Not popular on Twitter? You may think it's because you're too honest. Unless you are a celebrity, popularity instead seems to come from conforming to social norms and expectations, so science journalists will complain about Republicans a lot, entertainment journalists will pretend to care about the Kardashians and New York Times journalists will pretend they like having spontaneous social media participation in their job descriptions.
Given the perceived importance of social media, it's no surprise Aalto University found that users admitted faking parts of their online image in order to conform to social norms and expectations. But in looking at Facebook and Last.fm, they instead came to the conclusion that being real is much more acceptable according to social norms.
"Although both of these social networks differ in the manner in which users are able to share content, we noticed that there was a heavy focus on maintaining a profile that is as natural as possible," said Suvi Uski of Aalto University. "We also encountered a widespread disdain by users for what is known as profile tuning, or intentionally sharing content designed to depict the user in a false way.Sharing personal content online on social network sites has become a common activity for increasing numbers of people around the world.
"But what our study reveals is a common belief that sharing content in a way that is considered to be excessive, attention seeking or somehow portrays that individual in a fake manner is judged extremely negatively."
Welcome to the social media paradox. People have to manufacture the perception they are authentic without being so authentic people dislike them.
"While social norms required individuals to be real in their sharing behavior, presenting oneself in the right way through sharing often necessitated an element of faking," added Airi Lampinen, co-author of the study.
This faking was particularly noticeable on the music-sharing platform Last.fm where content is shared automatically.
"We found that it was not uncommon for some users to purposely choose to listen to, or indeed not listen to, particular music according to the image that that individual wants to portray to others," said Lampinen.
In addition, users of Facebook have a high degree of control on what is shared with others, but we found they often chose not to share anything for fear of conveying the wrong message to fellow users.Consequently our desire to be regarded as authentic in social media can also prove to be difficult to achieve. A desire to conform actually inhibits a truthful unencumbered sharing of content. Importantly, this leads the researchers to conclude that displaying an authentic image on social networks is actually more controlled than first thought.
Article: "Social norms and self-presentation on social network sites: Profile work in action", New Media and Society. Source: Aalto University