Digital media presents the opportunity for individuals to experiment with identity. When an individual reaches the stage of adolescence this is usually a time of self discovery and constructing an identity. Adolescence is the stage from childhood to adulthood. It typically describes the teenage years from 13-19 (Psychology today 2015).
Adolescence is a difficult age full of questions, queries and the need for self establishment. As a result of things like social media, teenagers are able to enter in to different forums and explore who they are, learning about their likes and dislikes. Through this self discovery, individuals can grow and become empowered (Penderson 2015).
Being online allows teenagers to explore their identities and exhibit their insecurities anonymously. It’s a space where they can hide or mask their negative aspects and become a ‘better’ version of themselves. Changing identity online is more common than you might think, with around 50% having done it. This is probably because there is fewer social repercussions and less chance of victimisation experimenting online. (Penderson 2015).
In some cases people make up completely new or multiple online identities. Being online gives you the ability to change and conceal things you might dislike about yourself and create a fantasy like identity. It allows teens to explore aspects they wouldn’t be able to if they were themselves such as; sexual identity or sexuality (Penderson 2015).
Having an online identity means that they have a controlled space separate from real life. One where they can find out about who they are without the judgement of others (Penderson 2015).
Problems can arise when individuals become too wrapped up in this fake controlled environment where all impressions are managed. They almost forget about the real world and become absorbed by what they wish they were.
Often when going through difficult times teenagers will retreat to the internet to seek friendship. it’s easy to meet new people online with similar interests and it can be a great way to boost self esteem. At such a vulnerable and influential age, teenagers can easily become attached to these online relationships and will eventually end up wanting to meet the person they’ve been speaking to. In some cases they become almost blinded by the attention they’ve been receiving and don’t realise they actually know very little about the person. Not everybody online is who they say they are; meeting strangers can be a very dangerous situation (SafetyNet 2015). With lack of life experience this can make teenagers naive to this assumption, it’s always important to check that a profile is legitimate. There are usually indications that someone might be using a fake profile, heres somethings to look out for:
- email address
- links on home page
- timing of posts
PENDERSON, S., 2015. Identity online, BS1288. [PowerPoint presentation]. Identity online. Digital Media Platforms and Practices. The Robert Gordon University, Department of Communication, Marketing and Media, room FOM 224, 13 March.
PSYCHOLOGY TODAY., 2015. Adolescence: All about Adolescence. [online]. Sussex directories Inc. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/adolescence [Accessed 27 April 2015].
SAFETY NET., 2015. online safety. [online]. Safety Net Kids. Available from: http://www.safetynetkids.org.uk/personal-safety/online-safety/ [Accessed 5 April 2015].