Social Media and the Changing Identity
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This thesis uses former literature on orality, literacy, pluralism, and power structures and applies their theoretical framework in order to provide insight into the rhetorical impacts of social media. Specifically, Facebook is the medium that is analyzed, and considering its recent prominence and worldwide rise, it is important to analyze how externalizing identity changes the way humans perceive themselves. In the first chapter, identity is explained within the larger historical context as it has changed from the times of orality to the now virtually connected world. Brian Rotman and Walter Ong provide the theoretical research that explains the shifts and continuities in identities as humans extend themselves into new forms of expression. Moreover, Facebook is a virtual world where humans externalize their identities and this shapes their behaviors, interactions, and epistemologies. In the second chapter, the rhetorical impacts of Facebook are explained by examining how identity is structured by power. This research relies on Foucault’s and Elull’s studies. Chapter two focuses on propaganda and underlying forces that determine social behavior. These structures will be proven to influence the way we understand ourselves. In the third chapter, Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm is analyzed and explained. This explanation draws upon case studies permitted by crawling and mining the graph. This chapter focuses on explaining how humans understand themselves in the context of their communication patterns, and this explains how non-serial forms of information radically change and pluralize identity. Identity is something that is determined by the way that humans express it. As McLuhan famously noted, the medium is the message, or, the structures of the medium (Facebook), control the way that we understand ourselves within the context of the entity. This thesis provides a theoretical lens to understand how identity externalization has rhetorical impacts.
Bell, James M (2017). Social Media and the Changing Identity. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from