The integration of digital technologies into our everyday lives has myriad consequences for the way that people relate to each other and how they conduct their lives. One of the most salient changes is the apparent willingness of people to live their lives under the constant scrutiny of others. How is the way that we perceive ourselves constructed if we are constantly inviting others to peek in through the various windows of our lives?
A consciousness of being visible at all times encourages us to present a highly controlled and often idealised version of ourselves to the world. The additional removal of anonymity from much of our online interaction makes it harder for people to freely explore facets of themselves that an engagement with virtual spaces can enable.
The assumption of a virtual identity that is fairly closely aligned with your ‘real-life’ identity can cause real consequences for what can seem like inconsequential online communication. Celebrities should be particularly wary of the spotlight focused on their use of social networking sites, something that Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice learnt the hard way after an inflammatory remark she made on Twitter cost her a lucrative sponsorship deal.
The spotlight shone on the everyday lives of ordinary people is enabled by the embedding of wireless network capabilities on mobile devices, and supplemented by applications such as Foursquare, an application that allows users to update their location and broadcast it online. The acquisition of points based on the amount of times you ‘check in’ with the network and the ability to become ‘mayor’ of a certain location based on the amount of points collected reflects the value placed on being visible at all times to our extended social networks. I would argue that this was not a high priority until the explosion of social networking made perpetual connectivity the norm.
What happens to our sense of identity when it is constantly remediated through the lens of ubiquitous visibility? I wonder if we are slowly losing the ability to engage in private contemplation of our lives without the constant presence of the social.
A recent article by Nick Galvin from the Sydney Morning Herald that raises some valuable points about the blurring of the boundaries between the virtual and the real.
An article about practical uses for location-based applications such as Foursquare.
Baron, N. S. (2008) Always On: Language in an online and mobile world.