I learned a lot from this class. I feel one of the things I learned the most about was how many positive aspects came out of twitter itself. In recent years, I felt that most if not all of the news on twitter has been very politically motivated. In fact, since the election in 2016, most news I hear when hearing about twitter was about Donald Trump. I came into this course expecting it to be focused on Donald Trump’s behavior on social media, however, I found myself pleasantly surprised to discover that this class was about so much more. I loved hearing about the different effects social media could have on political issues, but I also loved learning about the drawbacks of social media. Hearing about what was actually causing issues within social media gave me a deeper understanding of the issue, as well as a better understanding of social media in general. Thank you so much for a wonderful semester.
This class has taught me that there is more to social media than just posting nice pictures with a caption. Before I took this class, I really only used social media to keep up with family or friends. I did know about the activism side of social media and I knew a little bit about the journalism side, but I knew nothing about twitter fiction and using social media as a fiction writing platform. It was really interesting to learn about how writers are able to create works of fiction on social media instead of just having to create fiction in the traditional book form. It is really awesome to see writers being so creative and sharing their works with a very large audience and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for their work in the future.
This class provided me an opportunity to explore the different aspects I enjoy about Twitter in a more analytical and academic approach. I have always enjoyed the storytelling style like the Zola story, but the chance to read pieces such as Black Box and especially the “I don’t usually do this kind of things” piece was incredibly insightful into alternative ways of using the platform. I also found the research pieces, such as the one on amplification particularly useful as it articulated and provided concrete data for the sentiment I felt towards the ability to go viral or draw attention through Twitter.
I definitely learned a lot in this class. It helped me to understand that social media can be used to share stories, information about current events/politics (but can also spread misinformation as a result), and it reminded me of the importance of social media. We use it to connect with people, either friends or strangers, find solidarity, learn about different perspectives, and can give marginalized voices a larger audience than was available before. I am definitely interested in reading more stories like #GirlsLikeUs or the Zola story, and finding how writers can keep their readers interested on social media, considering that it is not a “traditional” platform for storytelling.
This class taught me that a lot of the commonplace reflections I had about social media were incorrect, or at least were incomplete versions of the truth. I was a little skeptical of the power of online spaces and communities to improve their members’ lives because I thought of social media as an inducer of problems (e.g.: depression, anxiety, relationship issues). However, communities such as #GirlsLikeUs showed me social media can be a way for people who are highly marginalized to receive forms of care and support that they wouldn’t get elsewhere. It was also fascinating to deconstruct the idea that social media is “the great equalizer” that would enable creators to share their content and gain visibility regardless of whether they are well-resourced or not. In reality, social media can amplify these inequalities between creators — for instance, on Spotify, 90% of streams go to the top 1% of artists. The Zola Story is another example of how a user’s pre-existing resources (material and social) can play a role in the visibility that their content does (not) receive. Another factor is algorithmic censorship — social media companies can program their algorithms to give more visibility to certain types of content and not others. This class introduced me to many new concepts and I hope I continue exploring them in the future.
I learned a lot this semester about the role that social media plays in our every day lives. One of those things was what specifically makes something on all different social media accounts go viral. Also, I learned, and was surprised, to see the ways that authors have used social media in the past to get their messages across. This was a cool aspect of social media that I did not think about. I enjoyed talking in class about how the topics pertained to each member of the class, because social media is so expansive that a topic or an idea that is on social media can make different people think about different things. One question that I have is in the future to see if any of the things that we learned in class will grow during these times because it is hard to get outside, making it more likely that people will be on social media today.
I think that this week’s Gerstell reading was particularly fascinating. I think what I found to be most intriguing to me was the idea of looking at how laws should change based on the times. I never really thought of internet and web companies being underdogs in a corporate world, as I grew up around large tech businesses such as facebook, google, and even twitter. However, looking back, it is easy to realize that with Section 230, most of these companies would not have been able to thrive in the way that they did. However, I also think that the points of tension between liberals and conservatives today is particularly interesting as well. Conservatives are arguing that the changing of Section 230 will allow liberals to erase conservative viewpoints from social media. However, most of the content people want to be looked at is factually incorrect information. Does this mean that conservatives are against fact checking in general? Have they considered creating a way of both allowing Section 230 and the First Amendment to coexist with factually correct information? Overall, I thought this article pointed out some interesting arguments that I had never truly thought about before.
