As an online space, social media sites have contributed to behavioral changes, creating a web-based community that follows its own rules and regulations. It is intriguing to examine how these delimitations have affected our sense of identity and our interactions with each other in order to conform to the restrictions of these spaces. I believe that Facebook is an online space that allows and incites people to communicate through a representation of themselves that is regulated and limited. The web, and particularly social media, is a space that is representational of a liberty of expression that could not be found in many other spaces. However, the previous anonymity that was once highly present has dissipated through images, profiles and avatars, and the identities of web users are highlighted.
The individual, represented visually through social platforms, embodies the space that acts as a template on which we can project and publicise our identities. Rupi Kaur has challenged this normative organisation of social platforms by publicising an image of herself menstruating, confirming the restrictions imposed by these spaces for certain bodies in certain situations. Specifically, this is an example of a woman refusing to perform the normative gender roles that prevent her from expressing aspects of her femininity that tend to make men uncomfortable.
This phenomenological examination of our experience of these online spaces leads me to examine the “generation of new relations” creating new boundaries and accentuated differences (Lefebvre). The limitations that these spaces put in place by banning images of breastfeeding or menstruating women are affecting the regulatory practice of online representation through images on the grounds that they are too sexually explicit. Kaur here questions the normality of these restrictions in a space originally meant for a freedom of expression in which people must now agree to specific terms order to participate.
I would like to further these gender-specific limitations to consider the other constraints that are not necessarily present in the policies of these privately owned sites. It is clear that bodies will act differently according to the constraints of each social network; we have all been told repeatedly that we should always be careful with the information published on our Facebook profiles. How do those boundaries affect the embodied individual represented through a profile, and how do these fragmented online selves affect identity? Would it be possible that the bodies represented through these preformatted templates become reliant on social networks to form themselves, and identity performances (such as gender performance) will exist online in accordance to social media profiles and their regulations? I believe these questions to be relevant because the newfound importance of self-representations in social media with cultural, professional and academic objectives (such as LinkedIn) is influenced by regulatory practices that exclude certain bodies.
Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.
Zamon, Rebecca. “Rupi Kaur’s Period Photo On Instagram Sparks Change.” Huffington Post 27 03 2015. Web.