Identity Theory and Social Media Participation

Identity Theory in regards to Social Media participation:

Individuals employ a social identity online…. Tajfel (1981) combines   “four linked concepts: social categorisation, social identity, social comparison and psychological group distinction” to construct better understanding of self-identity.

The social categorisation process is the “bringing together social objects or events in groups which are equivalent with regard to an individual’s actions, intentions and system beliefs” (Tajfel 1981, p.254). So this means that for a transmedia story to work, it needs to “bring together social objects or event in a group” in order to make it desirable by a large audience.

Leary and Tangney (2005) explain how social identity is when the representation of the self is recognised as part of a social group, suggesting that social media users construct an appropriate ‘self’ to portray themselves online.

Ashmore et al. (2001) highlights the complexity of self and identity concepts, offering a further breakdown of social identity as the belief of group belonging, in which receiving acceptance from other group members is deemed an important facilitator of successful group membership. In terms of social media, this could be represented by the number of Facebook ‘friends’ or Twitter ‘followers’.

Leary and Tangney (2005)  states how social identities are “not simply individual cognitive constructions” (p.480), instead they are developed with shared attributes and beliefs of other individuals in mind.

Tajfel (1981) includes a relevant description of ‘social actions’, which play in construction of the social self.

The social comparison concept offers explanation linking social identity theory with social categorisation (Tajfel 1981). Leon Festinger (1954) concludes that social comparison is the drive humans have to evaluate their own opinions and abilities, by measuring them against the opinions and abilities of others who make theirs available. Social media facilitates communication between one to one, and one to many, allowing for social comparison to take place. The active users, are either consciously or unconsciously offering information about themselves to other users, hence making social comparison in an online space possible.

The social comparison theory offers insight  into social media networks “as a system of orientation which creates and defines the individual’s own place in society” (Tajfel 1981, p.258). Users are able to participate online and  in order to construct themselves socially and personally.

Social identity is very complex and social groups cannot necessarily be defined fundamentally. Psychological group distinction discusses how social attitudes; intentions and actions can be used to express the characteristics of a particular group (Tajfel 1981). The benefits, opportunities and other “consequences of membership” within a group can only achieve true satisfaction and status if defined in relation to an alternative group because “groups are…capable of any definition because of their insertions into a multi-group structure” (Tajfel 1981, p.259).

Ashmore, R.D., Ussim, L.J., Wilder, D., 2001. Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict and Conflict Reduction. London: Oxford University Press

Leary, M., Tangney, J., 2003. Handbook of Self and Identity.  NY: The Guildford Press

Tajfel, H., 1981, Human Groups and Social Categories: Studies in Social Psychology.  Cambridge USA: The Cambridge University Press

Online Character Development: Facebook Users

1. The Tell Everything Bore – A constant update of day to day trivial things and a running commentary on their lives. Regularly Checking in.

2. The Self Promoter – posting achievements, or blog post links, or article you’ve written or competition you have won

3. The Friend Padder – One who has thousands of “friends” and feels the need to show off about it

4. The Town Crier – Posts about breaking events and news stories as if they are the first to have heard about it

5. The TMI-er – Too much information. See no boundaries regarding what to share and what not to share.

6. The Bad grammarian. Those who take digital speak to a whole new level and sounds ridiculous due to text speak

7. The Lurker – very rarely posting or updating but always very aware of what is going on online. Watching from afar without getting involved.

8. The Stalkers – tirelessly traipsing through pages and pages of profiles in order to find out the nitty gritty gossip or merely for their own amusement

9. The Chronic Inviter – “Support my cause”, “…invites you to play candy crush”, “sign my partition”, “do my survey” . They mean well but it can get very annoying.