One example of misinformation I thought of is the conspiracy floating around on social media that claims the elites in America (specifically Bill Gates) have engineered Covid in order to harness more wealth and power. Going hand in hand, there is also a conspiracy that the new Covid vaccine will implant a chip into all participants which will allow for the government to closely track citizens. These conspiracy theories have no evidence to back them up and are very clearly irrational, yet many Americans believe them. For example, according to a yougov poll, 28% of Americans believe that Bill Gates is trying to microchip people through the Covid vaccine. Relating to the article we read this week, this type of misinformation is harmful to our national security. While the conspiracy technically involves public health, it is also creating mistrust in the government and perpetuating a divided nation. This divisiveness leaves us vulnerable to outside attacks, which is a threat to our national security. Additionally, these conspiracies have made it more difficult for a proper Covid response, which allows our economy to stay in free fall and our country to flounder under the pressure of Covid.
It has been interesting to see the responses of the various social media platforms to all of this misinformation. In my daily use of social media applications (specifically twitter and instagram), I have noticed that social media sites have been trying to disseminate correct information about Covid by including links to informational sources on posts that are related to Covid. While I think this is an important first step, I’m not sure how many people the efforts are actually informing because many conspiracy theorists are flocking to alternative social media sites, such as Parler. These alternative sites specifically target those with unconventional views on Covid and these sites make no effort to stop the spread of misinformation. In fact, they perpetuate misinformation.
coronavirus conspiracy fact checking article: https://www.bbc.com/news/52847648
In my Sociology of Culture class, we learned about the idea of cultural lags — when there is a cultural change but no language to describe it (e.g.: how people were taking selfies but didn’t have a single word for it until “selfie” was invented in 2014, I believe). Reading “The National-Security Case for Fixing Social Media” reminded me of this concept as there seems to be a “policy lag” to counter disinformation. Technology has advanced to a point in which undertaking disinformation campaigns is easy and simple, yet we lack policies to identify and counter disinformation. I would argue we don’t even have enough language to talk about these new disinformation strategies, because (1) most people don’t fully understand their operation, (2) we don’t have unified strategies to approach disinformation, and (3) we as a society are lacking in media literacy. For instance, I was baffled by the term “Syrian Electronic Army” — are our wars now transitioning to the online world?! These digital wars strike me as particularly dangerous, because, unlike “in-person” ones, they work by controlling people’s minds — a type of harm that is much harder to undo than strictly physical harm. I wonder where our discussion of Twitter fiction lies in this analysis of disinformation.
QAnon comes to mind when thinking about outrageous internet stories that have been given credibility by sites like Reddit all the way to actual media outlets like Fox, where parts of the entire conspiracy are referenced in order to paint candidates in a better or worse light.
On a different note, the article we read reminded me of one First Amendment argument, where the Founding Father’s could not have possibly comprehended the type of arms citizens would eventually be able to bare, just as they could not possible comprehend something like the internet and its complication with the Second Amendment. I also thought it was funny how the article painted America as the last stand, a victim of immoral governments in China and Russia, but America possesses greater resources than those countries and theoretically has the exact same capabilities as China and Russia. Who’s to say the U.S. does not conduct misinformation campaigns in other countries the way Russia did with its boarder countries?
I thought that both articles emphasized that journalism is and will always be subjective to some degree. Obviously, certain sources have different levels of subjectivity, but news sources will always be influenced by the people who write it and the environment it is written in. This concept stuck out to me when I was looking for examples of photo journalism on Instagram. On my explore page on Instagram, I saw a post by @nymag which had pictures of different memorials for Covid 19 victims. The post had a particularly powerful image in which little white flags, each signifying a person who died from Covid, were set in a field. I thought the post was an important one because it helped to honor the victims and helped to show just how many people have been affected by this pandemic. As I thought more about it, I thought about how many conspiracy laden “news” sources deny Covid and claim it is a hoax. They would never post a picture of a Covid 19 memorial. I thought this was a good example of the subjectivity in news sources because even though @nymag posted a picture that acknowledges a real pandemic, that doesn’t mean that other news sources will do the same or even state that this pandemic is real.
When I use social media, I first see what is trending (at least on Twitter) to find out what is currently happening, especially with politics. Today, for example, I read a quote from the Governor of Maryland where he criticized Trump. I often like to watch videos from the other side of the aisle, perhaps as a way to see their point of view (or to just get a good laugh).
In terms of photojournalism and social media, I think that images published online can be shared with viewers in an accessible and free way and can teach them about heartbreaking and anger-inducing events and can call people to action, there were a few videos and photos I saw over the summer to prove this. In the article I read, the author talked about how easy it is to upload an image, keeping the events more recent and pressing (because they just happened). Additionally, anyone can be a photojournalist, not just a professional anymore, although I think this was a thing before social media.
