Blogging and Vlogging on the Internet: Why Do We Reveal So Much?

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This essay states the question why do internet networks seem to offer such a rich space for revealing the most intimate details about major transformations in our lives, such as illness blogging and transgender vlogging? This essay will argue that internet networks seem to offer such a rich space for revealing the most intimate details about major transformations in our lives because online disinhibition allows introverted people to connect with a global audience. Further, this essay will argue that the internet enables people to assume a desired identity and to test it with an audience. This topic is important to the field of communications because many people are now turning to the internet and social media outlets to communicate and to form interpersonal relationships. When people share personal information online, they can receive attention and nonjudgmental feedback from others, which will inspire the person to shape their identity and to promote global awareness about an issue. In all, this topic will have serious implications for the field of communications since a person’s communication skills may decrease because continuously communicating online may inhibit a person from forming and sharing in face-to-face relationships.

Literature Review

In his article, Daniel (2008) explored how online disinhibition can affect a person’s self-identity and the ability to form relationships online and face-to-face. The author examined users of a video game, named the Second Life, to determine how their interactions and presence on the internet affected their identity and their relationships in the real world. The author determined that involvement in online games and social networking can help to transform the identity of a person. While the author’s work does not correlate to blogging and vlogging, the findings do support this argument that online disinhibition and the ability to assume a desired identity inspire people to continuously share private information on the internet.

While Daniel (2008) found that one’s identity can be transformed through online interactions, research conducted by Karl, Peluchette, & Schlaegel (2010) supported their findings when their work confirmed that online disinhibition and personality can lead people to share private information on the internet. The authors conducted a quantitative study by surveying social media usage and personality of 737 college students in the United States and Germany. The author’s findings revealed that participants who were more extroverted had lower levels of online inhibition. These findings confirm that online disinhibition and personality types motivate people to post intimate details about their lives online.

Although the study conducted by Karl, Peluchette, & Schlaegel (2010) focused on social network usage in college students, Gowen, Deschaine, Gruttadara, and Markey (2012) assessed the internet and social networking usage of those individuals with and without mental illnesses. The researchers utilized an online survey to collect data from 274 participants regarding their patterns and reasons for utilizing the internet and social networking websites. The study concluded that young adults utilize social networking sites to decrease levels of social isolation. These findings and those of Daniel (2008) support this argument that people post sensitive material online to decrease levels of social isolation when one has an illness or is facing a life-changing event.

When a person is facing a transformation, such as a gender change, in their life, video diaries, also known as vlogs, can help a person to assume a new identity and to test it with a global audience. These findings were confirmed through research conducted by Raun (2010), who sought to discover the reasoning behind transgender vlogs on the networking site, YouTube. The author confirmed that shy people and those facing major transformation in the life can hide behind a camera and freely open up about their struggles to test their new identity and to advocate an issue to a global audience. Raun’s (2010) research persuades the reader to support this argument that blogging and vlogging are commonly used to share personal information since it allows people to display and test desired identities.

While research conducted by Raun (2010) found that a person can test and assume a desired identity by posting online, research conducted by author Hongladarom (2011) disputes these findings. The author assessed the identities of people both online and offline and concluded that a person’s identity stays the same in both a virtual and real-world environment. While Hongladarom (2011) found that some people assume different identities online, the author argues that online identity has characteristics that are consistent with the real self. This research does not support this argument that a person will post private information online to assume a new identity.

As Hongladarom (2011) challenges the validity of this argument by examining the persona of one’s true self, research conducted by Blau and Barak (2012) also seeks to weaken this argument. Blau and Barak (2012) conducted two quantitative studies to assess how personality affects participation in online networks. The researchers determined that individuals with extroverted personalities were more likely to reveal personal information on the internet than those people with introverted personalities. These findings question the research conducted by Gowen, Deschaine, Gruttadara, and Markey (2012) since introverts may not be able to form relationships with others by posting information online if they are timid about posting personal material.

While Hongladarom (2011) and Blau and Barak (2012) do not support this argument, Van Dijick (2004) takes the argument one step further when the author argued that people post information online to preserve our personal cultural memory, which is our personal collection of events over time. By using media outlets to share our intimate thoughts and experiences, the author determined that we produce a mediated memory to help us recall personal transformations throughout our lives. The work of Van Dijick (2004) opens a gap in this research since the author concluded that the people share information in vlogs and blogs to help them recall memories in their life.

Analysis and Discussion

Throughout the last decade, when a major event or transformation happened in a person’s life, the person would call or text a friend or loved one to reveal the personal information. However, today’s obsession with the internet and social networking websites had lead to many people posting intimate and private information online in blogs and vlogs. According to Van Dijck (2004), “people deploy media technologies to create a repository of autobiographical reflections of self, of family, and perhaps of larger circles beyond the immediate private sphere” (p. 273). These online autobiographical reflections can be written or recorded, and they can be posted by a person who may not be seen or identified.

Internet networks seem to offer such a rich space for revealing the most intimate details about major transformations in our lives due to online disinhibition. Daniel (2008) argued that people tend to reveal more and to be more direct online since they cannot be seen and they can remain anonymous. This privacy tends to inspire people to express themselves more freely and openly since there is no face-to-face audience judging the messages that are being sent. Karl, Peluchette, and Schlaegel (2010) supported Daniel’s argument when the authors confirmed that “some studies of online behavior have shown evidence of uninhibited behavior or flaming, with individuals saying or doing things that they may not normally do in real life” (p. 175). This uninhibited behavior can lead people to post private information about them without facing real-life consequences.

