A study by Nottingham University’s School of Social Sciences has sought to shed light on the way that young women use social media to tell their stories. Social media and its effect on the construction of identity has been a topic of numerous debates. Traditionally, women and girls have been left out of important narratives. The study seeks to explore whether these new technologies have provided a platform whereby young women now feel comfortable in sharing their opinion. It also aims to assess whether their presentation on social media influences how others see them and how they see themselves.
Although initially developed in the latter half of the 1980s, the widespread use of the “World Wide Web” really began to take off at the turn of the century. Between the period of 2005 and 2010, the number of people using the web had doubled. With the web came a whole host of innovations, some more accepted than others. Some services such as social media online gaming have been cited as a controversial innovations. Sites featuring slot games and traditional table games are accessible to players from desktop and mobile devices. This is just one example of how the web has offered unfettered and questionable accessibility.
Social media is perhaps the most prominent platform to come from global web connectivity. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat; the list is ever growing. With most young people now adopting at least one platform, social media presents a completely new platform for storytelling. It has been proven to have a marked impact on social consensus. Viral social media campaigns such as the ALS Ice bucket challenge has proven just how powerful a tool these platforms can be. Social media is a popular source of information on anything from celebrity culture to fashion. However, it is also used in a forum-like manner and as an autobiography.
It is this use of social media to create and sculpt identities which has become the focus of this latest study. They are not the first to look into this concept. A UK government-commissioned research project by Professor Sir John Beddington explored the subject in his report titled the Future of Identity. His report suggests that hyper-connectivity facilitated by social media could lead to place-based communities becoming fragmented and disassociated. However, on the flip side, it will have the effect of bringing communities together who would have previously remained disparate.
The impact of social media on perspective is a fascinating subject. People have more access to the viewpoints of others than ever before. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Online trolling is becoming all too common, with users publicly slated for their views. The relative anonymity and distance from reality that social media provides, unfortunately, spurs some users into believing that their comments have no real weight. The Nottingham University study seeks to explore this newfound voice and the power that comes with it. The real question is, how much are young women aware of the power of their presentation in social media?
Female perspectives have been sorely lacking throughout history. With this advent of this global platform, we have more access to the stories of women than ever before. It will be interesting to discover how much social media contributes to the creation of our self-identity and how others perceive this identity. We asked above whether women are truly aware of how much power these platforms represent. If so, how are they used? One major line of inquiry will be to determine whether the stories being told by women on social media fall in line with culture norms. Or, do they create a marked difference?
Social media has undoubtedly changed our world. It has an impact on young people, which is alien to older generations. Has a world of hyper-connectivity given women a more powerful voice and how can we learn from its use?