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Growing up on Facebook

Series:

Brady Robards and Siân Lincoln

Growing up in the era of social media isn’t easy. With Facebook now having existed for more than a decade and a half, young people who have grown up using social media can look back and see earlier versions of themselves staring back: nostalgic moments with friends from school, reminders of painful breakups, birthdays and graduations, posts that allude to drama with family, experiences of travel, and blurry drunken photos. How do we make sense of our own personal histories inscribed on and through social media? What are the implications for future careers, for public trust in social media companies, and for our own memories?

Growing up on Facebook examines the role of Facebook, and other social media platforms that have emerged around Facebook, in mediating experiences of 'growing up' for young people. Based on interviews with the first generation of young people to grow up with social media, the book covers education and employment, love and relationships, family life, and leisure (drinking, travel, and music). It touches on processes of impression management, privacy, context collapse, and control, and raises critical questions about the standards we hold social media platforms to, as they become the guardians of our personal histories.

The book will appeal to both academic and general audiences alike. Students and scholars in media and communications, the sociology of youth, and beyond, will find strong connections to the literature and acknowledgement of the methodological detail of the study the book is based on. The themes and issues covered in the book are also of broader interest, and will appeal to people who have themselves grown up in the era of social media, to parents, educators, anyone interested in how we look back at social media as a personal memory archive.

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Chapter Four Scrolling Back through Facebook Timelines: Making Sense of Digital Traces

Extract

Scrolling Back through Facebook Timelines: Making Sense of Digital Traces

I think I’m a scroller. In the morning when I wake up I automatically, even without thinking, I click on my social media and I just scroll through

Karen (25)

Scrolling on social media has become the dominant mode of experiencing both current and continuous ‘feeds’ of algorithmically sorted information. It is also how we navigate personal histories and digital traces of lives. As the quote from one of our research participants, Karen (25) above indicates, scrolling has also become a daily ritual and a routine part of everyday life.

Before we turn to our more substantive findings in Chapters Five through Nine, in this chapter we introduce our study with a particular focus on methodology and the development of what we call the ‘scroll back method’, a method that reflects the way that young people engage with social media in their daily lives. This method allowed us to explore the sustained (five or more years) use of Facebook among 41 young people in their twenties. As we will explain, by focusing on this group, we sought to uncover how growing up stories have been told and archived online, and how disclosure practices (what people say and share on social media) change over time. We question how we can understand the digital trace inscribed through the Facebook Timeline as a longitudinal narrative text. We introduce the notion of scrolling back through Facebook...

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