عنوان مقاله [English]
نویسنده [English]چکیده [English]
Received in: 11/17/2012
Accepted in: 11/02/2014
Introduction: With the emergence and development of ICTs and the context in which Internet and virtual social networks function, people, in general and the youth in Isfahan in particular, are increasingly facing different and diverse sources of identification issues. Each identity, in turn and on the one hand, brings about its own specific set of values and lifestyle. On the other hand, boundaries of identity formation, such as the family, neighborhood, ethnicity and nationality are forced to become enormously flexible. With the development of virtual space, universalization of particular issues, and interconnectedness of the world, the youth are even becoming more and more confused as to how to choose one or a set of consistent and united identities. Their identity has become what experts call "bricolage identity." Therefore, what we see now is not a normal and traditional transition of identity from one generation to another. Rather it is a transitional period accompanied by identity crises. This in turn, can result in further and subsequent identity issues.
Problematic of Research: Individual and social consequences of development of virtual social networks such as Facebook among Iranian youth constitute increasingly important research issues. Yet experts and social scientists, especially sociologists, pay little attention to it. This study intends to explore the relationship between using Facebook and being active in carrying a modern identity. We want to know what role Facebook plays in the construction of modern identity of its young users in Iran and especially in the city of Isfahan.
Theory and method: Theoretically, it can be argued that Internet has the capability of empowering individuals to develop new understanding about their selves in the new world. Such situation creates new horizons for individuals which could be totally invisible in the real world or do not have any material existence. However, what makes virtual social networks attractive is their ability to provide individuals with an environment in which they can embark upon a process of "identity statement", namely, the public announcement that an individual makes about his or her identity in direct or indirect ways. The direct way could be seen in writing a biography. The indirect way, however, which is more common, entails expressions that users give about themselves while interacting with others. For example, individual users provide lists of group memberships or express specific tastes and priorities regarding everyday life hobbies.
Putting the above points in perspective, this study methodologically, adopted a mixed-method approach to study such phenomena. We began our study first by a quantitative survey research and for further explorations; we used a quantitative study as well. In the quantitative part, we used an internet-based questionnaire to collect our online survey data. Research population in this part included young citizens of Isfahan who were Facebook users. We used a non-probability sampling method based on availability of Facebook users in order to finalize our sampling. Overall, we sent out the questionnaire to more than 5000 potential respondents. Eventually, 424 completed questionnaires returned to us and we launched our analysis on that basis to close this part of the research. In the qualitative part, we first selected 13 young users of Facebook before reaching to informational saturation and then used semi-structured interviews to collect necessary information for this part of the research. We used purposeful sampling here to select research subjects, and used inclusion criteria such as 1- being between the ages of 18 to 30 years old; and, 2- having at least two years experience as a Facebook user.
Findings and discussions: The results of the study in the quantitative part indicate that there is a significant and positive relationship between Facebook membership period, the amount and frequency of usage, the amount of participation and activity, and taking Facebook's content as real. Such real content meanwhile expresses a modern identity. In addition, in the qualitative part we realized that Facebook has a self-revealing ability, which helps its users to present their true selves, true likes and dislikes. By doing so, they can experience some kind of emotional discharge which has therapeutic function. Other elements of modern identity, according to these findings, include acquiring up-to-date abilities, which function as a new window to the global space, and experiencing a feeling of cosmopolitanism. By interacting in Facebook, young users reduce the gap between their real self and their ideal self, emphasizing a series of positive characteristics about themselves. Such characteristics are more socially acceptable, and can contribute to their chance of being rated as popular among peers. Therefore, there is a process of prioritizing personal characteristics, which can be described as "selective presentation of identity". Internet in general; and, virtual social networks in particular, reduce the importance of visual signs, and provide some sort of unknown ability in their environment. Users can use such environment to form and develop their relationships in communities that are cut from reality. This provides an exceptional opportunity for the youth to experience an identity in innovative ways. During this process, others' reflections about the question of who are we? and peer comparisons are of crucial importance. Experiences such as separation of space and time, making intimate and friendly contacts with the diversified others who share a sense of mutual commitment in the relationship, trust in others while taking into consideration potential dangers and challenges, freedom, independence, personal empowerment, fluidity, and constant reflectivity, all are elements of modern identity that the youth create and experience in Facebook.