introduction chapter

Introducing ‘The Psychology of Social Media’

This book is about the psychology of social media. It’s about trying to explain how so much of our everyday lives and modern culture came to be saturated with these incredibly popular and absorbing services. Chapter 1 opens with these questions…

  • How do we express our identities in social media’s rigid profiles? Why does being ‘real’ on social media feel like hard work? Why do some people find fraping funny, but others don’t? Can we still be ourselves in anonymous environments?
  • Why do we say things in our status updates that we might not say in the ‘real world’? Why do we seem to understand privacy issues, yet continue to put lots of personal information in our status updates? Would it be better if our updates faded from view over time? What does it feel like to have all your past social media updates still present, years later?
  • What is the point of sharing images that disappear? Why do people share their location data with their photographs on social media? Why do people like to broadcast livestream videos of their personal lives? Can you make friends by putting lots of photographs of yourself online?
  • What does it mean when someone takes a long time to reply to a private message? When is subtweeting a good idea? Why do people sometimes write on your profile, but other times send a message? Why do some people prefer social messaging instead of social media?

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Our profiles are where we spend most time when we first create a social media account. Chapter 2 of The Psychology of Social Media is about we express our identities in them.

It begins with a case study of the ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ hoax, and what that tells us about honestly expressing oneself online. The structure of profiles is critical, as differences in customisation between social media services produce different levels of fakery. Hence, it may seem easier to implicitly display our identities by association, rather than explicitly describing ourselves in words: ‘show rather than tell’.

As a result, this chapter also explores how we can experience feelings of inauthenticity if we put too much work into trying to express ourselves accurately. This leads to a discussion of the privacy paradox: where social media users profess themselves to be concerned with privacy issues yet post considerable amounts of personal information to their profiles.

Consequently, this chapter explores how we may also find it easier to use temporary accounts or anonymous social media services with no profiles at all.

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