The New Social (Networking) Butterfly

The Internet, specifically the use of social networking websites, is making our world increasingly smaller. Social networking is popular amongst teens, and college-aged students. This demographic uses these websites as a means of communicating on an array of topics and issues. In the past three or four years, the main social networking sites that have been dominating this new form of communication are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. These sites have gained notoriety and have attained such a wide user base, because they are so user-friendly and highly interactive. Danah Boyd’s, “Why Youth ❤ Social Networking Sites…”, explains “While particular systems may come and go, how youth engage through social network sites today provides long-lasting insights into identity formation, status negotiation, and peer-to-peer sociality” (Boyd 119). This new participatory culture has changed the way that we interact, as a society, as whole. Because of this, our communities are growing, because of these websites, and the emphasis of user-generated content.

While there are many positive characteristics and attributes to this relatively new culture, there are some negative aspects. Boyd states that, “by allowing youth the hang out amongst their friends and classmates, social network sites are providing teens with a space to work out identity and status, make sense of cultural cues, and negotiate public life” (120). This statement can be interpreted a few ways, but the adverse side to this, is that too many teens are getting too comfortable with conversing in this type of setting. In Wesch’s informative video, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”, he demonstrates how people are using YouTube to connect with others on a global scale, and that some users may choose to do this anonymously. Communicating, experiencing, and relating to others on varying perspectives is positive, but the adverse side to this, is that this can create a distance between the people around you in your immediate community. Yes, they are getting a chance to express and learn about themselves, but they are doing so through a monitor or a web camera. Sure, expressing oneself through technology is a valid form of expression, I just find it problematic that this is the primary form of expression for so many people.

When social networking first came to fruition, some critics questioned the validity of its use, but during the 2008 presidential campaign, this theorization was completely negated when young people mobilized and became extremely proactive in the welfare of the country. Twenty-somethings, nationwide, started to educate themselves and on a plethora of social, cultural, and political issues, and raised awareness of the importance of voting. This new passionate, authoritative attitude can be, largely, attributed to the use of social media. President Obama realized this, and used social media and networking to reach this demographic. After the 2008 election, almost every political campaign has a social media team put together to reach and relate to the young people.Image


4 comments on “The New Social (Networking) Butterfly

  1. “This new participatory culture has changed the way that we interact, as a society, as whole.” I agree wholeheartedly with your statement here. As I have attempted to claim in my own my own posts, this is a fact, and any resistance and diminishment of it is a disservice to our students. You’re right, it is problematic. But what are we supposed to do about it? Ignore it and demean it? Personally, I make a valiant effort to minimize my media intake, but I don’t expect the same of others.

    As much as I like to think I’m not an avid, and competent, user of technology, experience and feedback tells a different story. This past week I held student conferences. My students had the choice of meeting with me in person or online. If they chose to meet online they needed to create a google doc of one of their essays they wanted help with for their midterm portfolio, and we would use the chat feature. I was surprised at how difficult this was for a lot of students. A lot of them had no idea what a google doc was or how to use it with another user.

    All this time, I thought I was the novice. More and more, I am realizing that although I am not a digital native per se, I am technologically savvy. Just today I met with the accountant to work on the bookkeeping in the office I manage. My boss, who at 70 years old puts most of us to shame, told the accountant that when it comes to me and numbers it’s like oil and vinegar. The accountant recounted by saying I make up for that by being so technologically savvy. I hate numbers, but I can manage the software and accounts better than most of his clients.

    This doesn’t relate specifically to your post, but it really got me thinking. I consciously limit technology and only had it the latter part of my life, but I am, somehow, more adept than those that more regularly participates in social media.
    Despite the frustration and tension that came with some of my online conferences, there was a greater lesson to be learned. I trust that at some point in their studies they’ll need to know how to collaborate with their peers in a google doc. The effectiveness of my online conferences is debatable, but the value of their new found knowledge of the technology is not.

    Disclaimer: I’m pretty long winded when I don’t edit or proofread. Sorry, I am too lazy right now.

  2. When I started reading your post, I thought you would write more about the negative effects of social networking, since I’ve heard you talk about it a few times in our conversations. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the second paragraph:

    “Sure, expressing oneself through technology is a valid form of expression, I just find it problematic that this is the primary form of expression for so many people.”

    That I thought “there she is!” haha. I love how you like to communicate in person (or at least talk on the phone) more than other people. I like that you mix things up and put your own argument in there.

    Good post!

  3. I appreciate the position you’ve stated and recognize the very real concern about individuals failing to connect with their immediate community by way of online relationships dominating their social scene. However, to provide maybe an alternative take on this, it could be interesting to consider the ways that online social interactions supplement for areas of the world that lack access to cultural capital, including those people or institutions that can share cultural or social capital with isolated, ostracized, or nonconformist members of their community. It can also allow people to formulate niche cultures and connect with others of like minds and practices where the immediate community might not be able to.

    Despite this, I largely agree that people should be able to connect with individuals in their immediate communities while branching outwards to the larger world, but is there an order of operation that must take place? I’m thinking of letters that some volunteer groups write to prisoners as an method of support. In what way might digital communications serve as a kind of therapia for others that are harder to locate in the dominant culture?

  4. I’m a little sad your post ended where it did. Your summary of the ideas is solid, but I found myself wanting to see some more of your analysis of what these social media political campaigns meant to you.

    What’s the future of this type of literacy? Should it be taught in school, so that students can navigate this newer, more interactive form of discourse safely? Is it just a fad?

    Personally, I’m inclined to believe that social media will eventually just be accepted as generalized background noise, like checking email. Politicians and celebrities will become as PR-wrangled as they are in the currently more formalized fields, and the chaotic heydeys of social media will seem bizarre in the future.

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