The Presentation of Self in Digital Life

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A society’s cultural norms define the social forces that push humans to interact in a way that is congruent with accepted social rules. Goffman describes the adherence to these norms of behavior and to societally instated rules such as 'face-maintenance or 'face-saving'. Face-management is a condition of interaction, not an objective (Goffman, 1982:12). If the rules of 'face-saving' are not followed, the individual may risk 'losing-face', which could make the individual disliked or societally rejected.

'Face-saving' is essential to maintaining order in modern society. It keeps individual movements flowing smoothly and regularly, and it also keeps negative altercations among individuals to a minimum. Ordinarily, face maintenance is a technique that makes public spaces livable and safe, because it keeps uncertainty in social interactions to a minimum and in doing so reduces the stress of the modern individual.

To study face-saving is to study the traffic rules of social interaction. One learns about the code of social adherence as one moves across the social landscape. A sharp look at a staring stranger is enough to get a point across. Non-verbal cues help individuals waste less time in letting others understand what correct and incorrect behaviors are.

The rules of 'face-saving' work in a society that is not interrupted by the private space that the cell phone brings to the public space. A Twitter user is not closed off to the considerations of others, but occupied in a virtual conversation. Users who talk loudly on cell phones do so because of their inability to perceive how their words affect each other. Richard Ling described social settings as a web of front and back channel interactions. He explains that the use of a mobile telephone in these spaces breaks in on the “complex of intended and unintended front and back channel communications that make up social interaction” (Ling 2002:5).

The online Twitter community is a highly transparent environment. It is unique because participants have a small amount of time and space in which to represent themselves. 140 characters are all that can be displayed in one "tweet", or communication packet.

On Twitter, face saving measures have less space to be implemented, and spamming is less tolerated.

In order to successfully communicate in a transparent environment, face saving must always be taken into account. In an online community where Tweets that are deliberate and sincere and held in higher regard than those that are frequent, obviously promotional, or insincere. It is a place of exchange. The more interesting, useful, and engaging the tweets, the better the face of the user. It is miniature PR.

Modern information, or ‘light information’ is only accessible by hybrids, or those, who are capable of liminally transforming into technosocial hybrids or ‘light industrial’, objects. It is not enough to simply liminally transition.

An entire set of new social roles, have developed around the use of technology. Whereas technology used to be only for, 'nerds', it is now ubiquitous, and mobile phones have made their presence felt in almost, ever region of the world” (Plant 2005:26).

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