Instagrammers, Twitter influencers, and LinkedIn specialists all stress the importance of your bio. Your snippet of yourself should describe who you are, what you’re about, and why people must have you in their feed. Some social media enthusiasts put their job title in their bio; others list their hobbies and their passions. Some type out their personality type; others tag their kids or their pup. There’s not a wrong way to build your best bio, but is your bio really your best you?
Social Information Processing Theory (SIP) explains exactly what it sounds like; it dives deep into the world of computer mediated communication (CMC). Because so much of our communication today is mediated through social media, emails, texts, and group chats, SIP attempts to describe how and why we communicate through technology the way we do.
SIP advocates for a simple sequence of forming relationships with others. First, we receive information through our CMC. The information creates an informed response in the mind of the recipient, which leads to the receiver creating an impression of the other individual. That impression then leads to the formation (or deformation) of the relationship. These three steps each include an important sub-part of the relationship forming process.
First, the selection of information presented through CMC is called selective self-presentation. When building a bio, the bio creator has the power to choose what aspects of himself or herself to share (job, personality type, interests, etc.). SIP argues that the ability to self-select eliminates all possibility of fear of rejection or contradiction because the selector has the power to publish the best version of his or her best self online for all to see.
Secondly, the impression of a person created by viewing someone’s selected self-presentation involves crucial attributions. An attribution is formed when we decide who a person is by what they post themselves doing. For example, if I share a photo of me at a coffee shop, I’m implying that I must like coffee or at least enjoy the aesthetics of the coffee shop vibe. If my friend sees my photo, she could easily form an attribution about me that says, “Since Abby likes to share photos of coffee shops, she must like coffee.”
Thirdly, the formation or deformation of the relationship as a result of the SIP Theory includes self-fulfilling prophecy. To continue the coffee shop example, let’s pretend my friend comments on my photo, typing something along the lines of “oooh girl love that latte and that wall art!” Self-fulfilling prophecy argues that I’ll then tailor my selected self-presentation to fulfill my friend’s impression of me. Maybe I really prefer a cup of drip coffee, but since my latte looks good in pictures I’ll order another one the next time I come. By fulfilling the expectation my friend set, I’m then building our relationship through our mediated communication.
Social media enthusiasts argue that your bio sets the tone for your feed. Are you an entrepreneur? An influencer? Does home design make your heart come alive? Do you have a soul filled with wanderlust and a craving for exploring the unknown? How you present yourself in your bio (your aesthetic) will either draw a new follower into your world or push them to keep scrolling. Our bios use words to describe our aesthetic; our grids use color.
Part of being a culture-maker and a steward of CMC is creating your aesthetic with an understanding of what you’re actually doing to yourself and to others. It’s totally okay to tailor your feed to meet the self-fulfilling prophecies of your followers, but are you staying true to you? Is the you you’re presenting to the world the same you that actually walks around your college campus and your dorm?
So yes, post that coffee shop photo. Take pictures with your friends at the beach. Create the best bio of your best self. Curate your feed to match the aesthetic of your dreams, but don’t lose yourself in the process.