BLOG POST (MODULE 10): SAMUEL JUNQUA, How Social Media Can Influence Interactions

Alternative girl with piercing unmask a good girlThe social media image that one has often does not accurately represent reality. Social media allows people to put on masks of identity using “techniques” to sustain impressions. A dramatization of this concept of masks is presented above where the woman portrayed has a mask that is more conservative than her actual appearance. McLuhan elaborates on the idea of masks by saying that, “the maker tends to project his own image as the mask of the user or reader which he endeavors to ‘put on.'” This is to say that the mask allows the performer to see the world differently and to also be seen differently (De Kosnik). Masks are readily available due to the ease with which people can access social media. Using these masks people construct their life rather than document it realistically and live vicariously through their “character”. In social media people can be who they want to be but the unrealistic image people present leads to possible difficulties connecting intimately.

With so many people performing simultaneously on social media and so much content shared instantly it is difficult to sort through what is important and what is unimportant. This is where meaningful connection can be lost because people focus on the wrong things while looking over what matters most. Social media changes the experience of interaction because it creates the possibility to, “have the experience and miss the meaning” (McLuhan). As McLuhan says, “the mysterious thing about this kind of
speed-up of information, whereby the gap is closed between the experience
and the meaning, is that the public begins to participate directly in actions
which it had previously heard about at a distance in place or time.” The closing of the gap is something social media inherently does but the significance of this can have dangerous consequences. Instead of being present, mindfulness is lost when people focus on attempting to connect to people, things and events far away from them and forgetting to value their immediate environment. The effects are less meaning within interactions however more numerous they may be.

Black Mirror

This episode of Black Mirror exemplifies the way in which people are deathly afraid of the consequences of public rejection or criticism. This character in pink, Lacie, is penalized with a deduction of her official public reputation/ranking for making a scene in the airport. In her virtual world, ones public reputation is used to allow people access to things such as a plane ticket in her specific case. This is an example of how peer pressure can suppress behaviors that society decided is “bad” and unwanted. We have varying degrees of how much of our true self we can show to people depending on how close we are to them. The extent to which we trust someone to accept us is the extent to which we can reveal our true selves to that person. In one-on-one interactions there is the potential to be as close as possible to our true self. In groups we have to hold back a bit because you are not comfortable with some people in that group regardless of how much you trust other people within the group. In social media where content is for everybody to see we are the least like our true selves. We have to take into consideration everybody that may view the content and so it is naturally censored or adjusted for acceptance. McLuhan however, asks us to think of social media performances as “making” instead of “faking” although social media can certainly be used to create a new public persona that does not reflect the way someone is in real life. Although people create “characters” to represent themselves on social media which can be interpreted as “faking”, it can conversely be considered to be “making” if looked at from the perspective that separates the “true self” in real life and the “character” created on social media. If we can view these two personas as separate entities instead of as supposed to be one and the same, we can view these social media performances as a creation of a new entity instead of a false representation of the preexisting self.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your opinion of social media and do you believe it helps or hurts human connection? Why do you use it or why don’t you?
  2. Do you agree with McLuhan that social media should be thought of as “making” versus “faking”?
  3. In what ways (if any) would you say you are different online than in person?

Relevant Readings:

“At the moment of Sputnik the planet became a global theater in which there are no spectators but only actors” by Marshall McLuhan

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6 thoughts on “BLOG POST (MODULE 10): SAMUEL JUNQUA, How Social Media Can Influence Interactions”

  1. Thanks for your post!

    I believe that social media, if used in a healthy way, can be incredibly positive. There are countless area on the internet where we see this regularly; online fundraising is one of the best examples that comes to mind. And the simple sharing of personal experiences on social media with friends and family is a more common example for the improvement of human connection. We are now able to share details of life with others, without being in the same physical and time space. It provides an opportunity for people to record experiences, and share them in a public, but recorded, space, as a documentation of “memories” (Facebook does a great job at capitalizing on this).

    However, behaviors and attitudes can be extremely toxic, where people experience anxiety, dependence, obsession through social media. If any of these toxicities are rooted in social network activity, then I believe it severely hurts human connection.

