Conveying Credibility on Facebook

14May15

As the adaptable study of rhetoric expands its reach to the digital realm, the definition of ethos expands with it.  Gurak and Antonijevik say, “For the majority of online information–everyday information– ethos is simply the most powerful and important of the classical appeals, the one that Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 3.46.58 PMholds up best and is most explanatory of the bulk of digital rhetoric.”

The notion of ethos is more traditionally known to refer to a persuasive speaker’s credibility. Conveying credibility online requires a user’s awareness of audience.  Their perception of their audience’s expectations affects the choices they make when deciding what to share.

A user striving for credibility, such as former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis, will depict the best of themselves online.  Lewis posts pictures of himself with his own quotes on them.  His posts show his  community involvement, such as his charity activity or his viral video message to the Baltimore rioters.  The affect Lewis has on his following is that of a superhero on civilians.  “We need your help, Ray!” “Baltimore needs you!” comment his followers.  On Facebook, Ray Lewis has achieved a credibility apparent in the influence he has on the fans that support him.

Todd Frobish says, “Online, individuals can (re)create who they are, create anyone new they wish to be, and make that new identity appear credible.” Ray Lewis’s Facebook use is supporting evidence for this.  A user would never know, from viewing his profile, that Lewis was on trial for the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar in 2000.

11057333_10153312710010701_5222080737196591305_nMaking use of the open template of Facebook, Lewis created a new identity that contrasts with his dark past.  He reached a credibility that would otherwise be denied of him, if followers were aware that he could have a stained morality.  Though he appears to be a superhero, it is more like he is a “sinner reborn,” performing divine duty to compensate for his past.

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