One quote that called my attention in Berkowitz and Liu’s reading was “common mythical narratives are likely to vary somewhat according to the society, its culture, and its values, while some archetypal stories tend to be shared broadly” (p. 307). What are these broadly shared archetypes? How come some narrative archetypes transcend cultural, geographic, and temporal differences? Is it just a matter of cultural diffusion and influence? Do these shared narratives point to broader patterns of understanding the world that humans share, or strive for? And is it really the case that there are “universal’ stories? Are we actually able to prove that or does this assertion come from a place of analyzing the world through eurocentric lenses? I am also left wondering if, or to which extent, Twitter stories may also be one way to manifest some of these (allegedly) universal narratives. I know these questions are not entirely related to our class, but I would love to discuss them!
When I am looking for new-related content on social media, I start with either a hashtag or a search of the team or player that I am looking for. The search bar is a great feature for anyone trying to find sports related content there. For example, I have found some great content for the Mets based on everything that has happened during an already busy offseason for the team. There are a lot of different people that have covered this, but it can be seen by a lot of different sports writers from many different sports networks. By identifying the news sources this way, I am able to get specific facts about specific players that I am looking for at that time. Social media has been a great way for me to be able to learn more about news and especially news in terms of sports.
A critique of wartime photography, particularly against Lowy and Winter, is that there pictures are no longer photojournalism, but photography. I see this every day in my instagram feed. Epic edited shots of mountain ranges are used to draw attention to climate change. Striking pictures of the aftermath of attacks or accidents seem more aesthetic than real. However, if raw photos lean more towards photo journalism, then shouldn’t raw writing lean more towards journalism? In other words, who is to say an edited picture does not add to a story in the same way a better description or more apt vocabulary choice adds to journalism? That being said, here are my two example of photojournalism I found on my social media.
The first picture was posted to instagram by dina_litovsky on November 8, with the lead picture in the slides being two girls holding an American flag in the rain. I thought this example of photo journalism came froma sociological vantage point, as the pictures seemed structured to meet the expectation of what election night looks like.
An example of photo journalism from a journalistic vantage point comes from the viral video of Kamala Harris fist-bumping Lindsey Graham; I think the use of the video is within the same vein of the judgement of whether journalism deals with actions such as this one, where critique is made on bias, whether something is good or bad.
I thought that this week’s readings really highlighted the benefits and drawbacks of amplification. The collective stories were a positive example of amplification throughout the world because they emphasized that social media can be used to unite people, even just for fun causes. However, the Zhang article showed how social media amplification can hurt causes, even unintentionally. Something interesting that the Zhang article emphasized is the idea that all press is good press. In the context of Donald Trump’s twitter, even though some liberals were retweeting him to offer their own critical commentary on the tweet, they still contributed to the tweet’s amplification. Although they were not talking favorably about Donald Trump, the twitter algorithm still categorized those retweets as interest and in turn promoted them to even more people. This week’s readings really made clear that amplification can be a double edged sword and that one must think about how their posts on social media might be contributing to a certain cause.
I really enjoyed reading the Hafiz twitter collection. It was interesting to see how a bunch of people (who are probably strangers) could come together on social media and write a compelling and readable story. Additionally, it shows how people can create stories and fiction on social media that are enjoyable, which reminded me of the story of Zola. I am unsure how the writers managed to create this story and I would be interested to learn more about how they did this– who picked the writers? How did they know how to keep the narrative flowing?
