"Possible Selves represent individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming, and thus provide a conceptual link beteen cognition and motivation. PSs are the cognitive components of hopes, fears, goals, and threats; they give the specific self-relevant form, meaning, organization, and direction to these dynamics. It is suggested that PSs function as incentives for future behavior and to provide an evaluative and interpretive context for the current view of self."
Markus, H. & Nurius, P. (1986, Sept). Possible Selves. American Psychologist, 41(9): 954-969.
I tested this theory of identity development in online environments in my Masters research. Markus and Nurius’ work provided a framework for how we choose which new aspects of our desired or undesired selves we test online - a safe, relatively consequence-free space - and whether they are adopted into the offline self.
It’s a very satisfying and parsimonious theory, and appears to be apt both online and off.
"The use of social media is heading towards the convergence of our virtual and real selves."
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in the 2011 article, Sharing to the power of 2012 in The Economist
Facebook: “authentic” identity?
"He externalised what was important for him, so he would have the cues he needed to remember something later."
Prof Viktor Mayer-Schonberger of the OII, in a review of his book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age from The Guardian.
as an aside: this explains why I am “cryptic” on Twitter. i explicitly use the service to externalise things that will trigger - for me and for me alone - a whole memory i can recall later.
More from the review:
The overabundance of cheap storage on hard disks means that it is no longer economical to even decide whether to remember or forget.
“compelling institutional forgetting”
So much of our past is so readily retrievable in the digital age that we can’t help but stumble across things we’d do better to forget.
"…digital technology and global networks are overriding our natural ability to forget—the past is ever present, ready to be called up at the click of a mouse. Mayer-Schönberger examines the technology that’s facilitating the end of forgetting—digitization, cheap storage and easy retrieval, global access, and increasingly powerful software—and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it’s outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won’t let us forget."
— Mayer-Schönberger, V. (2010). Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press.
This week’s Untangling the Web column will be delayed a week. Instead of reading all about your online self in this Sunday’s paper, the esteemed author Eli Pariser will be sharing an excerpt from his new book, The Filter Effect: What the Internet is Hiding From You. If you’re interested in more more more about this, tune into The Serendipity Engine, a project I’m working on that aims to counteract the outcomes that Pariser describes.
Expect to find out all about the web and the self on in the Observer New Review on 19 June.
Also, over the next few months, I’ll be covering even more about the unexpected ways the web is tangled up in our social and cultural lives, including: music, youth culture, charity, friendship, storytelling, education and death.
If you’d like an in-depth look at any other topics, do get in touch! Mail me at email@example.com or tweet me @aleksk & tag your tweet with #uttw.