‘What’s on your mind?’ Writing on Facebook as a tool for self-formation
My new publication on writing on Facebook as a tool for self-formation in New Media & Society develops non-technologically deterministic and historically aware ways of accounting for the mutual interrelations between human users and non-human tools in the context of social media use. By developing socio-theoretically founded ‘thick descriptions’ of how people use these tools to relate to themselves and others and in this way establish guidelines according to which they navigate their day to day lives, it contributes to a budding body of work in the area of digital sociology that makes the digital both the object of study and a new tool for research.
In the context of modern western psychologised, techno-social hybrid realities, where individuals are incited constantly to work on themselves and perform their self-development in public, the use of online social networking sites (SNSs) can be conceptualised as what Foucault has described as a ‘technique of self’. This article explores examples of status updates on Facebook to reveal that writing on Facebook is a tool for self-formation with historical roots. Exploring examples of self-writing from the past, and considering some of the continuities and discontinuities between these age-old practices and their modern translations, provides a non-technologically deterministic and historically aware way of thinking about the use of new media technologies in modern societies that understands them to be more than mere tools for communication.