The Origin of the Social Self

Personalizing our interests on Facebook, fleshing out our Twitter profiles, and picking and choosing the locations which we share with our friends on Foursquare: these are all ways in which we use social media and networking to create an identity of ourselves for the rest of the world to see. Anthropologist Herbert Spencer argues that naturally, we are beings that have “interrelated parts that operate interdependently”. With the increasing use of these different networking systems, this has forced us to segment ourselves into different and narrow identities—i.e. we reveal our businesslike personality on Linkedin, our popularity on Facebook, and with every new social site which requires us to form an identity, we create a new one which molds with the social circle that fits it.

Our relationships between social circles differ and so do the ways that we present ourselves not only to the different groups, but how we act toward them in general (and how we act toward the people who are not in any of our social media groups). The way Spencer makes his point, he seems to say that while we naturally have “parts that operate interdependently”, it is only through the recent boom in social media use that it is triggered and becomes obvious.

Then I found a scientific article from the Oxford Journals that studied the origins of social awareness. They discovered that the monkeys they were studying already had the ability to distinguish what they call the “social self”, or as they define it:

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