Goffman's Theory as a Framework for Analysis of Self Presentation on Online Social Networks

Lucie Merunková, Josef Šlerka

Abstract

To investigate how people form their identity on social networks and control the impressions they invoke in their audiences, we analyzed personal profiles of 50 university student Facebook users using Erving Gofmann´s dramaturgical theory. We identified five basic forms through which users create and present their identities: The Public diary, The Influencer, The Entertainer, Job and education and Hobby, as well as the appropriate secondary roles performed by users who interact with them.

These findings are corroborated by 8 semi-structured interviews with respondents, which enable a more in-depth exploration of the way they use Facebook, the social interactions they participate in, their motivation for posting contributions, and how they engage in impression management, perceive privacy and resolve issues caused by multiple audiences.

A better understanding of how privacy is conceived and what motivates users to share their personal information online is essential for public authorities’ cooperation on shaping company privacy policies and creation of appropriate legal regulations.

The key results confirm the presence of conscious effort to make a desired impression and prove Goffman’s theory of face-to-face interactions to be relevant in the context of online social networks.

Keywords

Dramaturgical Theory; Erving Goffman; Facebook; Impression Management; Online Identity; Online Self-presentation; Online Social Interactions; Online Social Networks; Social Media

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