Lincoln, S. & Robards, B. (2016) ‘Editing the project of the self: Sustained Facebook use and growing up online‘, Journal of Youth Studies, online first.
Now in operation for 12 years, Facebook comes to serve as a digital record of life for young people. With significant parts of their lives played out on the site, users are able to turn to these profiles to reflect on how their use of Facebook has come to constitute a life narrative. In this paper, we report on findings from qualitative research into sustained use of Facebook by young people in their twenties in Australia and the UK. We focus on the ‘editing’ or re-ordering of narratives that our participants engage in while they scroll back through their years of disclosures – and the disclosures of others – that make up their Facebook Timelines. We present our analysis through three arenas (employment, family life and romantic relationships) subject to what we argue is a reflexive re-ordering of life narratives. We argue that Facebook profiles represent visual manifestations of Giddens’ (1991) reflexive project of the self, that serve not only to communicate a sense of self to others, but that also act as texts of personal reflection and of growing up, subject to ongoing revision.