In her book, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle discusses her research on the rise of online communication and its effect on identity formation. Turkle argues that online social media forums, such as Facebook, make identity formation quite easy. Not only is one allowed to create their ideal self, but they can also alter this created identity in any way they please. Turkle comments, “identity play is the work of adolescents” (192). Adolescents experiment with their online identity, and part of this identity formation comes from taking pictures and posting them to Facebook for the world to see. The issue, however, is that the pictures posted to Facebook display one’s “edited life” (192). Turkle argues that one can easily tinker with their identity on Facebook, but how one displays themselves is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of their actual life. One of Turkle’s participants commented, “You’re not going to post pictures of how you look every day. You’re going to get your makeup on, put on your cute little outfit” (191). The pictures placed on Facebook are a way for people to create memories, which is an aspect of identity construction. Facebook has become such an influential tool for identity formation that “If Facebook were deleted, I’d be deleted…All my memories would probably go along with it” (191). The dawn of online social networking sites, like Facebook, allows for identity to be increasingly more malleable now than ever before, especially since these sites have literally become part of us by being a form of memory creation and storage.
A short Youtube clip illuminates the impact that Facebook can have on information identity.
The clip begins with a gripping comment, “Without Facebook, you might not even know who you are”. Generally, people enjoy advertising and glorifying themselves through pictures that illustrate who they are, where they have been, and people they know because these aspects are important for the construction of one’s identity. Facebook has transformed the process of making memories into a simple task. Prior to the age of Facebook, people took photos, developed pictures, made scrapbooks and photo albums, and so on. Now, the capabilities that Facebook has such as timelines, photo albums, friend groups, and any other means for sorting and creating memories, are all outlets for broadcasting one’s self to the world. Of course, these pictures can be edited and modified to any extent.
This clip is supportive of Sherry Turkle’s argument regarding the creation and alteration of identity online. This clip describes how Facebook has facilitated the creation and storage of memories, which in turn, allows for identity to be broadcasted into the online world. Facebook, and other online social media sites, have become such an integral part of our lives that our personal identity would literally not be the same without it. Both Turkle and the clip suggest that the memories and connections one makes on Facebook becomes a pillar for identity construction, and without this pillar one would no longer have the foundation for their desired identity.