A current example of the concept of amplification is the social media mobilization around the blackout in Amapá, Brazil. Basically, on November 3rd, there was a fire in the transformers of a power distribution substation that serves the Brazilian state of Amapá, leaving thousands of people without power, food, and water for days in the middle of a pandemic. The state, one of the poorest of the country, had already been hit hard by the pandemic, and now even fewer people are able to socially distance. There have been no substantial efforts from the federal government to address the blackout and there was relatively little press coverage on the subject — way less than there would be had this episode occurred in wealthier regions of the country. The lack of sufficient coverage on Amapá is part of a larger, long-standing problem of traditional media in Brazil, which tends to give more attention to the matters of wealthier and more politically powerful regions of the country — perhaps because they’re able to attract attention by “achieving visibility in terms of audience metrics, thus demonstrating that they are already receiving attention and engagement and have the potential to attract more” (p. 3166). This imbalance in mediatic and institutional attention led many internet users to take on the role of reporting what’s happening in Amapá at the moment, spreading the message to people from other places who were unaware of the dimensions of the problem. As more users, including those from affluent regions, engaged with tweets and Instagram posts about the blackout, I noticed an increase in coverage from mainstream media sources. Drawing from Zhang’s work, we can say these users elevated “other actors’ (citizens, journalists, media platforms) perceptions of the object’s worthiness or significance” (p. 3162), amplifying the attention given to the blackout and its consequences. The increased mentions of this issue on social media and more traditional news outlets also pressured the government to start taking action — though it has been working at an astonishingly slow pace. The case of Amapá’s blackout is surprisingly similar to Zhang’s analysis of the role of amplification and attention in the Black Lives Matter movement — “it was when Black Lives Matter activists won the attention of the press through coordinated social media messaging that elites started taking seriously the activists’ concerns” (p. 3163). I now want to learn more about the uses of amplification and attention in social justice movements.
Taju Cole’s idea to make his fan’s tweets into a story shows how social media can unite celebrities with their fans in a much easier way, making connections even greater in the age of technology. I think that this shows another strength of social media because it allows individuals to connect and feel a strong sense of purpose in a particular community. Tweets are usually out there for everyone to see, so people probably rarely think that they will be retweeted by a celebrity, and they especially do not think that they would ever be used in their work. It also allows for celebrities to get to know what their fans want, which makes them more adored by their fans. This connection makes everyone closer, and it gives both the celebrity more access to their fans, and their fans get to be on their Twitter account, something that would make me very happy, and I am sure that it would make others very happy as well. I have seen other celebrities interact with their fans on different social media accounts, and I believe that it is another great factor that social media provides to connect people everywhere.
In the Trump piece, they address the use of the retweet button as a driver of amplification. I thought it was interesting because now Twitter has introduced a feature that asks if you’d like to add your own content before retweeting. Twitter is unique because likes and retweets are a public reflection of your agreements and disagreements, whereas Instagram are more tied to the individuals status. This use of likes and retweets on Twitter allows for attention to eventually be condensed to key characters. While there were key drivers on the far right that drove the attention Trump received, the overall attention was given by everyone, because the organic flow from retweeting to a follower seeing a retweet makes it much easier to receive attenion.
I thought that the article by Uitemark and Boy was of particular interest. Particularly as I found the idea that a city is not only a place, but a merging of ideas regarding a place to be interesting. The idea that the way social media projects a place can describe the identity of a place is something I’ve never truly thought about, but it does make a certain amount of sense. As someone from Los Angeles in particular, I find that it is important to think about how the city is viewed and compare it to how those who live in the city view it. One of the clearest examples for me is the Hollywood Sign in the Hollywood hills. Before the age of fifteen, I had never even been near there. However, later in my life, my family began going there on hikes on Thanksgiving. The first time we did this hike, I began to see the tourist aspect of living in Los Angeles and Hollywood. I think by using Instagram, cities could warp this power into helping out small businesses and local businesses, not just landmarks.
The article about Snapchat definitely interested me. I think I understand about Snapchat can shape someone’s memory. I have had Snapchat conversations (and fights) with people and forget what the other person said, so I have to guess or make it up. I feel like if I’m in an argument with someone over Snapchat and I forget what they said, I would potentially assume that they said something negative, perhaps to strengthen my points and to call them out. I am changing the events of the conversation to benefit me, since the other person can’t find evidence of what they said.
There is also a huge double standard between men and women on these apps, too. I feel like girls are sexualized on there in any situation/picture, whereas guys typically are not. Additionally, I think that if a guy sends a sexually provocative picture, nothing really happens, but if a woman does it, she gets harassed and berated (not just on social media, but in real life as well).
A quote that caught my attention, when reading Handyside and Ringrose’s paper, was “‘showing off’ is discussed disparagingly as a typically female Snapchat behaviour […] ‘constitutive process’ (van Doorn, 2010, p. 586) by which technology and gender mutually form each other is apparent” (p. 352). I am curious about this process — how does technology mediate the construction of gender? What about other categories of social life, such as sexuality, race, and class? How does social-media-based activism leverage (or not) this process of identity-making through technology? As I think through these questions, I am brought back to a TikTok compilation that I watched recently, it was something like “tiktoks that only gen z will relate to.” As the compilation’s name suggests, there are numerous ways in which Generation Z-ers’ identities were constructed through and by the digital world, as we are coming of age in a time of rapidly expanding connectivity. I wonder what this virtual identity-building process might entail for our relationships, personalities, and even social movements. Concomitantly, I wonder where people who lack access to technology fit in this new identity-making process. Would different levels of access to technology within and across groups in today’s society create/expand disparities within them?
