Social Networking Sites (SNS) and the ‘Narcissistic Turn': The Politics of Self-Exposure

Social Networking Sites (SNS) and the ‘Narcissistic Turn': The Politics of Self-Exposure

Yasmin Ibrahim (University of Brighton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-727-0.ch006
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The advent of the Internet hailed the ability of users to transform their identity and expression and articulation of the ‘self’ through their digital interactions. The Internet in its early days enabled the user to re-define identity through the text-based environment of the internet without declaring their offline persona or identity. In comparison new social software like Facebook have brought about a narcissistic turn where private details are placed on a global arena for public spectacle creating new ways of connecting and gazing into the lives of the others. It raises new social issues for societies including the rise of identity fraud, infringement of privacy, the seeking of private pleasures through public spectacle as well as the validation of one’s identity through peer recognition and consumption.
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The Early Discourses Of The Internet

The term cyberspace was coined by science fiction writer William Gibson in 1982 to capture the nature of a space both real and illusory. This duality is one of the fundamental reasons why investigations of online spaces are complex and multi-dimensional. Early writings on the Internet portrayed the new medium as constituting a virtual space which was divorced from offline existence (Miller and Slater, 2000: 4). Miller and Slater (2000) define virtuality as the capacity of communicative technologies to constitute, rather than mediate, realities and to form relatively bounded spheres of interaction. These discourses often portrayed the emergence of new forms of society and identity (Rheingold, 2000) in which the ‘virtual was often disembodied from the real’ (Miller and Slater, 2000: 4). This disembodiment represented a form of escapism from real society where individuals could invent, deconstruct, and re-invent their identities. As such, cyberspace created fluidity in terms of identity as well as a form of release from the confines of the real world.

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