Social Network Profiles, nearly almost all of us have one. In fact, according to a study conducted in 2011, approximately 1 in 13 people on Earth have a Facebook Profile. Social Network Profiles are a way for Social Network Service members to create distinguished online personas–utilizing custom entry fields to publicly display their general interests. Users generate custom lists of their basic interests, alternatively known as “interest tokens”, in order to create profiles that resemble their desired online identities. The methodical creation of these lists allows for the existence of contextual relationships between a users selected interests. In other words, users can use the connotative relationships that exist between particular interests in order to create interpretive meaning, allowing them to be portrayed in a certain fashion.
Hugo Liu’s article “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances” argues that studying users’ selected interests can yield insight into how users go about defining their virtual selves, as well as how they are received by their community peers.
These “taste statements” offer an ostensible look into how users see themselves–assuming they’ve selected tokens that genuinely reflect their interests and tastes. Liu, however, shares sociologist Erving Goffman’s skepticism when it comes to the practice of what they call “everyday performance”. Liu and Goffman were aware of the fact that the scrutiny of the public eye will undoubtedly cause taste statements to be “crafted” and “tailored” so as to stand up to the scrutiny of an audience that is able to ‘‘glean unofficially by close observation’’ (Goffman, 1959, p. 144). Due to the constant fear of judgment, it can be argued that the way a user is perceived is just as influential when it comes to what information they choose to display.
The Looking Glass Self theory is a modern concept, primarily discussed within the field of social psychology. The Looking Glass Self refers to the theory that people construct their identity based on how they believe others perceive them to be. It is only through another’s perception can a member gain identity. Social Network Profiles are essentially the digital versions of the Looking Glass Self theory. Liu believes that aside from ones socio-economic and aesthetic influences, it is only through validation or rejection from fellow community members that we can get a sense of how a profile is received by its peers. Liu maintains that through analyzing these “interest tokens”, we can eventually garner information regarding the “expressive coherence” of taste statements lends evidence to support the idea of calculated profile creation with sensitivity to how “fragile” impressions and interpretations of tokens are.
Long story short. It’s difficult to discern whether or not we allow our imagined reception by others to influence the types of representative profile info we publish or whether we “develop ourselves through the judgement of others” (Yeung, et al. 2003). Whichever the case may be, there a clear correlation between taste statements, the development of profile dynamics, and community reception.