I wanted to address a point brought up in the Instagram city piece about the aesthetic of instagram. I think it is interesting how you can look through the years at photos and see a consistent trend of filters used from 2014-present. Not only do people tend to follow a theme of “showing off” a particular life/lifestyle on instagram, the way it is done seems to be similar from user to user.
I also thought it was funny how Instagram and Snapchat are grouped together in the Snapchat piece, and Facebook has been thrown out as something only old people use. I find (and this is completely anecdotally) that the people I know who use snapchat to update their lives, sending snaps to new people, tend to be high school age rather than college age. I have found that the people I know don’t use snap nearly to the extent they used to; the disappearing act has actually become old/annoying.
What I got from the articles this week is how social media is all about appearances, no matter the platform. I thought it was really interesting to read about two completely different platforms (snapchat and instagram) and compare them. The key takeaways I got were that snapchat is a seemingly “private” social media platform while instagram is a very public platform. Although the two platforms vary in publicity, they both perpetuate a false reality. On instagram, people often only show the highlights of their lives and try to curate a refined and happy image. Although pictures often tell a more robust story than just words or fleeting images, the posts shared are curated to look perfect. In contrast, snapchat offers seemingly candid shots that disappear after a few seconds. Users can also type message that automatically delete after the recipient reads them. Snapchat seems like it would offer more insight into a person’s life, but because the images are temporary, often speculation can arise. Since users cannot go back to the pictures and chats to really analyze them, they create rumors about the fleeting images or messages and a false reality arises.
The Boy and Uitermark article shows the power that social media can have on how something looks. Instagram and other social media platforms have the features and filters that allow images to not directly look as they appear. From a business standpoint, this can be a great way to promote the best features of your business. Social media can make your business look more friendly, open, and can make any area look more lively for others. I believe that these filters can be a great initial step for someone to show off their brand, business, or product for others to see. The challenge will try and not make to too different from your actual product, because you will get bad reviews. It is an art to be able to use these filters effectively, and they can help your business grow.
For this week, I really found myself interested in the article on Syrian Refugees and how they were being depicted on different social media platforms. In particular, I found it interesting how the two different view points were being displayed. For example, I found that the groups that were for humanizing refugees mainly used photos and images of these refugees. In comparison, the posts claiming that the refugees were coming to do harm upon Europe and other places tended to use less photos and simply make claims. They tried to make their overall arguments seem more logical, even though their views were based on fear and paranoia instead of true logic. I personally found it interesting how both arguments and view points attempted to use emotion to sway their viewer’s opinions. As someone who grew up hearing about the refugee crisis, it is interesting to see how other people’s views were depicted.
Something that really struck me when reading the article about refugees is how on social media, you really can’t escape political or controversial posts. I was really surprised to find out that Pinterest circulates political posts because I think of Pinterest as more of a site for getting diy, design or cooking ideas. I think that a lot of people view Pinterest as apolitical, so the fact that it is political is surprising. When I read about how political Pinterest posts can be, it made me think about how potentially harmful those posts can be, especially since the majority of them are so negative and spread false information. I think that the majority of people go onto Pinterest for lighthearted reasons, and not political reasons. However, if someone who is not informed about politics and who does not participate in political discourse on other media platforms comes across xenophobic posts on Pinterest, they might actually come to believe the xenophobic content and the misleading political statements. They might not have the exposure to political issues anywhere else except for Pinterest. This might cause them to develop misinformed and harmful thoughts about international issues.
Reading the Welcome or Not piece was definitely interesting. It shows how images on social media can convey a story or expose people to events and crises that are happening around the world. They can definitely spark emotions in people– especially anger and despair, especially when the images portray injustices that are occurring. This is important because it allows people to understand what is happening around them and they can gain more awareness of current events without having to read an article or listen to the news, and the images are still just as impactful and can tell a story.
The “Welcome or Not” piece brought up an incredibly interesting point, where after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, anti-refugee Tweets went up. However, these post mainly originated from the United States, despite the attacks taking place in France. This is reflected upon in the Hafez piece as well, as social media has blurred once solid lines between different cultures, and allowed for glocalized cultures.
