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Smart Self Presentation

Background Information

This module will help build smart self-presentation and self-disclosure skills. We define self-disclosure as the information that we share about ourselves to others. This can be anything from extremely personal stuff, to just everyday things — anything that tells someone else something about us. Not all self-disclosure is bad; in fact, it helps us make friends and build good, trustworthy reputations. Self-presentation is kind of like the sum of a lot of different self-disclosures- it's how we act around other people, and how they see us. Social media sites allow us to craft our own identities, and reach lots of other people at once, so presenting ourselves carefully is very important.

Social media sites, and other communication technologies, make these issues even more difficult. Many social media sites allow multiple audiences to view what we post, making it hard to present ourselves differently to different groups of people. Online technologies also make it hard to remove things we put online, so things can persist and spread.

It's especially important to understand what kind of audiences we have on different social media sites we use. Many different people use these sites — friends, parents, teachers, strangers, and everyone in between. Knowing what to keep private and what to share — and with who — is an important skill. It affects how people see us, which can mean impacts for our friendships, families, and future chances.

Introductory Questions

Audience and Audience Control Questions

Activity Prep Questions

Activity: Smart Self-Presentation

In this activity, we're going to look at a social media site and see how others are presenting themselves online, and the things they're disclosing. On this site, like on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, everyone can see everyone else's posts — whether they're parents, friends, or anyone else.

Your job is to decide whether the things the other users on the site are disclosing are smart or not. Are they aware of their audience? Are they keeping things positive? Are they posting anything that's secret, or that they might regret?

If you see that another user is doing a good job, hit the "like" button next to their post to tell them so. If they could use some improvement, use the "reply" function to explain to them how they could improve. You don't have to like or comment on every post - if it's neutral, or neither good nor bad, you don't have to do anything.

You might see that other people are replying to peoples' posts too. If you think someone else's reply isn't smart self-presentation, you can comment on that too.

After you're done scrolling through the news feed and offering feedback on peoples' posts, make a post of your own! Use the "new post" button on the top menu to create a post. Think up something that you'd like to share that would be an example of smart self-presentation, and use a search engine to find an image to go with it.

When you're done, you'll get a chance to review the posts you reacted to.

Any questions?

Optional Activity: Make your own smart post

If they complete the News Feed activity early, participants can make their own posts on the site that use the skills they've learned to present themselves in a positive light for their chosen audience.

Post-Activity Discussion

Review the types of posts you commented on.

Post-Activity Questions

What do you think are the consequences of poor self-presentation? What kind of self-disclosures do you make on social media?

How do you want others to see you on different social media sites?

Think about about a post you made in the past, or something you've shared with someone else. Do you think you would've "liked" that post? Or would you reply to your past self with advice on how to make smarter disclosures?

If you created a post of your own, what did it say and why?


(Content based on Fordham University Privacy Educators Program)

Compiled September 2017 by the Cornell Social Media Lab - sml.comm.cornell.edu

Feedback is welcome!