The new ‘social’

In this weeks flipped lecture, Alex Lambert discusses the idea of ‘social’ and how it continues to be re-actualized in contemporary society, not only offline but online as well.

Evolving from the billboards of the seventies and the text forums of the early eighties, Web 2.0 is founded on the exchange of data and information from one to another. Yet, What differs is that Web 2.0’s technology has provided a platform for a new form of social media to evolve. These online mediums provide ‘egocentric networks’- where everyone is at the centre of his or her own network and the ‘personal is foregrounded’. These differ from the past, in which the information was exchanged via a smaller network and did not revolve around a single entity.

What is also extremely important to note, is the active role we play in ‘performing’ our own identities online in contrast to how we behave in every day life. The online world allows us to edit, crop and dictate what content may be shown, whilst also allowing us a short/long delay to reply or communicate with someone that would not be possible in a face-to-face interaction. This also allows for more witty and playful communication to occur.

Alex describes this ‘sense of performing’ ones identity as one of the three reasons we use facebook, as it provides some extent of pleasure. He highlights 3 uses and gratifications as:

1. Identity

2. Surveillance: 

3. Sociality 

We perform our identities via the public online sphere very differently to how we perform them privately. With posts being publicly displayed we also see facebook as a type of mirror, projecting our identifies back for us to be criticised. Respectively, this control and insight gives us a newfound pleasure as we edit the way our lives our seen, and also how we perceive ourselves. This must also be stressed with the way we ‘perform’ our friendships, what content we wish others to see and how we want others to see our connections. I also found it interesting to note, that the term friend, has now become a verb in society, expanding from becoming ‘friends with someone’, to now ‘friending someone’. Yet with social media still a fairly new concept in society, I feel that there is still an awkwardness felt around the idea of ‘friending someone’ online. I wonder if this will change over time or whether i will always remain. In ‘real life’, we no longer need to constantly have our friendships validated by asking ‘will you accept me as a friend’, not only is their a possibility for rejection but we also have a sense of this fact without having the need to ask.

On facebook, ‘surveillance’ can be used for a large number of reasons. For close friends, it could be used to gather information that would be talked about at a later date, for example if that person was travelling. But it has also enabled another more voyeuristic social interaction, perhaps in the surveillance of people we have looser ties with, or we haven’t met all together. With the term ‘stalk’ now becoming a commonly accepted term for facebookers whom purposefully contemplate the online presence of another facebooker. Yet Alex describes that these online frienships mark a broader socio-cultural shift- a shift away from the family. No longer is our interpersonal intimacy revolving around family relationships but voluntary ones.

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