Who knew that one day, sitting on the World Wide Web would potentially fit you into a specific category? That’s right, according to a new study, those who use the Internet can be placed into one of four categories – the Lurker, the Geek, the Victim, or the Internet Celebrity.
The research is part of a new book titled Researching Everday Childhoods. The scientists conducted interviews with adolescents aged between 10 and 15 to investigate how they used social media. Interestingly, they found that the youngsters were pretty up to speed when it came to Internet privacy and avoiding negative experiences online. In fact, Dr Liam Berriman from the University of Sussex, UK, said in a statement that this desire to stay safe online can actually make young people feel very anxious.
"The young people we spoke to felt a great weight of responsibility for their safety online and were often motivated by the concern of being labelled a victim," he added.
In terms of the four categories identified in the study, the Victim is perhaps the least desirable one to be. Victims are those who are very visible online, generally due to other people's doing, as private material might have been shared around without their permission. Victims tend to be affected by things like "fraping", being tagged in unflattering images, or even having intimate photos shared online.
Meanwhile, those described as Lurkers tend to mask their visibility on social platforms, avoiding confrontation between peers but still being involved in fun activities. Like many of us, Lurkers enjoy quietly stalking their favorite celebrities online.
Next up is the Geek. These people like to share posts related to their interests and passions, like their favorite bands or fan fiction writing. The researchers also found that the Geeks in their study spent a lot of time on projects, leading to parental concern about obsessive or addictive behaviors.
Finally, there's the Internet Celebrity. We all know someone who spends hours perfecting selfies for Instagram or enjoys speaking to the world via a vlog. These Internet users were found to highly value "visibility of the self", promoting themselves using Instagram, Snapchat, selfies, and YouTube vlogging.
"What is distinctive about these active social media users was the entrepreneurial character of their practice, with 'play' re-envisaged as a form of economically rewarding work," explained Professor Rachel Thomson of the University of Sussex. "By gaining an audience, young people are aware that they could capture advertising and corporate sponsorship. The dream is to 'go viral', establishing a career as a cultural creator."
While it would be impossible to categorize every single social media user into just one of four categories, the groups posited by the researchers are certainly relatable. So which describes you best?