You’re either a lurker, a geek, an internet celebrity or a victim.
That’s according to scientists who claim that we fall into one of four ’online personalities’ when using sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
And according to their research, more young people are opting to be ’lurkers’ and ’geeks’ by reducing what they share online in an effort to avoid being a ’victim’.
The study was led by Dr Liam Berriman and Professor Rachel Thomson from the University of Sussex. The scientists studied the online activity and visibility of children aged between 10 and 15.
Dr Berriman said: ’Our research found that concerns about staying safe online created an atmosphere of intense anxiety for young people, even if they had not directly experienced any problems themselves.
The young people we spoke to felt a great weight of responsibility for their safety online and were often motivated by the concern of being labelled a victim.’ The desire for safety and protection from the dangers of the web has led many young people to experiment with invisibility online.
The academics used two measures to find their groups: participation and visibility.
The geek has high participation but low visibility; the internet celeb has high participation and high visibility; the victim with low participation but high visibility; and the lurker who has low participation and low visibility.
The ’lurker’ is described as someone who avoids confrontation in public forums and prefers closed group chats. They are also prone to stalking their favourite music bands online.
The ’geek’, meanwhile, uses invisibility to anonymously share and promote their amateur media creations online, such as music videos or fan fiction writing.
The academics described how the geeks’ long hours of labour on projects risked parental concern that their behaviour was obsessive or addictive.
While there has been a lot of negative media coverage around teenagers’ interaction with social media, our findings are more hopeful that teenagers are responsible users of social media, are very conscious of the dangers and make considerable efforts to protect themselves against those risks,’ said Dr Berriman.
Despite the moves being made by some young people to live a safe and secure cyber existence, some young adults still find themselves in trouble.
The ’victim’ group includes cyber-bullying sufferers and also people left to suffer personal exposure and shame following the creation and display of intimate material.
The highly-visible victim can be a consequence of being part of the fourth group - the internet celeb.
The ’internet celeb’ is fuelled by a desire to make a living from social media and offers complete transparency into their lives through vlogs or other social media platforms. These people are highly active and highly-visible and, if they are not careful, can result in victimisation.
Professor Rachel Thomson, professor of childhood and youth studies at the University of Sussex, said: ’What is distinctive about these active social media users was the entrepreneurial character of their practice, with ’play’ re-envisaged as a form of economically rewarding work.
By gaining an audience, young people are aware that they could capture advertising and corporate sponsorship. The dream is to ’go viral’, establishing a career as a cultural creator.’
The research has been published in the book titled Researching Everyday Childhoods.