    Overall, I regard social media in a positive light- I am able to avoid a lot of negativity that exists in online spaces, and try to use it solely for sharing of positive and good things. This is where I am different online than in person- I am able to select and curate my online image to ensure that I always seem positive, happy, and attractive. Not showing the negative parts of human life is the biggest part of how my online existence is different than my physical existence.

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  2. Hi, Samuel!

    This is an excellent post that you have written. I particularly can relate to the first picture where people tend to wear masks when they are online to perform a new identity, which is really different from who they are in real life. An example that I can think about is in one of the episodes of Modern Family, where in one episode the main character Manny, a ten-year-old kid, has a real-life data with a person who he meets online. It turns out that the girl is an adult and was confused by Manny’s identity because his online image is really mature. The point I try to make here is that what we see online might not be what we actually see. For example, when I was in middle school, I pretend to be an adult and speak maturely when playing online multiplayer video games because I did not want to be categorized as a kid.
    Besides from active performance online, we might not be our true selves even if we do not intentionally perform. This reminds me of one of Markham’s statement that online identity “is more an active choice than a spontaneous reaction” (2012). For example, I can chat with a friend a lot about everything online. However, when we personally meet and hang out, it is pretty awkward because we sometimes have nothing to say to each other. I think this situation happens a lot to different people, but this shows that we are constantly choosing what to reply online rather than be ourselves and reply with spontaneous reactions. This also shows that we are truly different when we are online comparing to who we are in real life. I think this is an interesting paradox of social media. We are usually restrained by social media regarding what we can post online because some materials might damage our reputations. However, we are more willing to speak online because there are no real-life interactions, which allow more freedom of speech.

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  3. Great post! This Black Mirror episode was very interesting and made me think a lot about social media and its effects on people. I think that social media helps human connections because people can be connected online and talk whenever they want. They are always in contact. However, this connection does not always mean that it is a positive one. The connections can be superficial and be harmful to people. They may build fake relationships and try to impress people and create superficial images online. I use it to keep in contact with my friends but I don’t use to too often. Sometimes I don’t like posting on Instagram because I don’t want people knowing about my life. I do admit that I create an image for myself on social media and try to maintain that nice image, which is not really my genuine self. I definitely have bad events and moods but I wouldn’t post that on social media for everyone to see.

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  4. Excellent work! I think I agree with McLuhan’s thesis, and that when applied to social media, we should think of “making” personas rather than “faking”. Nevertheless, I would caveat this with arguing that a person can still be “fake”: a person can still present themselves on social media as being more caring, more sensitive, more genuine, etc. than what they really are in real life, or the obverse–presenting as more harsh, etc. than what they are in real life. Nevertheless, there is still a “making” going on in this process, whether intentional or not. Concerning your first question, I think that social media has its benefits, and it’s downsides. Its benefits, I think, are that it CAN connect someone to individuals whom they haven’t seen years. It’s now become easier to organize events–if not organize, then at least to get the word out that an event is going to transpire. I think that it’s also now become easier to get access to different news sources. I get dozens of news articles on my feed, because a lot of my friends on Facebook post them, so I have access to information that I probably wouldn’t have even gone out of my way to find. Some of the down sides, I think, involve bullying and harassment. In the days before social media, one could leave the bullies at the playground or at school; now, the bullies follow you into your room. For some people, this is too much, far too much. Also, I think social media–as well as the Internet in general–enables some people to vomit the putrid contents of their mind more easily than they would in a face-to-face discussion; physical separation somehow convinces some that now they have the ability to whatever they want in however a disgusting way they want to say it. This is negative, but it can also be seen to be beneficial: the prescient person will see that person A is spewing nonsense, and so think, “Ah, never knew that about that person; I’ll keep my eye on them”, or “Ah, never knew Uncle Jimmy was a racist. I’ll remember that”, and etc. To conclude, I think social media has opened doors both for opportunities for good, and for opportunities for bad.

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  5. Great post!