In real life, a person may not openly share personal information with strangers due to scrutiny and rejection. However, when a person is able to hide behind a camera or a computer, it may motivate them to open up and freely discuss taboo topics to anyone who may be interested. Raun (2010) supported these assertions when the author determined that many people post videos, or vlogs, online that share life-changing information since they are able to hide behind a camera. When a person is speaking to a camera, he/she will become more extroverted since the messages are not immediately being judged, seen, or heard by a direct audience.

Additionally, internet networks seem to offer such a rich space for revealing the most intimate details about major transformations in our lives since it allows introverted people to become more extroverted. Gowen, Deschaine, Gruttadara, and Markey (2012) argued that social networks allow people with introverted personalities to “develop new, significant lasting relationships online” (p. 246). When a shy person posts life-changing information about themselves online, they can reach a global audience and connect with people across the world. Daniel (2008) supported the findings of Gowen, Deschaine, Gruttadara, and Markey (2012) when the author determined that “people who are lonely or who don't have many contacts offline, can get online and develop healthy relationships, and those relationships can be healthy even if they never transfer into face-to-face situations” (p. 9). These online relationships may inspire the person to keep updating their audience on their situation to gain attention and to replace the social isolation that they may be experiencing in their life.

Finally, the increase in popularity of posting intimate and private information online is due to the fact that the internet enables people to assume a desired identity. Raun (2010) supported this assertion when the author determined that online networks enable people, such as transgendered individuals, to assume a new identity and to test it with an audience. When a person is uncomfortable with themselves, he/she can create a new identity and test it with a global audience by posting videos to receive feedback. Once the person receives feedback on their new identity, he/she can decide whether to assume that identity and to continue to update their audience by posting more vlogs about their transformation from one gender to another.

On the other hand, some people share private information on the internet to accept changes with their identity. For example, a person may be diagnosed with a major illness and he/she may now have to change their lifestyle to treat their illness. Therefore, this person may turn to the internet and start a blog, or an online written diary, about the challenges that they are facing with their illness. As a result, a person can receive feedback which can inspire them to accept the changes to their self and life.

Although research conducted by Gowen, Deschaine, Gruttadara, and Markey (2012) supports this argument by determining that introverts seek out the internet to share personal information online to gain new relationships, a study conducted by Blau and Barak (2012) attempts to weaken this argument. The researchers determined that individuals with extroverted personalities were more likely to reveal personal information on the internet than those people with introverted personalities (Blau & Barak, 2012). While these findings question this argument since introverts may not be able to form relationships with others by posting information online if they are timid about posting personal materials, the fact remains that any relationships that are formed online will reduce the degree of social isolation for an introvert.

Additionally, while research confirmed that internet networks seem to offer such a rich space for revealing the most intimate details about major transformations in our lives due to changes in the self and in one’s identity, work by Hongladarom (2011) attempts to refute this argument. The author found that some people assume different identities online, but the online identity has personas that are consistent with the real self (Hongladarom, 2011). While some people may present a façade when they are online, the fact remains that transgendered people are not online posting under a fake identity. Instead, they vlog to show the world the identity they wish to become, and they post updates regarding their gender change to gain feedback from a global audience.

Finally, while this argument firmly holds that people openly share information on networking sites to form relationships and to test an identity, research conducted by Van Dijck (2004) challenges the complexity of this argument. Van Dijck (2004) argued that individuals share our intimate thoughts and experiences online to produce a mediated memory to help us recall personal transformations throughout our lives. While this argument is valid since most people keep online blogs and video diaries, the reason behind the popularity of networking on the internet cannot be simply to preserve memories of significant events of our lives. However, Van Dijck does highlight a future research opportunity that could determine if bloggers and vloggers post personal information to simply have an online collection of it for the future.

Conclusion

This essay proved that internet networks seem to offer such a rich space for revealing the most intimate details about major transformations in our lives because online disinhibition allows introverted people to connect with a global audience. The evidence presented confirmed if a person is able to hide behind a camera or a computer, the individual will be more comfortable to express themselves since he/she cannot be seen or heard. In turn, an introvert will be motivated to form relationships with others and decrease the level of social isolation that they are experiencing. Further, this essay demonstrated that the internet enables people to assume a desired identity and to test it with an audience. This argument was supported by the fact that blogs and vlogs allow for sick or transgendered individuals to test a new identity online to gain feedback from a global audience. While this essay found that research has concluded that introverts are less likely to form relationships online and that a person’s identity remains consistent online and offline, the fact remains that individuals reveal personal information online to connect with a global audience and to possibly digitally record memories in our life.

References

Blau, I., & Barak, A. (2012). How Do Personality, Synchronous Media, and Discussion Topic Affect Participation? Educational Technology & Society, 15 (2), 12–24.

Daniel, J. (2008). The self set free. Therapy Today, 19(9), 4-9.

Gowen, K., Deschaine, M., Gruttadara, D., & Markey, D. (2012). Young adults with mental health conditions and social networking websites: Seeking tools to build community. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 35(3), 245-250.

Hongladarom, S. (2011). Personal identity and the self in the online and offline world. Minds & Machines, 21(4), 533-548.

Karl, K., Peluchette, J., & Schlaegel, C. (2010). Who’s posting Facebook faux pas? A cross-cultural examination of personality differences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18(2), 174-186.

Raun, T. (2010). Screen births: Exploring the transformative potential in trans video blogs on YouTube. Graduate Journal of Social Science, 7(2), 113-130.

Van Dijck, J. (2004). Mediated memories: Personal cultural memory as object of cultural analysis. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 18(2), 261-277.