Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the activity in your social network feeds? Have you ever been worried about anonymous individuals who attempted to make fun of you and what you have to say? Have you ever felt like you are losing contact with real life and face-to-face conversations because online conversations are just easier and make you feel less anxious?
If any of these questions apply to you, you are at the right place!
What is social media? How has social media evolved to what we think of it today? How is our personal information and privacy affected by social media? How are users affected emotionally and psychologically?
I am currently taking a class with Dr. Nicole Ellison, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Information who is a forefront researcher of social media.
In her co-authored paper published last year with danah boyd, Dr. Ellison listed three primary features of social network sites that have been prominent given “the shifts in technology and practice” (Ellison & boyd, 2013, p.3)
- The profile (Ellison & boyd, 2013, p. 4–6)
Referred to as the “social lubricant”(Ellison & Vitak, 2015, p. 215), the profile on a social network site represents an individual’s online presence on such sites. In the early days of social network sites (SNSs), sites such as Facebook (initially, at least) and Friendster were much more profile-centric, similar to that of dating sites. However, now SNSs are primarily co-constructed; users contribute to their own profiles and posts as well as to others’ (with comments, shared posts, etc.) that involve more than text, but also photos and videos.
2. The “Friends” list (Ellison & boyd, 2013, p. 6–8)
How have you interacted with your family, friends, and other users on SNSs? Has someone liked or commented on all of your Instagram posts? Whether they are called friends, followers, or contacts, they represent your social network. Some SNSs are to maintain offline friendships while others are to build new online relationships. We will discuss this more in-depth later on
3. Streams of user-generated content (Ellison & boyd, 2013, p. 8–9)
With the emergence of news feeds and media streams, traversing through different content and profiles has become easier than ever. One post can have multiple links that can bring users to different parts of the SNS or completely new websites. Twitter hashtags and Facebook trending topics also allow users to join in the conversation on what is currently most popular and see what others are saying about the topics. Not only users have been able to traverse easily on SNS, APIs have made it much easier for computer algorithms to take advantage of features of multiple social network sites and implement them onto other sites.
In my following posts, I will talk about four phenomena of social media and SNSs that have both positive and negative implications on human behavior:
Ellison, N. B. & boyd, d. (2013). Sociality through Social Network Sites. In Dutton, W. H. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. (pp. 151–172). Oxford: Oxford University Press.