Coming up: Total chaos?

In one of my previous posts I tried to explain how one’s sense of self emerges through interaction with other people.

The direct consequence of this dynamic is the idea of the relational self:

The relational self is the self in relationships. We are different selves to different (groups of) people.

This is not wrong, dishonest, or flip-flopping. It is not schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. It is healthy adaptation, both from a psychological and communication point of view. It may even be social intelligence.

Some groups are more important to us and our identity than others: They have more of an impact on who we are, because they are more important to us (significant others). We call those reference groups.

Depending on the groups with whom we interact and on context, social psychologists claim that we have situation prototypes, relational schemas – or, simply put, scripts for proper interaction in common situations.

For example, we have the script for proper interaction at a restaurant with friends, at a restaurant with clients, at a restaurant on a first date, etc.

These scripts (social norms) guide our social interactions. Not only do they help us figure out what is the appropriate thing to say in a given situation, they also help us anticipate an outcome of communication (if I say this, then… ) and, most importantly, they help us interpret the meaning of messages.

The same thing, said by someone else, in a different context, means something else – aka meaning is context-dependent.

So, hold on, this argument is taking you somewhere. Are you with me? Let’s sum it up: The relational self depends on social groups, communication scripts depend on social groups and contexts, meaning depends on social groups and contexts.

Integration of different social networking platforms (Facebook with Twitter with LinkedIn with … peanut butter,  with chocolate, with mamaliga with vegemite) mixes up social groups and social contexts and therefore, messes up meaning.

Yes, it may be easy to cross-post from Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn, and in some situations, it may even make sense. But, don’t be fooled. Just because it’s easy and it can be done, it may not be a good idea to do it.

Keep in mind that the meaning of your tweet depends on:

  • your relational self – who you are in relation to the people you’re interacting with (if they’re different on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you and the meaning of your words are different, too)
  • social context – and the types of conversations appropriate in each context
  • social group – and your relationships with each group.

So, we have to be careful here and maybe NOT take advantage of all the technology has to offer. The result may very well be misunderstanding, miscommunication, frustration, and, to quote Adrian Chan, total chaos.


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1 Comment

  1. Is it possible that my life became more “chaotic” once I established an online identity, as well as my offline? I ask in reflectance to the coursework, and I fear that the largest concern with integrating social media technology into our lives is that simply some will adapt better than others.

    The thought that some people possess the ability and skills necessary to catch on is truly visible with social media. It is like every other skill in the world, where some people will work harder to reach a level of understanding that others attain naturally.

    How do we prepare for that as educators? There are going to be students who find trouble and frustrations when creating and maintaining online identities on top of their offline. This overload could lead to overwhelming feelings of doubt and uncertainty, possible creating psychological effects that hurt rather than help develop the mind.

    Are services like Twitter the solution, offering a blend of social and professional identities available online? Will that open mentality be the key to ensuring that students are not alone, and can ask for any sort of help? Or will we see a development of fake online identities, where students are pretending to be someone important, pretending to be fully capable contributing useful information, and afraid to ask for help online at risk of losing their online image and social context with their reference groups?

    I have a feeling that these thoughts need to be expressed better through my blog…


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