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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 Nine Disconnections, Absences, Conclusions

Extract

Disconnections, Absences, Conclusions

In this book we set out to provide an account of how young people mediate and reflect on their experiences of ‘growing up’ on Facebook, and also how Facebook itself—as a platform, and a set of socio-cultural practices—has ‘grown up’ and evolved over time. We have put ‘growing up’ in quotation marks because of course growing up is never really finished for people. Throughout this book we have drawn on Giddens’ (1991) notion of the reflexive project of the self to capture a self always in motion, always learning, always ‘in process’ (although we acknowledge this idea has a much longer lineage). Alongside our cohort of 41 twenty-somethings, Facebook as a company has continued to evolve, acquiring new platforms (Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and many others), enduring through controversies around privacy breaches, government sanctions, and declining public trust. For both young people using Facebook and Facebook itself (along with the broader social media landscape), the last decade and a half has seen significant change, and we hope this book will go some way to documenting that.

This final chapter is divided into three sections. First, fittingly we think for a conclusion chapter, we engage with the debates around disconnecting from Facebook. Here, we consider how disconnection and absences as strategic practices of managing content are undertaken by young people. In the context of ‘growing up’ what is not said on the site is just as, if not more important, than what is....

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