10. The fearful user – has their profile on lock down, vets all friend requests and never likes anything.


Online Character Development: Twitter Users

Types of Twitter User

1. The Egg. Every user starts Twitter life as an egg but many of those Twitter Eggs never hatch. Studies have shown that a quarter of Twitter users have never Tweeted. Some eggs may send a few tweets but then give it up and go quiet when they receive no responses

2. The Lurker. Studies have shown that 40% of uses logged in during a given month but did not tweet during this time. There is an overlap of eggs and lurkers, but lurkers tend to be active users just consuming news through the twitter feed without actively tweeting

3. Contester. Users who only really use there profile for the sole purpose of entering competitions or running promotions

4. Retweeter. Less confident Twitter users who only share other peoples posts. They may feel a bit daunted by the whole concept and struggle to let their true personality shine through

5. Bot. The non human twitter account posting automated tweets

6. #TeamFollowBack. Those wishing to embark upon world domination by having a most ridiculous amount of followers. Tweets include too many hashtags, particular ones encouraging a follow or a retweet. High number of followers and high number of followees.

7. Celebrity. Celebrities can include musicians, athletes, actors, the prime minister… anybody known by the masses. Celebrities have millions of followers and with have anything they post retweeted hundreds of times so they can use this influence to do good or purely for self promotion

8. Social Star/”Guru”. Those who have amassed a serious following on twitter and become pseudo celebrities online. Provide a string of content.

9. Business. Advertisers engaging with the world in a way not possibly before social media

10. The steady eddie’s. Core user base of Twitter. Some tweet, some don’t, but they are generally engaged and are essential to the success of twitter as they act as the main audience that advertisers are going to reach with their promoted tweets. Usually very socially engaging on a regular bases with all types of users.

Research: Narratives and Storytelling

Oxford Dictionary Definition:



plural noun: narratives

1. a spoken or written account of connected events; a story. 

As human beings we have related and communicated with one another through the method of story telling for years and years. Listening to one another enables the broadening of culture and allows for better self construct in relation to a wider social environment.

Storytelling can be educational; formed, informed and re-formed in order to suit those surrounding them. Narratives are a form of discourse, the discursive way in which we organise, account for, give meaning to, and understand. The way in which people choose to organise their self identities are based on the experiences they have had, and by using narration of their lives they can develop a better understand the past the present and the future.





Multiple linked Narratives:

– Entertaining but only when full attention of audience has been achieved.

– Requires fast pace storyline, maintaining suspense and large quantity of narrative materials

Multiple Independent Narratives under the same topic:

– Free standing, more engaging, short and sharp so better hold attention of audience.

Realistic Fiction:

–      Stories that have their characters, settings and plot lines displayed as if they could really exist in reality

–      Requires detailed scripting and total audience engagement

Artistic Non Fiction:

– Allows audience to “be the story”, to put themselves within the content.

Fixed Single Narrative:

–      Good for clear interactivity

–      Bad for immersive experience, unspecified narrative pathway

Unstructured Pathway Narrative:

– See multiple independent narrative.


Theoretical Paradigms



–      Human culture is analysed, semiotically – as a systems of signs. What signs that we are connected to an online world?

–      Roman Jakobson, Claude Levi-Strauss, Jaques Lacan, Michael Foucalt, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes

Post Structuralist:

–      Approach to textual analysis – reader replaces the author as the primary subject of enquiry.

–      History/culture/external factors need to be understood as well as the object itself because they can cause bias and misinterpretations.



Transmedia Storytelling:

–      Multiplatform method of narration

–      Knowing the audience is already out there – social media users, haters, lovers…everyone wants to have an opinion regardless of what it is.

–      Content is important but context and finding are key.

–      The transmedia, i.e. video, sound, image, links, colors, etc, requires the user/viewer/player to transform the content into context by engaging his or hers own, natural cognitive psychological abilities, and enables the meaning and realisation gained to surpass the actually medium and content itself.



–      Poetic. Historical material/lyrical

–      The Expository Mode = social issues, argumentative

–      The Observational Mode = social factors/freedom

–      Participatory – reliant on audience input/feedback, honesty and enthusiam

–      Reflexive – audience present

–      Performative – emotional and subjective context.


Media Theory:

– Self Identity, subjective identity, social identity (Barker 2008)

– Anti essentialist (changeable – target, those on the fence   about social media and could have their opinion swayed one way or the other. )

– Essentialist (Fixed opinion – those who will either love or hate the process, concept and idea)

– Semiotics – Saussure (1974) “signifier and signified”

– Barthes (1968) “denotation and connotation”

– How meaning is created from something   simplistic. This is essential because the project work mimics social media processes, functionalities etc.

