In “Introducing Identity”, David Buckingham states “…our identity is something we uniquely possess: it is what distinguishes us from other people. Yet on the other hand, identity also implies a relationship with a broader collective or social group of some kind.” He argues that, though an identity is unique to each person, it is not solely shaped inwardly, but also by our location or our culture, both which are shared by many other people. Therefore, there are cultural and national identities that relate us to others because of similar qualities.
I agree with Buckingham’s statement that while our identities are unique to us, they are also formed by many different influences and can be expressed or realized differently depending on the situations we find ourselves in. For me, I have never particularly thought about identifying myself based on what country I am from because I had never left the country before. However, once I arrived in London, I feel like I am constantly aware of my American national identity and the things that are a part of me as a result of my national affiliation that I wouldn’t have necessarily been aware of had I not left my home country. The way I speak and the opinions I have are much more distinct in my mind when expressed in a country that does not particularly act or think the same way.
Furthermore, Buckingham argues that we are shaped by the situations we find ourselves in and how we react to such things. “On one level, I am the product of my unique personal biography. Yet who I am (or who I think I am) varies according to who I am with, the social situations in which I find myself, and the motivations I may have at the time, although I am by no means entirely free to choose how I am defined.” Our identities, therefore, are somewhat malleable, changing with the environment, whether it be at a job interview, spending time with friends or family, or online. Buckingham notes that social cues and rules online are often quite different than those of real-life interactions, though he is unsure whether or not our online identities are more or less honest than our identities in person.
As for social media, it is a difficult question whether our online presence helps to shape our identities or whether we use it to create an image of ourselves that may not necessarily be true. I think you can tell a lot about people by the pictures they post or the tweets they compose, though I also believe that, because of the nature of social media, people often craft images of themselves they want the world to see. We often pour over filters and captions to get the message we want to send just right, while in contrast our personal interactions must be much more improvised. I do think that most interaction via social media is genuine expression of our own identities, and even curating the image of ourselves we want to portray reveals something important about who we really are. Even online, we are still constructed and influenced by our cultural and national ties and perhaps the accounts we follow, which are all things essential to who we are and what we believe in. Therefore, I think social media is an interesting way to form identity and to observe the identity of others because, as Buckingham notes, the normal rules of interaction seem to not apply.