Facebook, Identity, and Deception: Explorations of Online Identity Construction

Facebook, Identity, and Deception: Explorations of Online Identity Construction

J. Jacob Jenkins (California State University Channel Islands, USA) and Patrick J. Dillon (University of Memphis, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4482-3.ch002

Abstract

This project uses the social networking site Facebook to explore notions of personal identity: Its conception, construction, and expression. Students begin the assignment by creating a fictitious Facebook account. Second, students work to create an online identity through this account that is dissimilar from the way they perceive themselves. Students conclude by presenting their fictitious Facebook profiles to the rest of the class, discussing how/why it differs from their “real” identities, how/why they made the decisions they did, etc.
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Learning Outcomes

  • 1.

    Students will explore the concept of personal identity via online content.

  • 2.

    Students will learn to navigate the internet and use social networking technologies for academic purposes.

  • 3.

    Students will expand their learning processes beyond the classroom setting alone.

  • 4.

    Students will critically reflect on the construction and performance of personal identity construction (particularly online identity).

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Step-By-Step Instructions

  • 1.

    Begin by instructing students to create a fictitious Facebook identity that is dissimilar to the way they perceive themselves. (If they already have a Facebook account, they can simply create a second profile by using a different email address).

  • 2.

    Give students ample time outside of class to develop their fictitious profile, using whatever means they choose (photographs, wall posts, demographic information, etc.)

  • 3.

    Once complete, have students present their newly created identities to the rest of the class, taking time to explain how/why it differs from the way they perceive themselves, how/why they made the decisions they did, etc.

  • 4.

    Following the students’ presentations, reflect as a class on the way(s) students worked to shape their fictitious identities. Specifically, which characteristics did they choose to change, in order to create the new identity? (e.g., gender, sexuality, religion, race/ethnicity, age, geographic location, etc.) Equally significant, which characteristics did they overlook or keep the same? What do these decisions say about the way we see ourselves and others? What possible themes emerge among students?

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Estimated Time

  • 10 minutes for the instructor to explain the assignment.

  • 1 week for the students to create and complete their fictitious Facebook identities.

  • 10-20 minutes for each student to present and discuss her/his profile to the rest of the class.

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Variations

The primary objective of this assignment is for students to consider the specific way(s) in which personal identity is created and expressed to oneself and others. For that reason, there is a variety of ways to alter and expand upon the present assignment.

In addition to creating a Facebook identity that is merely dissimilar to their own, students might also create an online identity that is exactly opposite of their own. This subtle shift can result in more pronounced differences between the students’ fictitious and perceived identities. As a second variation, students can also explore this concept by choosing a specific identity or stereotype to recreate online (e.g., jock, rebel, artist, feminist, racist, etc.). Students can choose their own identities, they can be drawn at random, or they can be assigned by the instructor. Yet another variation has students create a false identity; however, rather than explaining their decisions to the class, classmates lead the discussion by guessing the identity that the student was trying to create (e.g., jock, rebel, artist, feminist, racist, etc.) Once the student reveals what identity s/he was actually trying to make, the class can discuss aloud why they came to the conclusions that they did, why they made the assumptions they did, etc.

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