I’ve never really examined the topic of Gender and Sexuality in Social Networking Sites until recently, however after reading Carstensen’s article and examining various stories and statistics online, the results I found are very thought-provoking. I have always considered myself a Feminist and believe that our country has obviously grown and matured over the years, but my eyes have been opened to an entire different world filled with the same lingering gender binaries and sexism. We robotically select our gender and sexual preferences without question, and advertisers then target us accordingly. The consequences of our posts, pictures, personal information, and those we surround ourselves with represent this “identity” we wish to portray. Identity performances of gender and sexuality are toyed with on a regular basis. The mere update of an attractive profile picture of ourselves reinforces this image we wish to personify.
Let’s start with the simple task of creating an account. Most SNS ask you to identify yourself: Male or Female, Blank interested in Blank, etc. Many sites will not allow you to create an account unless you identify your gender for all to see (advertisers, hello?). Why is this so important? Am I now defined by my gender? I think the appeal of this is to search for other people. Many facebook users like to look at pictures and single men and women and use it almost as a dating site to meet new people. We are such visual beings by human nature, the profile picture, how we present ourselves to the world, is the first thing other users see. People post filtered, edited pictures of themselves to the point where they’re nearly unrecognizable. On the other side of this, many users do not even post pictures of themselves, but of their pets or favorite character in a TV show. Just like creating an avatar on WOW, we are now creating a character version of “yourself”.
The subject of bullying has been around for years. Is there an increase in bullying today, or is there just more coverage on the issue? It has been all over the internet, news, and now documentaries. However, now it has transitioned into cyberbullying. Due to our many profiles and our (un)control of privacy settings, youth are being “outed” more and more frequently. Whether it is a picture posted, status, or comment, user’s personal information is now out there. Others have had the courage to come out hoping they have the support needed, and were victims of backlash instead. We can be surrounded by supportive friends and family, and a complete stranger can have the ability to harass online. We are supposedly evolving into more accepting individuals, but will that/has that translated into social networking sites?
Even with the rise of cyberbullying, it is comforting to know that youth and adults can find encouragement from groups going through the same issues on various websites and blogs. This ever-evolving technology does have its con’s, but many times we forget the pro’s. Through gay and lesbian support groups, individuals who feel unaccepted can now find solace and support from complete strangers who can empathize.