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Social Networking Sites: Mediating the Self and its Communities



What do social networking sites reveal about the relation between the self and the community? We conceptualise social networking sites as technologies of the self and the community enabling individuals to self-present and also objectifying the community's evaluation of individuals (through ‘structures of recognition’ such as page views, friends and lovehearts). We analyse the way in which 37 Scottish adolescents used the social networking site Bebo in nonprescribed and creative ways. First, they challenged the single authorship of profiles by co-creating multi-authored profiles. Second, they used creative language to obscure meaning from the preying eyes of parents, teachers and potential employers. We conclude by discussing the simplistic assumptions that Bebo makes about the relation between the self and the community. In contrast, newer social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+ are increasingly enabling people to present different facets of themselves to different communities. How people use social networking sites, and how these sites are developing to attract more users, reveals how the multiplicity of human identity is related to the multiple communities that people participate in. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.