Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Fakebook: Renovating Reputations

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Fakebook: Renovating Reputations

Article excerpt

Poststructuralist understandings account for identity as a social and public achievement - identity is something that is negotiated within social institutions and within communities of people - and is shaped by historical and cultural forces (White, 2000c). The rise of social media has provided new contexts and platforms for identity to be formed, tested, contested, negotiated, and refused. And, while there have been some (understandable) responses of concern about some aspects of young people's engagement with social media, recent research has found that young people's use of social media is also informed, considered, complex, and responsive: 'a vehicle for young people to take ownership of their lives' (Boyd, 2014, pp. 212). Moreover, social media can also be used as a 'safe' space to 'test' aspects of identity. Aspects such as beliefs, modes of expression and identity claims as well as seek advice, knowledge, and feedback on possible actions 'in real life'; make young people's choices more informed, and their lives safer - such as in seeking peer advice relating to issues of drugs, sex, and negotiating social settings. While social media is - almost by definition - currently a strong part of identityformation for many people in the modern world, developing the 'Fakebook' platform was able to both use this inherent feature of social media and extend upon it by scaffolding very specific conceptualisations of identity using narrative questions.

School is a social and public setting in which young people can easily lose authorship of how their lives are storied. This is particularly the case when there is trouble and people in relative positions of power start to tell problem stories and make marginalising identity conclusions about young people's lives (Walther & Fox, 2012).

I can remember times from my own adolescence when somebody was caught doing something 'illegal' or against the rules; the shock of finding out who was involved and the thrill of finding out what happened - unless you were the one in trouble of course. In my final year at school, a group of girls were expelled from school for smoking beedies (cigarettes rolled with dry banana leaves). A couple of years later, I met one of 'those girls' again through a man I was dating at the time. It took generosity from her side to overlook my initial disdain and prejudice against her as 'just one of the bad girls from the mines'1. As it turned out, our friendship lasted longer than my interest in the man who introduced us! More interestingly though, I realise now that when this girl got into trouble, the rest of us all forgot that she was, among other things, a smart student and successful hockey player - well-known 'truths' until they were replaced by the far more compelling 'truth' that she was after all just one of the 'bad girls from the mines'. Never mind the fact that I was already at that stage also secretly smoking cigarettes in my hostel room late at night.

On speculating why this did not make me a 'bad girl' too, two things became clear to me: first, I was never caught and that particular story about me was never brought to the attention and/or circulated by the people who had the power to revise learners' stories at our school. Second, even when I was caught for something much more serious later in the same year, I was relationally too privileged for the people in power to consider revising the appropriate version of 'truth' about me. I was from a 'good family' (my father was a director in the Department of Education), and was friends with students from influential families, families with long histories of participation and funding in the school. I shudder to speculate about the effect a 'bad girl' reputation at that stage of my life could have had on my fragile understandings of the world and already tenuous relationships with people in positions of power.

Concerns in times of school trou ble

These were the stories that came back to me when I met with each of the three families that were referred to me for 'outside counselling'2. …

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