    I think that Black Mirror episode in particular can be used in so many different ways as an example for the concepts we are learning in this class — great job using it to exemplify what you’re talking about! I think the episode in particular shows social media in a very negative view point, but it definitely raises awareness of the direction in which our society is headed if the obsession with image continues. I think for me, after watching this episode, my perspective of social media changed for the worse. Initially I believed social media was just based upon image and whatever people decided to post to show to the world. But after watching the episode of Black Mirror, I realized how unhealthy of an obsession and habit actively using social media is and that it has a pretty negative impact on a lot of people’s lives. I know for a fact that social media helps individuals connect and interact on a level above in-person interactions, but it also gives grounds for more judgement and criticisms, which I feel may people aren’t ready to be subjected to or to hear. And that opinion comes from my own experiences with social media and how I’ve strayed away from using it so often over the years. Of course I use it to keep up with my friends and family, but I guess I use social media more to live vicariously through others’ experiences rather than just put online an image of myself. However, I agree with McLuhan’s idea that social media should be thought of as “making” because social media is where I see that many of us are creating an image that we want to be perceived as rather than “faking” something that we are not. After all, we are (for the most part) posting things that we’ve experienced or encountered that we want to show off to the world — whether it’s posting pictures from a hike you’ve taken or posting something about some food you’ve recently ate, we’re showing the world that we aren’t just homebodies but rather we do exciting things and like to have fun. But I do believe that this in itself is also unhealthy because we sometimes feel the need to keep up with the interesting posts we upload and thus this creates a vicious cycle of posting to get the maximum amount of recognition from our peers rather than experiencing such things to experience them — it in a sense takes away from the experience because sometimes these experiences are experienced just to show off on social media.

    Personally, I present myself online as fun, composed, and happy. But of course we can’t always be just fun, composed, and happy. So I guess in a way, I only try to present my best traits online whereas in person, I’m more three-dimensional and less of this projected self. I think the best way to incorporate social media in our lives is just to remember that we aren’t all that we make ourselves to be online, in person. We have to remember that everything we see online about someone isn’t literally everything about that person and it is crucial to just not compare ourselves with others and what they post online, because that too will lead to more self destruction than good.

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  6. Hello Samuel! To begin, I’d first like to say that I really enjoyed your blog post and thought that it truly exemplified the content that was presented in Module 10. In response to your first question, I think that social media is merely a construct used to allow people to validate their existence. Yes, it is a great way to stay connected with friends and family and to share what is going on in your life with others, but how many times are social media posts actually meaningful? This answer can differ depending on who you ask, but in my opinion I think that 80% of the posts online are unnecessary and do not have much substance. In an increasingly global and interconnected world it is seen as important to remain connected with the world around you. The bad thing though is that people are beginning to determine their the validity of their existence based on how people respond to them on social media. Now that everybody is connected via social media it is almost like a competition to see how individuals stack up against the population. I personally think that this hurts human connections more than it helps because most of the time the connections are artificial. Sometimes people might like or share something you posted simply out of obligation and not necessarily because they were general interested in what you posted. Here there is no real human interaction and people are only deriving satisfaction from how well their post performs quantitatively in the grand scheme of everybody else who is on social media. I myself use social media mainly to stayed connected with people and to keep up with world news. However, I try to avoid posting trivial posts about myself or to like other people’s post unless I am truly interested in what they had to say or recall. I definitely agree with McLuhan that social media should be thought of as “making” and not “faking.” Creating a false persona of oneself is not good because it essentially requires individuals to think negatively about their actual selves. Social media should be used as a tool to share your genuine self with others and not simply for the need to increase your online popularity or to appease certain individuals. This can be hard however since it is very easy to judge people based on what they post online. I think this is an inherent flaw with social media and is something that needs to be addressed. I’d say that my persona online is different from my actual persona in that online I tend to inflate some of my accomplishments or things that I have done in real life. I make it seem as though I’m a lot “more active” so-to-speak when it comes to work, social issues, school, etc. when in reality I’m actually not. I don’t make up false narratives about myself, however I do inflate much of what I share about myself online.

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