My most used word on Facebook in 2010 was “love,” according to the “Top Words” application. Down to my word choices, I’ve carefully constructed my identity on Facebook, making it match my most cherished self-representation.
“To me, it seems wonderfully fitting for you that the word ‘love’ is number one,” a friend from high school commented on my post. Ah, yes, I’ve constructed it well. After all, “identity is something we do, rather than simply something we are,” as David Buckingham wrote in “Introducing Identity” (8).
Summarizing Anthony Giddens, Buckingham states, “Modern individuals have to be constantly ‘self-reflective,’ making decisions about what they should do and who they should be. The self becomes a kind of ‘project’ that individuals have to work on” (9).
But what about those who are less fastidious about the details they disclose, or those that lack what Michel Foucault calls self-monitoring and self-surveillance? (A few girls got kicked out of my undergraduate university’s dorms freshman year for being caught red handed in Facebook photos, or at least holding red Solo cups.) The majority of my friends on Facebook are from high school and college, meaning they’re “digital natives,” or those born after 1986, but they seem to lack the critical reading skills needed for the Internet, let alone our classrooms.
In her post last week, Sarah Powers nailed this week’s topic even before the readings: “Online, they [students] are both consumers and producers of text. But this doesn’t ensure that they’re acting as critics (self—or otherwise) in the sense of critical literacy.”
Every reading in my grad courses this week has been about teaching my future students to read. In “Using Reading in the Writing Classroom,” Donna Qualley writes that she encourages ‘metacognitive’ reflection, in which students “read themselves and their work to gauge their own development as readers and writers” (123; emphasis mine).
Reading ourselves, it seems, is skill, possibly learned in college English literature classrooms, along with self-crafting, -censoring and -criticizing. Students are ‘reading’ each other all the time on Facebook, but that doesn’t always translate into self-reflection. For her students’ sakes, it seems the composition instructor, as Kathleen McCormick writes, does need to adopt a view of ‘reading’ that includes both the word and the world—Facebook included.