Teens engage in complex management of their self-presentation in online spaces; for many college students, platforms like Snapchat, that promise ephemerality, are a welcome break from the need to police their online image.
Increasingly, young people are being warned that future employers, college admissions departments and even banks will use their social media profiles to form assessments. In response, many of them seem to be using social media more strategically. For example, a number of my students create multiple profiles on sites like Twitter, under various names. They carefully curate the content they post on their public profiles on Facebook or LinkedIn, and save their real, private selves for other platforms.
This dynamic has been underway for some time. Of course, Facebook and Twitter each began as new ways for us to connect “authentically” with each other on the Internet of a decade ago, which some users felt had grown impersonal and become overrun by ads. These services won us over with their personalizations and intimacies; then, in the quest for revenue and growth, they became polluted public spaces themselves. So the cycle turns again.