Understanding Facebook Identity

Understanding Facebook Identity the Stewart Smalley Way: I’m Popular, I’m Well-Rounded and Damn It I’m Thoughtful.

Before the age of facebook, online users would engage in perceived anonymous behavior like message boards, forums, and blog comments in which they can create a fictitious or new identity. Some research has suggested that when people feel like their identify is not known by others, they are more likely to engage in deviant behaviors online (and in the real world).  Ever wake up and see a flaming comment on your blog from an “anonymous” user complete with f bombs?  Perceived anonymous online activity has not stopped, but there has been a new trend emerging because of facebook. That new tend is nonymity which is–you guessed it– the exact opposite of anonymity. Rather than creating a new/fictitious identity online, individuals are using their facebook profiles to show who they truly are… Um…well… not exactly.

We cannot act as our 100% authentic selves in everyday real world interactions. Think of you bringing your “party self” to a marketing presentation to a funeral home. Being kegger Kyle probably would not go so well and my job would be swiftly jettisoned to the crematory for its fiery demise. Social context makes a HUGE difference. Facebook—on the other hand— may not have social constraints like real world interactions and allows users to create their own perceived identity. It is no shocker that individuals when constructing their facebook identities may be creating socially desirable ones.

According to sociologists from Temple University, individuals tend to construct their socially desirable facebook identity in three ways. I’m popular. I’m well rounded. And damn it… I’m thoughtful. Kind of sounds like a crazy Stuart Smalley mantra to me. I’ll explain what they mean in the following nice bold bulleted list. Feel free read it like a horoscope and see if they apply to you.


I’m Popular!popular

The majority of my photo albums on facebook are pictures of me with friends and/or groups.

My main facebook profile picture is me with my friends and/or in a group.

I have a good number of facebook friends and often compete with others to have more friends.

My facebook is setup so everyone can see my friends’ posts on my wall.

The research found that participants showed they were popular among friends through their photo albums, wall posts, and feedback from participants being competitive about the amount of their facebook friends.

well roundedI’m Well Rounded !

In my “about me” section of my facebook profile, I list a slew of things that I do from bike riding, hanging out with friends, having fun, reading, dancing, movies etc.

The research found that participants wanted to show they were “well rounded” or “anti-nerd” (yeah that’s actually the words they used) by writing in their about me section something that reflected a sociable and fun-loving person.  



thoughtfulI’m Thoughtful!

The quotes I use in my profile are reflections on my life.

The quotes I use are positive in nature.

The research found that participants wanted to show they were “thoughtful” by putting quotes in their profile that reflected a positive attitude and made the person “look good”.


Did all those apply to you? The research goes on to explain that the social desirable self can be interpreted as a “hoped for possible self.” The hoped for possible self is the identity that we want to have, but because of social constraints we cannot have it.  Facebook allows us to paint that picture of us being that well rounded, thoughtful, and popular person.

Feel free to share your thoughts and/or feelings about this in the comment section. Oh…and please try not to leave anonymous posts because it encourages deviant behavior ;-).

Kyle Znamenak

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Social Media Director

Sampson Carnegie



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