PRESENTING PERFECTION: CONSTRUCTING IDENTITY IN THE REHEARSAL STAGE OF ONLINE INTERACTION
Social media platforms such as Facebook have been understood to present new possibilities for interaction. Yet, there have been concerns surrounding the reducing quality of our interaction and conversation. Such debates, however, have not considered the pre-post dimension of online environments: that is, the preparatory work that occurs to online posts before they are shared with their audience. Based on real time recordings of Facebook Messenger interactions, this paper asks what the pre-post perspective tells us about the quality of our interactions online. The analysis is theoretically informed by Goffman and methodologically by conversation analysis and addresses this question with a focus on processes of identity construction. Specifically, this paper questions how the practice of pre-post editing (the editing of messages before sending) is used by users to represent self online and what this then tells us about the quality of our online talk. In presenting innovative screen capture data, this paper argues against claims that our interaction online is declining in quality instead showing the ways users perfect their online posts by elaborating a new stage of online communication: the ‘rehearsal’ stage. In doing this, this work reflects on the wider implications the affordance of pre-post editing has on users’ social media experiences questioning the impacts constructing ‘perfect lives’ has and the potential for creating ‘reduced’ versions of self within our online interactions.