“On theInternet, nobody knows you’re a dog”, reads Peter Steiner’s cartoon captionpublished on The New Yorker on July 5, 1993 on internet anonymity, may betranslated as the ability to freely navigate among online cultures permitting a fluidness of gender to be realized andexperienced. The Internet can be viewed as a subversive space with liberatingpotential, where gender can be performed in new ways, innovative identities canbe imagined by online representation and gendered scripts can bere-conceptualized.
Paradoxical to this vision, culture has converged withtechnology whereby gendered and sexed bodies are generally highly polarised interms of gender, as well as highly homogenised in terms of what constitutessexual desirability. This normative interference within provisions of anonymityin a social net working platform of essentially utopist subversive nature,create discourses and rhetoric which are produced and consumed in the publicsphere pregnant with politics alligned in the corporeal realm. Humans aregenerally strategic at manifesting their identities to specific audiences andsocial media essentially provide a public sphere for self-disclosure,self-presentation and identity and ideological permutations within the mediumof prosumption, a continuum of massproduction and consumption of information and experiences. The increasingpopularity of social media platforms sanction the ideal conspicuous consumptionof constructed experiences with the explicit intend of sharing a selectiveself-representation where the performance of gender plays a fundamental role inthe distinction of spaces within the perceived public and private spheres, onand off line. Users generate content and make it immediately available forcritique and negotiation by the public, which intensifies the effect of theperceived public sphere. Likes or comments on posts are overtly consumed,negotiated, and reproduced as a meaning-making process.
Central to thisideation is mass culture, in its representations, values and norms that workideologically to speak to us about desires, success and happiness resulting ina scopophilic gratification.In GenderTrouble, Judith Butler suggests that gender identity is grounded in therepetition of acts hence gender attributes are not expressive; they areperformative. The ideas of West and Zimmerman add to Butler’s theory anddemonstrate how gender performance becomes embedded in everyday socialinteraction and whereby the vernacular becomes a space in which gender is significant.
Social media platforms provide a forum for regulation that is not subject tohuman memory but is instead memorialized online through a legitimization issuedby posters and commenters sanctioning gender performances through the visiblerecord of gender policing further prosuming ideas about “acceptable” genderperformance. Whatwe see, hear and read in our corporeal lives as exciting and desirable isre-presented in the conceived and imagined spaces of social media. As istypical of the internet, a pseudo-freedom and anonymity is a given, yetrepresentational performance of the user’s content is predicated onsignifications derived from the corporeal. So, within a potentially subversivespace, there is a normativity that persists which reiterates the ideologicalfoundations of identity that are historically and culturally ascribed.
Thisnormativity is particularly prevalent in gendered representation like theidealised corporeal body of mass culture, the virtual body is pushed to thelimits of gendered and sexual success and desirability as the hyper-masculineor hyper-feminine subject. Thethesis is an attempt at understanding gender performances projected from thecorporeal heterosexual norm to the virtual, within the public spheres of socialnetworking sites that permutate experiences and identities to achieve anelement of gratification through hyper contextualized sexualities, sexual orgendered deviances ensuing from a scopophilic pleasure surge anticipated by thepseudo anonymity offered to the user.