Social network sites (SNS) have become increasingly prevalent, ingrained deeply in the daily practices of many Internet users. With regards to the human endeavor to self-present on these sites ‘things are the same’, but in relation to whom we present ‘things have changed’. Three dimensions of online self-presentation have emerged from the literature proposing users either present ‘ideal’, ‘hoped- for’ or ‘real’ selves. This paper argues for an additional dimension the ‘ought self’, whereby users show who they think they ‘ought’ to be rather than who they ideally are, hope to be or really are. This argument is developed from self-presentational literature concerned with the social anxiety that may arise when presenting simultaneously on Facebook to multiple audiences (e.g. employers, family, relational, university friends, acquaintances) with heterogeneous expectations. Under these circumstances, where there is an increased likelihood of social disapproval, this paper predicts that users are likely to adopt ‘preventative’, rather than ‘promotional’ based presentation strategies, as they wish to defend their image instead of promote it. 30 in-depth interviews were used to explore user-presentation with reference to diverse audiences. Strong evidence was found for of preventative presentation and a multiple audience constraint. Subsequently this research contributes a new dimension to existing literature the ‘ought self’; a construct which is predicted to increase in primacy with widening demographics that lead to diversification in online audiences.
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- Any user can be any self they that they want so long as it is what they ‘ought’ to be: Exploring self-presentation in the presence of multiple audiences on social network sites