Facebook as a means of self-socialization

I was doing a bit of reading about the social psychology theories behind Facebook, and stumbled across the concept of “peripheral awareness.” Resnick (2001) describes this as the phenomenon of people learning more about their community in order to increase their social capital. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but perhaps this is why people spend so much time simply “browsing” Facebook. Although a part of it may be based on the desire to (for lack of a better word) “stalk” individuals, a larger motivation may be self-socialization.

Consider the concept of “people watching.” Although this may be in-part motivated by curiosity and a desire for amusement, another part of it is consciously observing others as a way for us to understand our own place in the world. On Facebook, we are free to people-watch without any danger of getting “caught.” This allows us to spend large amounts of time understanding the average and deciding who we want to be more/less like. Having observed and discussed Facebook usage amongst my classmates and friends, I’ve found that most people spend a significant amount of time browsing two types of people: those they are close with, and those they are jealous of or wish to belittle. Could it be that while watching the lives of others, we are simultaneously deciding how we will change ourselves in response to them? By viewing the trends of the majority, can we not better learn how to express ourselves in a way that helps us to become the people that we wish to be?