Fixity: Identity, Time and Dur on Facebook

  • Richard Harper Microsoft Research Cambridge
  • Eryn Whitworth University of Texas, Austin
  • Ruth Page University of Leicester, Leicester


The purpose of social network services (SNS) is to enable new ways of making contact and staying in touch. The finessed use of SNS can enable people to manage their social connections with fluidity; enabling change of social grouping and evolving identity. Key to this performance is that it is enacted through time. Certain aspects of SNS may of course create a fixing in identity and its performance, trapping people, for example, in a display of identity in the past that they have come to regret. In this paper, we shall report evidence that suggests that the temporal experiencing of Facebook with regard to this aspect of time and identity needs to be placed alongside another feature of the way the service is used. This feature leads people to feel as if they are always acting in the now and that their history - as well as that of others they connect to seems to disappear from view. We shall suggest that the performance of identity through time is thus constrained. Users seek but cannot find adequate ways of adjusting their identity by crafting past and future performances outside the envelope of identity in the present, in the now, the one facilitated and emphasized by Facebook design and use patterns.
How to Cite
Harper, R., Whitworth, E., & Page, R. (2012). Fixity: Identity, Time and Dur on Facebook. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2.