close friends dancing in front of the mirror, playing outside their houses, trying different outfits and modeling around the corner; trying on different personas in person is out, the web deletes the middle man. Now, there are a variety of online social media applications to enable communication between adolescents. Due to the ego-centric nature of these applications, social networking sites allow adolescents to extend their true personalities to the online world while also adding onto them. The impersonal nature of communicating from behind a computer screen can allow adolescents to create a completely new and unrestrained personality that they would never show in real life. Personal web pages give teens the control to present themselves in whatever way they choose to an actual audience that’s also controllable and far less intimidating than showing up in person to try out a new possible identity (Schmitt et al., 2008). The Internet has quickly become the most expeditious, central means of communication and access to information so it makes perfect sense that this trend in media would trickle down to impact the lives of youth everywhere. There are numerous reasons why the internet has become the chosen means by which adolescents discover their identity. Adolescents find that the internet and social personal web pages offer them a safe place to try on different ‘hats’ or try out new personalities without the fear of rejection or embarrassment and the normal risks associated with real life trials of the same magnitude (Schmitt et al., 2008). The internet, especially sites like Facebook offer prominent places for youth to put themselves out there in a textural/multimedia forum for others to see. Subsequently, adolescents are able to garner an audience of as many or as few as they feel comfortable with and also gain access to other teens with whom they would never regularly have any interaction with. They can also experience self disclosure effects via revealing personal information about themselves to others which can lead to deep interpersonal relationships forming online with varying degrees of intimacy, which maybe they have not done yet in the real world because they don’t feel comfortable (Schmitt et al., 2008). Adolescent personal web pages are focused solely on self presentation, effectively allowing the adolescent to tell others who they are (and sometimes give cues about who they want to be) through the content on their page. The ambiguity and sense of decreased inhibition on the web allows youth to feel like they are less likely to experience inhibitions that one faces in the real world and more likely to experience the desirable sensation of being known by other people, which becomes increasingly important to youth during this stage in their development (Schmitt et al., 2008). The web has a feeling of safety and privacy for many adolescents, especially if they have access to a computer in their bedroom with unrestricted access so it makes for the perfect situation for them to explore themselves through online presentation. Ironically, the reasons behind adolescent use of social networking sites and personal web pages closely parallel the reasons why adults use the very same social media to delve deeper into their true, idealized, and various other selves (Schmitt et al., 2008). Online social networking sites specifically Facebook, had become widespread and popular among many, especially adolescents. It becomes clear that social networking sites allow adolescents to speak freely and to reveal their desired personalities, in addition to the rare moments of truth. The computer screen acts as a shield for adolescents who see that they can say whatever they want. Although myths about online identities exist, adolescents rarely think about the consequences of their online actions. Online social networks,...
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