*Author screen shot photo from personal Twitter page*
Social media has really made an increased presence over the last 10 years. Do I have any detailed statistical data to back this up? No, but it doesn’t take rocket science to see the ever growing trend that social media has. Award shows now even have hash tag votes that engage the viewers and make them feel apart of the experiences. Many restaurants and even department stores now give discounts if you “Like” their Facebook page or mention them in a tweet. Even down to the very degree program of EMAC, which cleverly intertwines in depth reading, application and analysis of social media behavior. I believe for scenarios such as this, SNSs are a wonderful thing. For instance, the Nutrition Hut, I shop that I frequent for breakfast, gives discounts if you check in on Facebook to their page. I’m not a fan of letting the whole social media stratosphere know where I am and what I’m doing. But in this case, I don’t hesitate. Why? Because there’s something in it for me? I save money and they get more promotion for their business. It’s a clear win win. But when do the use of SNSs become the poster child for something they weren’t intended for?
Too often we see people using social media to post half naked selfies, start twitter arguments or make discriminatory comments. What do these things all have in common? In the safe environment of the SNS world, it’s really ok to say what you feel, without thinking of repercussions, because technically no one us actually “seeing” you do anything. They’re looking at a representation of you through text, picture or video. Could this perhaps be the reason why most people use sites such as Facebook to “articulate previously established relationships than to meet strangers”? In A Networked Self, Zizi Papacharissi shows that people typically use SNSs to be reacquainted with old friends or colleagues, not to meet new people. Papacharissi also brings up the interesting point that married people and people in relationships tend to use social media more than their single counterparts. Based on the idea that you may overlap friend or associate pools with your significant other, this makes sense. It’s a broader sense of networked publics, as danah boyd defines as the space constructed through networked technologies and the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology and practice. The more intersections you have, the more chances there are for “imagined communities” that we either include or exclude others from, as Benedict Anderson suggests. We feel more comfortable to say and do what we want on social media, partly because we are already familiar with the audience.
We have become so attached to social media that we feel naked without it. As this Tuesday ends my one week fast from Facebook, I had to constantly remind myself not to respond to messages or wall posts. Even if there were not messages or posts from anyone, I just wanted to be free to browse my home page when I felt bored. Ironically, the fast started on my birthday which made it even harder! How was I supposed to show my gratitude for the people who wished me a happy birthday!? Only 8 people actually called me on my birthday. Could we be damaging the intent of Facebook and other such sites as a communicative cop out to show we’re thinking of someone by virtually messaging, re-tweeting, poking, or writing on their wall? While I believe that we should all use SNSs to our advantage, we should not use them to hide our true beings or a free ticket to be openly disrespectful. Perhaps we will be better off if we remember to keep the three dynamics in mind as mentioned in Chapter 4 (p.49) of A Networked Self: Invisible audiences (all audiences aren’t necessarily present or absent online), Collapsed contexts (difficulty to keep social contexts from lack of spacial, social, and temporal boundaries) and The blurring of public and private (the difficulty to maintain each as distinct).
Here’s an interesting dialogue about the effects of overuse of social media with author and columnist Margie Warrell