As I did a year earlier, I asked students in my first-year composition course at UC Berkeley last fall to write a short essay and post it online for others (indeed, potentially anyone) to see. This was in keeping with Clive Thompson’s discussion of the effects of writing for a public audience in his book, Smarter Than You Think.
With some trepidation and a good degree of verve, the students tackled topics of interest to them about identity and online representation, particularly in social media.
Here are some of their pieces. I invite you to click through and read:
Tietta writes about teens’ obsession with social media, and conducts an experiment to see what her life is like when she goes without social media for five days.
Maddy considers the implications of being “Instafamous,” with her 60,000+ Instagram followers.
Annie thinks we’re all just a little too consumed with seeking validation on social media.
Here are two posts in a lower profile vein: Mia talks about being a “singularity”–someone whose online presence gets defined much more by what others write about her than by what she posts; and this student lets us know what it’s like to be an undocumented student in college.
Speaking of how others define us and the sometimes devastating effects of same, James reminds us of the stereotypical and prejudiced ways in the which the American media represents people of color, African Americans especially, and Neysa writes about recent examples of cultural appropriation which can be spread and commented on–to good and bad effect–across social media.
Kevin wonders how accurate our online profiles really are, as he considers the high incidence of suicide among young adults in his hometown of Palo Alto. Alishan writes about how the suicide of a friend helped give him the courage to be more fully and honestly himself, online and off.
Identity & The College Student
Many of the students wrote about their own identities as they are embodied by social media and other online offerings:
Marco, for instance, really likes anime and connecting with others online who share this passion.
Speaking of awareness of public audiences, Laura takes to heart the advice that you’ve got to be careful what you post online.
Leo–“The Virtuoso”–finds that his online and offline identities are pretty much the same. Ivan keeps a low profile online, but finds evidence of his current and earlier selves in the pictures he’s posted there (including one of him getting to meet Eddie Van Halen).
And Kathy reminds us of one of social media’s central appeals: it’s just plain fun.