Identity and meaning

What role does our own identity play in creating meaning in our lives?

I’ve just written a short entry in my other blog – in case there are any other people on campuses beavering away at blogs besides myself :). That entry was about an article I read in the Media Psychology Impact blog discussing the pros and cons of the under-13s being given access to Facebook which they do not have at present (well they do if they lie about their age). Diana Graber, who wrote the article, is concerned about the effect engagement by such young people might have on the creation of their identity. Would the mistakes that we all make in those years cause them too much embarrassment – would it “mark them for life” as the saying goes, if the mistake were enacted in the fierce light of Facebook.

I was particularly interested because I teach about identity/identity online/creation of identity online to some of our University students. I don’t adhere to the Freudian belief that our lives are forever dictated by what happened in our childhood. I think Erickson was closer to the mark with the belief that our identities are almost constantly changing. Erikson’s theories have developed into a general understanding that there are particular times in our lives when our identity is more likely to be affected, a sort of identity crisis that happens at about 2-years-old, then again in our teens, in our later 30s-40s, then again when our retirement from work is affecting us and, as we all come to live longer we will probably find there is another identity crisis later on in life (may be when we reach 100). Our identity is constantly changing and adapting in a dynamic interaction with the circumstances we find ourselves in. Goffman in his book Stigma and in the Presentation of Self in Everyday life wrote about the way identity is skillfully created in order for us to have meaningful interaction with the society we live in.

For me all of this only goes to demonstrate how important Digital Literacy is to people’s lives regardless of their age. How important it is that we help people to learn how to manage their online identities with the same ease that they manage their face-to-face identities. Is this just me or do others appreciate how fundamental Digital Literacy is to the mental and emotional health of society.

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