Cecilia MezziComment

EMBARRASSMENT COULD SAVE INSTAGRAM

Cecilia MezziComment
EMBARRASSMENT COULD SAVE INSTAGRAM

Choose your self-presentations carefully, for what starts out as a mask may become your face.

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Impression management theory is a sociology and a social psychology theory: it is a goal-oriented process in which one regulates and controls the information in order to cast an impression on the audience or spectators. People try to frame an impression on others which tallies with what they want to be looked up as. This is also something that we all do unconsciously sometimes. It is not ideally meant to deceive anyone or manipulate, though it can be used illegitimately. We tend to behave differently in front of our friends, family, kids and acquaintances, consciously or consciously so that they perceive us in a way in which we want them to. People’s engagement with the construction of an online identity on social media through pictures, can be related to Goffman’s (1959) work on The presentation of self and “impression management” : Electronic communication (EC) has established a new range of frames of interaction with a developing etiquette. Although apparently more limited and less rich than interactions in which the participants are physically present, it also provides new problems and new opportunities in the presentation of self, as well outlined by Hugh Miller’s article The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet.

Goffman sees embarrassment as an important indicator of where people fail to present an acceptable self, and an important motivator. A person wishes to present themselves effectively to minimise the embarrassment of a failing presentation, but other participants are also motivated to help the performance by their wish to avoid the embarrassment they feel at its failure. So, most of the time, we interact in a cosy conspiracy in which it appears as if everyone knows what they are talking about, can remember the names of those who they're talking to, and has an appearance and presence which is pleasant and unexceptionable. In this sense, our 'selves' are presented for the purpose of interacting with others and are developed and maintained with the cooperation of others through the interaction.

Goffman distinguishes between information 'given', that is, intended and managed in some way, and that 'given off' which 'leaks through' without any intention: this enables us to 'frame' the interaction appropriately so that we both know how to interpret what goes on in the context of what is really going on. It is putting yourself up for interaction in some way, even if only a limited way. Goffman points out that one of the difficulties of interaction lies in establishing contact, because an offer to interact always leaves one open to rebuff.

On the Web you can put yourself up for interaction without being aware of a rebuff, and others can try you out without risking being involved further than they would wish: that limitation can be liberating. There is another liberation that can be negative, too. One of the regulating and controlling forces in face-to-face interaction is embarrassment. According to Miller, that is less likely to work on the Web.

I believe it’s untrue that embarrassment hasn’t its own role in regulating a feedback flow, it’s there and it’s strikingly strong, but it’s more implicit and subtle. It’s not related to the quality of the feedback (you’re being so self-centred a therapist would diagnose you a narcissistic personality disorder) and its contest (you shouldn’t laugh at a funeral) but to the quantity of the feedback. It’s not someone’s comment under a picture that regulates a user’s subsequent self-expression.

No person on Instagram would brag about how long-term, loyal, or active her/his followers are: the effectiveness of the content is merely numerical. As previously explained, the addictive structure of likes is adding pressure on redressing the inconvenient quickly. One solution is: deleting the post at issue after a little painful amount of time, and, in order to avoid the repetition of an uncomfortable comeback, readjust the future content.

It’s gonna definitely have an influence on shaping the way you’re expressing yourself to others and your virtual persona, and honest content means expressing vulnerability on a potentially global platform: it’s scary. And it’s comprehensible that the absolute majority of the people wouldn’t be willing to expose themselves to that point.

For most people, it is difficult to establish yourself as a whole person through sincere self-expression: it feels like an extended lonely-hearts advert. But not being ready to do so is fine. As Goffman said,

Choose your self-presentations carefully, for what starts out as a mask may become your face.