That familiar, blue logo stares back at the user from behind the screen since the inception of their online identity, increasing its domain exponentially as new profiles enter the cyber world. This introduction of online identities, especially on Facebook, has created a shift in society on how we use media to discover ourselves and understand society. The online identity formation has been studied quite thoroughly and with the success of Facebook, the popular social networking site, researchers are now studying the psychology of identity and self in relation to it. Identity, as explained by Svend Brinkmann (2008), is derived from the interpretations of society. In other words, people are who others imagine them to be. Under this model, an individual’s identity is as much controlled by the individual as it is by his or her audience. Postmodernism proposes that people mold themselves and are molded by others in response to the current popular and accepted concepts in society (NationMaster: PostModernism). In today’s mediated society, more than ever, people are being increasingly conditioned, persuaded and showered by a multitude of messages and experiences about who to be and how to be. Facebook does this by providing its users, as do most social networking sites, the ability to create a personal profile of autobiographical information. This profile becomes the foundation of an online identity on Facebook. However, Facebook is taking away individuals’ liberties to learn and develop their own identities. This essay aims to divulge in the traditional theories and understandings of identity, the role Facebook plays in identity formation that differs from an offline self, and the consequential effects Facebook has on our identities.
Sociologists understand that the approach to self and identity originates from the theory that there is a mutual relationship between the self and society (Stryker, 1980). The self impacts society through individuals’ actions thus creating groups, organizations, networks and institutions. Reciprocally, society affects the self with its communal language and meanings that permit a person to take the role of the other, participate in social interaction and self-reflect objectively (Stryker, 1980The final process of reflexivity establishes the core of selfhood (McCall & Simmons, 1978; Mead, 1934) because the self transpires in and is reflective of society, and sociologists discovered that in order to fully understand the self and its identities we must also recognize the society in which the self is performing (Stryker, 1987). In fact, the self is constantly acting in social context where other selves exist (Stryker, 1980). Therefore, the self and individuals choices depend greatly on the society in which they exist in.
The term “identity” as modernly known derives primarily from the work of Erik Erikson, a psychologist in the 1950s, refers to either (a) a social category, outlined by membership rules...