When reading “Welcome or Not: Comparing #Refugee Posts on Instagram and Pinterest,” I was quite shocked to learn that xenophobic content circulates on Pinterest. I know hateful media goes around on Facebook and Twitter, for instance, but I had always thought of Pinterest as an “apolitical” place where middle-aged female users reconvene to talk about decorations, almost as if it were detached from society as a whole. I now realize there is no such thing as “apolitical” spaces, even on social media — there are always going to be dynamics of reproducing or challenging pre-established power relations in the spaces we frequent. It’s energizing to visualize these power dynamics and even more to notice the different frames we employ to define different spaces. I wonder if the dynamics of spreading hateful content on Pinterest differ from those on Twitter, for instance, because the latter seems to induce more back-and-forth communication/interaction between users, whereas Pinterest appears to be more centered around images and not so much conversation.
The internet can be very global in some instances, but has been mostly used for people to see things locally. Most people in America see things that occur in America on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms. The internet allows people to see things from around the world. This can be seen when writing research papers, as the internet gives up a quick way to learn valuable information about things about other countries that would been very hard to learn decades ago. The internet has a unique way of bringing people together from all different countries to learn more and to develop new friendships. Although this is not complete, the internet is a great step to bring together countries from all around the world.
This week, I really found myself enchanted by The Story of Caroline Calloway and her Ghostwriter Natalie. From the beginning to the end, I feel like I truly understood Natalie’s story and point of view. Furthermore, her own view of social media was of particular interest to me. For example, she described herself as a ghostwriter. While she did help write the memoir, I think more importantly, she was the one to kickstart Calloway’s instagram account. I also loved how she remarked that she felt like she was moving into non-fiction journaling on social media. She tried to say that she was different than all of the other writing majors in her year, both by being a girl and by running an instagram account. Not to mention the way that you saw Caroline’s story come apart as Natalie got closer and closer to her. I believe that Natalie said it best in the beginning. Caroline was not as much a good friend as a person who had adventures. Caroline gave Natalie good stories. But instead of simply writing those stories, Natalie got hooked on social media culture. She found herself almost wanting to become Natalie. I really think this emphasized how social media can affect one’s writing. I believe that as horrible as the experiences Natalie went through were, they did allow her to grow as a person and as a writer.
The article that analyzed Trump’s tweets is really interesting and also concerning. I was not surprised to learn that a majority of his tweets, at least four years ago, had a negative tone, and I do not think that has changed, because from what I see, he still criticizes nearly anyone who disagrees with him. The author also noted that Trump frequently bashed the media, and again, I do not think that has changed. In a way, Trump is sort of an influencer. Many of his followers are diehard and will support him no matter what, they treat his tweets as if they are the absolute truth. By bashing the media and his opponents (and not his policies), Trump is telling his supporters that there are other more pressing issues to focus on, and he is/was perhaps trying to take the focus away from his policies, and of course, his supporters will listen and ignore his ideas.
While reading the piece on opinion leadership, I thought it was interesting that what people look for most is unique content and originality. When I think of creativity and unique content, I don’t think of Donald Trump, but as I think more about his twitter presence, I can see why and how he became an opinion leader of sorts. What has always struck me about his tweets is how negative and simple they are. Trump does not say groundbreaking things in his tweets and I don’t really think of them as creative. Although the tweets alone are not creative, the fact that he is the president of the United States and uses twitter constantly is. Before Trump, political figures did not use twitter to connect with their followers, however in a weird way I think Trump does connect with his followers. His tweets are often informal and speak to the audience in a simple way. In the past, political leaders have tried to seem very formal and professional, which I think has kind of alienated people. In a sense, Trump is original and creative because he has sort of reinvented the etiquette for politicians. Although Trump is informal and often belligerent on twitter, he does bring something original to the table.
After completing today’s readings, I have been reflecting on the process by which one becomes a social media influencer. We see in Caroline’s story that she fabricated the conditions for her to gain more followers who would buy her book. However, I wonder what the process of becoming an influencer looks like for those who do it “organically” (e.g.: YouTube celebrities in 2006), i.e., by chance/coincidence/accident. I also wonder if the existence of these popular media figures points to a more abstract human need for influencers — a need to follow someone from whom to draw new ideas and to look up to. What kinds of influencers existed before social media? I also wonder if more recent social media platforms, such as TikTok, have allowed the rise of different types of influencers. I hope I can explore these topics more in the future.
The way that Instagram influences people’s desire to buy different things taught me how the importance of being an opinion leader. Also, I learned a lot about the ways to become an opinion leader. I agree with their conclusion that creativity is a great way to stand out on your own. Based on what I see on Instagram, the people that make it on the front page are those that create Reels that are original and very creative. I do not know if this correlates to fashion, but I can assume that a new fashion design that is creative would definitely have the same effect to be able to get out there for more people to see. This is a new way to get your product out into the market, and I think that it is a fantastic idea for people wanting to join the fashion industry.
