In his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Erving Goffman argues that people attempt to manage their impression before the people they’re surrounded by, as if one is performing on a stage in front of an audience. His theory distinguishes between two topics, namely ‘’frontstage representation’’ and ‘’backstage representation’’, wherein front stage representation refers to our costumes, the roles we play and how we behave in the presence of others in order to create a positive image of ourselves, so that others like and respect us. In opposite of this, back stage representation refers to how we are when we let our guard down, not preoccupied with how others perceive us.
When Goffman invented this theory it was used to analyse real-life situations, but in today’s society this theory is also applicable for online spaces such as social networks like Facebook. Steve Wheeler (2011), who is an Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at Plymouth University, for instance, asked his students whether they think of Facebook as a backstage or frontstage area. The conclusion was that most of his students thought of Facebook as a backstage area, thus, a place where one let’s his guards down and can be completely him or herself. Honestly, this surprised me. I’m also a Facebook user and in my experience it is more of a frontstage area, because people in my surroundings use it to show happy pictures of themselves and share moments of joy. Off course in some cases people are sad and share their sadness when they lost a loved one or broke up with their boy/girlfriends. But I have the idea that these emotions are always a bit regulated. By this I mean I never see pictures of people crying or post things like ‘’I am so depressed and unhappy about my life right now’’. So, I don’t think you can see Facebook as a backstage area (for a 100%). What do you think of this?
Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books.
Wheeler, S. (2011). Back stage front stage. Accessed at: http://stevewheeler.blogspot.nl/2011/05/back-stage-front-stage.html