Essay Submission

Disclaimer: I’m not sure If I’m meant to post this on here! The assessment said Blog entry link, so I’m posting it anyway.

Social media has become an integral part everyday life for me and my peers. Whether its having Facebook sitting idly in the background as I try to study or scrolling through Instagram before bed, I will always have a device that can access the internet on me. This heavy reliance on the web is a product of a generation growing up with Web 2.0. I refer to Web 2.0 as the era of a more interactive and collaborative online space for users evolving from the Web 1.0’s restricted purpose of ‘reading and watching content’ (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). This interactivity inspired user generated content and the rise of prosumers, consumers who produce and share their own cultural works online (Sokolova 2012). Social networking sites and Blogs presented a forum for people to share their opinions and thoughts on a topic of their choosing from mundane personal experiences (usually in the form of a meme) to passionate manifestos and digital activism. While the Web might be more democratic than the capitalist system existing outside the Web, not all users are equal (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). My reflective essay will explore the way that ‘likes’ and ‘post interactions’ create a ranking system that ultimately influences my online behaviour.

 

In order to analyse my online behaviour I monitored my online media use over a period of a week. I recorded my findings at the end of the day and found routines; checking my PTV and weather app in the morning, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed on the train to kill time, having a Facebook tab open on my laptop while I focused on other things. Posed with the question ‘are you a publisher, author or distributor?’, I realised that my media practices fit into a different category, one that I call an ‘observer’. As an observer, I would find entertainment in observing content from my peers and the pages that I follow on social media, however I myself would not post or share content. If I felt the desire to share I would do so privately over WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger rather than post publicly onto my, or my friend’s timeline. It’s important to note that I still consider myself an active consumer in online media despite categorising myself as an observer. I think, reflect and learn whilst observing online content and will often bring up what I’ve read with my peers in person. As I became more aware of my online media practices, I also began to be a bit more intentional. Intentionality didn’t change my behaviour exactly, but it made me critically analyse why it is that I have these behaviours.

 

My documentation not only enabled me categorise myself as an observer, it helped me to understand why. The reason I didn’t post very often on my social media channels was the fear that I wouldn’t receive many likes or interactions. When I came to that realisation I thought I sounded superficial, disappointed in myself that I needed virtual validation. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) explained why it was that I was feeling this way. In their article ‘Users of the world unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media’, the authors explore the idea that the public actions that people take online builds into this cyber persona which people believe reflect who they are. When people react to posts, its public confirmation and approval of these online personas and their corresponding opinions and content. When I don’t receive many likes on a post, it discourages me from posting again. Do people not care what I have to say? Is my content not good enough? Do people not like my online persona? The phrase ‘If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it’ comes to mind. In my critical spiral, I began to notice that likes were a form of currency on social media. Facebook’s algorithms display the most popular posts higher above posts that don’t receive many likes or post interactions on the newsfeed.


Something that I noticed about my online practice was that I would always open the Facebook app before the Instagram app and spend a longer time on the former.

Kaplan and Haenlein analyse Media Richness Theory which suggests that different media possess varying levels of richness. This theory is demonstrated in my choice to spend my 1.5 gigs of data on Facebook and not Instagram. I believe Facebook is a richer media due to it’s wide variety of content; news articles, photos, videos, my friend’s posts, memes.

 

Documenting and analysing my online media use was confronting but also essential. Due to the sheer amount of time that I spend consuming social media, being intentional is a necessity. I think it’s interesting that although Web 2.0 presented opportunities for users to be equal and to get their voices out there, a system of ranking still developed. I would’ve liked to explore examples of popular content that does receive post interactions and the users behind the posts. How often they post, what they post about, if the content came from another user would it still receive the same post interactions? I believe that a survey on how many people (in the class) believe that their online presence is self-reflective would have made my essay stronger to reveal a more universal truth that extends beyond my own practice. From my practice I found that the Web and my online persona doesn’t exist as a separate entity or a parallel universe, but as an extension of who I am. My fears of rejection which I thought only existed in ‘real-life’ manifested in my online behaviour. I do find however that this hesitancy to post doesn’t extend to my professional practice as a social media manager. In my blog posts I mention that posting for a brand/organisation is creating an entirely new persona and therefore failing to receive post interactions and positive feedback will not affect my self-perception. Examples of popular content would’ve been useful in this instance as well as it would’ve allowed me to strengthen my own content creation as a social media manager. Overall, the process of analysing my own media use has given me insight into what I can do with online media, as myself and as a social media manager.

 


References

Hinton, S. and Hjorth, L., Understanding Social Media. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.

Kaplan, A.M. and Haenlein, M., 2010. Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons, 53(1), pp.59-68.

Sokolova, N., 2012. Co-opting Transmedia Consumers: User Content as Entertainment or ‘Free Labour’? The Cases of STALKER. and Metro 2033. Europe-Asia Studies, 64(8), pp.1565-1583.

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