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Growing up on Facebook

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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 Seven Mediating Family Life

Extract

Mediating Family Life

As Facebook has been taken up by all ages, and as the site has become more embedded into everyday life, so too has it become a space for family dynamics and connectivity, but also tension and ‘drama’ (Marwick & boyd 2014). In this chapter, we consider the impact of wider inter-generational adoption of Facebook, which highlights mismatched conventions around disclosure practices. Our data offer insights into both positive experiences of Facebook’s role in mediating family life, but also reveals tensions and trauma in familial relations both on and off the site. Here, we return to concepts established earlier in the book around context collapse and social media literacies, examining how young people are inducted into Facebook often under the guidance of parents, friends, and older siblings, and how disclosure practices are regularly moderated through the imagined audience of parents and grandparents. In scrolling back with our participants through their Facebook Timelines, complex and contested family lives were revealed, pointing not only to how families are mediated on Facebook, but also to the ways in which Facebook offers co-constructed narratives about family histories. In this sense, we close the chapter by considering what is often left unsaid on Facebook and how family dynamics inform how disclosures are made (or not). We return to this theme in Chapter Nine.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asserts that family life is a core part of his ‘bringing the world closer together’ philosophy and underpins the role of Facebook...

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