The Caroline Calloway story as well as the definition of opinion leaders in the influencer study struck a cord with me because in a broad term, they are descriptions of someone who is selling something they don’t have. While I think the connection between visual imagery and truth has shrunk a great deal, there is still the assumption that a picture holds truth, that seeing a person in a far-off place means that they were there. In turn, this allows that picture to be sold, an I-did-it-so-you-can-too type sale, based off of the trust that traditionally accompanies proof from pictures. We also see this with opinion leaders such as Trump, except he uses words associated with truth: “I will…,” and “I am…” I think this breakdown between truth and social media, or rather a building of new truth within social media has caused social media to enter into a loop, where something is sold or promised that cannot be delivered, and the same platform it was delivered on is then used to set the record straight. When the record is set straight, the same language or imagery that was used to do so can then be used to sell or promise something that cannot be delivered, and the record must be set straight again.
I enjoyed reading the two readings this week. In particular, I found Pittman and Reich’s article on loneliness as an epidemic to be particularly interesting. To start, I was immediately drawn in by the comparison to loneliness, a feeling, to an epidemic. As someone who is now currently living in a pandemic, I believe that I have a different understanding of the word in general. I believe this did shape the way that I looked at the article and the paper. Furthermore, the authors remarked on how loneliness was being compared to obesity in terms of how prevalent it is in the world today. Personally, I have always been very interested in mental health. However, I have not seen many articles connecting social media to mental health. I believe this really added to my understanding of the seriousness of this issue, as well as what we can do to fix this issue. I know for many kids in my middle and high school, social media was an outlet. I had many friends who when questioning their sexuality, became very active on tumblr and twitter. For them, this allowed them to find communities who not only understood what they were going through, but could give them advice. Furthermore, I believe that nowadays, with so many avenues of media and electronics, it can be harder to connect with the people around you. Personally, I find it hard to think about what to talk about, even with my friends. It is much easier to connect with writers online and discuss the writing process than try to discuss the intricacies of my plot with even my family. I believe that this article truly emphasized the good that social media can do, particularly for teenagers. I feel that many articles and studies focus on the negative aspects of social media, not the positive affect it can have on the world as well.
When I first read the Pittman and Reich article, I was very hesitant to accept their findings because I have been told my entire life that social media is bad and has very few positive benefits. However, as I think about the article now, I think about how they studied loneliness and not happiness. I think loneliness and happiness can be interrelated, but I also think they are two very separate concepts. When I think of image based social media and why it has decreased loneliness, I think of the fact that seeing your friends or family in image form can remind you that they are there and that you aren’t completely alone. However, the fact that you can’t physically be with them in the moment can be quite disheartening and cause unhappiness. I think if the authors had studied happiness, the experiment would have had a much different result.
The research article by Pittman and Reich found that using image-based social media is connected to a decrease in self-reported loneliness. However, I have to disagree. There have been too many times where I personally go on social media and see my friends having fun with other people, and I feel a sense of rejection and FOMO. I think, more than anything, social media can make people feel like they are being left out of their friend groups, leading to an increase, and not a decrease, in loneliness. Obviously, it depends on the person, but that is just my personal experience.
The Pittman and Reich article made me look differently at the role that social media plays in our lives. Especially while a lot of people are staying home due to the pandemic, social media has been a great way for people to stay interacted with each other. However, a lack of human contact can lead to the loneliness and lack of happiness that is mentioned in the article. In order to feel a part of society during these times, social media is probably one of the best ways to achieve this. Although the article says that loneliness is seen in areas within societies that use social media the most, these times could be making people less lonely because they are not allowed to leave their homes. Therefore, this is one of the few ways that people can interact with each other, preventing them from feeling isolated from the outside world. I am curious to see if social media would actually make people feel less isolated if the same studies were done today. Obviously, these authors would have had no idea about this pandemic during 2016, but I would be very interested to see if the data has changed during these times.