– Sosnoski (2010) Cultural Configuration – “the performance of a cultural practice so that the listener or reader can learn how to behave as a member of the culture” – creating an insightful relatable experience.

– Gerbner (1960) Cultivation Theory – Cultivation of media technologys leaves people with a misperception of what is true in our world.

Production Analysis: Market

Issues Raised regarding Social Media Use and Audiences Using them…

Channel 4 Documentary  – “Don’t Blame Facebook” 

Issues Raised about current digital climate:

  • Hacking – consequences
  • Computer Misuse Act – Criminal offence to hack somebody’s personal information online
  • Emotion of feeling trapped – prison sentence via hacking
  • Don’t trust strangers – HOWEVER the comfort of online anonymity makes getting closer to strangers more easily available.
  • What happens when an online stranger makes an appearance in the real world?
  • Anonymous accounts – anonymous slander
  • Honesty, integrity, character
  • Not nice to be labled as a crazy person o stalker
  • Talking to people you don’t know, you could be being set up, dangerous game, tangled web, don’t know what the people are doing
  • Facebook rants – consequences – who will see them? Ministry of defence watch social media
  • Criminals posting videos online of them doing the crime. Illegal activity for entertainment
  • Naivety “Didn’t realise the entire world would be watching us”
  • Party invited online – who could come? public/private – going viral party can turn into an impromptu street festival
  • You would not do it in the real world so why would you online?
  • Crossing the very thin line between being open and being stupid – getting caught up from the feedback given
  • Saying your not home or gone out and saying where you live leaves you vulnerable to people breaking and entering into your open house.
  • The effects of acting on impulse
  • “Sharing it with your friends” – NOT SO funny anymore – F-Rape, Jokes back fire
  • Public privacy rights – even if you are in a public place you still have rights of privacy. People are too accessible and there is less respect for privacy.

Facebook web application “Take This Lollipop”

  • Lollipop with a razor blade inside
  • “Don’t take candy from strangers” concept
  • “I Dare You”
  • Allows access to Facebook account to personalise and enhance the experience
  • Does NOT do anything bad with the FB information – need to make the viewer feel isolated
  • Information pulled from Facebook is random – makes each viewing different
  • Power of word of mouth – viral
  • Tape reactions to it
  • Pull emotional ties – pets family members, boyfriends etc
  • Countdown timer – left with feeling of being uneasy

Digital Trends admired the film’s drawing of attention to the dangers of posting too much personal information online, writing that the film was “a creative way to simultaneously grab your attention and scare you into being a little more careful with your Facebook information.”

Ad Age praised the film, writing “The piece, which integrates your Facebook photos and location information into an eerie short film, combines great storytelling, high-production values and visual elements that are so realistic you’ll think twice about letting your kids on”

Audience Response:

Having been surprised at my own emotional responses to watching Take this lollipop, without giving anything away, I asked friends and colleagues to also watch it and these were the two main responses.


  • A vital response to physical and emotional danger
  • Fear is felt so that we protect ourselves from threat
  • Triggers of fear include, bad past experiences, personal exposure, the unknown,
  • Synonyms: fear, fright, dread, terror, horror, panic, alarm, dismay, consternation, trepidation. These nouns denote the agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.


  • What are my privacy settings?
  • How have you this information?
  • How do I stop this?
  • Is this real?

Participatory Media

YouTube, Broadcast Yourself.

  • Platform of self expression, redistribution of already made footage

Reoccurring issue = Privacy 

  • How private is your profile?
  • What estimated percentage of your online “friends” would you class as actual true life friends?
  • Do you include your birthday, address, and up to date place of work on your profile?
  • Are you aware of how easily your profile can be searched for?
  • Do you allow people to tag photos of you to appear on your timeline without confirmation?
  • Do you share written posts to friends only/the world?
  • Do you share your personal information with friends online?
  • Why is take this lollipop so scary and effective?