Note: an update to this theme can be found in the post Our Social Identities.
This post was inspired by an item in my referral log: "Google Search: how media affect our identity". It started me thinking about how we behave when using social media and online in general. Do we just be ourselves or do we play a role?
Shakespeare famously wrote
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
I can't help wondering if our normal behaviour is influenced by the online communities we join. Do we participate for ourselves or for others? Do we share things we like or things we think our followers will appreciate?
As has been discussed before: do we have an obligation to our followers - the, so-called, implied "social contract" and is the correct way for us to act?
It is readily apparent that some act in a certain way in order to try to fit in to a given group and, despite the openess of the web and social media, clique forming is rife and probably exaserbated by the ways in which we connect.
Chris commented that "small focused groups can readily turn into extreme pots of shared interest, and manifest ideological amplification" - a bold statement but a true one. We have the option of who we follow but, on many social networking services, we also have the option to block others which can cause divides between groups if used inappropriately; if you don't fit in then you can't be part of the conversation.
We also have the ability to hide behind the technology and deviate from our normal behaviour and intent so we have a responsibility to police our own actions or the internet will just become the playground of cowards.
I moved my focus from technology to social media as I see the potential it has to improve communication and flow of information, to connect people and to break down barriers but when others are reinforcing those barriers you have to question why.
The intersection for most between our online and offline lives is small so our behaviours will differ but, even taking this in to account, what part are you playing?