One quote from the Pittman and Reich reading stuck with me: “Pittman (2015) found that as one’s affinity for and activity on Instagram increased, self-reported loneliness decreased” (p. 157). This seemingly minor note impacted me because of the word “self-reported” — what if using photo-based social media platforms decreases one’s perception of loneliness, but not necessarily how lonely one is in fact? That is, what if social media changes individuals’ standards of loneliness to the point that going on some of these websites may even give us the impression that we’re less lonely, though we may actually still be lonely? I understand that the idea of loneliness is extremely personal and hard to measure — which might help explain why Pittman and Reich used “self-reported loneliness” and not some more objective measure of this feeling –, but I am still left wondering about social media’s potential for resetting one’s ideas of companionship or lack thereof. What might this speculated change in standards mean for how people create and interact with art that’s on social media?
I was shocked to see that the social media study linked image-based social media to higher levels of happiness and lower levels of loneliness. A quick google search links social media to depression, anxiety, and other illnesses, with far more studies showing negative correlation between social media and mental well being. The study we read equates seeing a picture of a friend smiling to thinking that they are actually there, but in reality most of the images we see on social media are not our closest friends, but an accumulation of high school and college peers, friend of a friend, etc.
I found that Hill’s overall perspective tells us a lot about how Twitter can be used to spread ideas that may have been known in certain communities. For example, it was known that policemen were unfairly attacking black men. But with the advent of Twitter and Black Twitter, suddenly there are videos which can be used as evidence that people who were uneducated on the issue can no longer ignore. The lack of justice when there are videos showing the wrongdoing makes the issues inescapable unless you are willing to put aside your own morals and ideals. Furthermore, before the invention of Twitter and social media in general, the only way for people to get news of what was happening around the country was through the news. And as Hill remarks, with the advent of smartphones, suddenly people weren’t only hearing the cops side of the story. Overall, I really enjoyed the points Hill made!
The articles this week really emphasized the importance of social media for marginalized groups. It was really interesting to read about how social media has become a social sphere. I remember learning about social spheres such as cafes in high school, but I never fully realized how exclusive they were. In the past, I have thought of social media as being used just for fun or to update family and friends about my life. I haven’t needed to use social media to protect my identity or life. It makes sense that marginalized groups have created a social sphere on the internet in order to discuss important topics and raise awareness for certain issues because they are excluded from the traditional social spheres. The articles really opened my eyes to how social movements in the new social sphere (social media) can really raise awareness and reach a lot of people. The articles also showed me how much good these social media campaigns have done and how important they are in fighting for marginalized groups. It’s interesting to see how the public sphere has changed over the years and I’m glad that social media has become a social sphere because it is a lot more inclusive than the traditional social spheres.
These articles really demonstrate the importance of activism on social media. It’s a way to spread messages about activism and share knowledge, hold institutions accountable for their wrongdoings (such as with the case of Michael Brown), and it allows individuals to discuss social and political issues. Considering the current state of the world (and especially America), promoting activism is crucial. All people need to learn (and teach others) how to fight systems of injustice and have an open dialogue with those around them, share information about upcoming events, and more.
Reading #Blackintheivory stuck with me because it reminded me of one experience I had at Tufts. I was gathered around a table with other executive board members of a Tufts organization and one of them noted how another club only had white members, to which our president noted “Well, so does ours…except for…” and then she looked at me. Such a moment was particularly memorable for me, as it was one of few instances in my life when I was “othered” — seen as an outsider within a larger group — due to my ethnicity. If at home I am seen as white and can reap the privileges that come with this identity, a change in my geographic location — for instance, being at Tufts — can place me into a category of racial otherness, as a Latina. It was uplifting to find stories like mine and to see that Twitter can a tool for solidarity-building within and among oppressed groups, which is an integral part of organizing for change. I hope to continue exploring this potential for solidarity-building in our class and perhaps employ it in my future Twitter stories. I wonder, though, if this solidarity would be more fragile, voluble, or short-lived because it takes place in an online setting. I am also curious about the consequences of this digitally-based solidarity for organizing — does it make for effective organizing? What do folks think?
This week’s readings brought about a great aspect of social media which is the ability to get a message out to others in a quick amount of time. It is easy with a hashtag or a post to interact with others in order to get your message across. Social media gives many people a platform to speak. People can see your post, so they can comment their views. This has become common on all social media platforms, and I think that it will continue to be used for this in the future.
An observation I wanted to bring up is how there can be a a digital counterpublic within a digital counterpublic. In this case, there is a digital counterpublic in the form of Black Twitter, but within Black Twitter there is also the digital counterpublic of Black trans women, viewed through the hashtag #girlslikeus. I think the examination of all digital counterpublics within a major digital counterpublic (i.e. Black Twitter, but also liberal vs. conservative Twitter, etc.) could be a valuable lense with which to view causes in this day and age.