10/16 Networks

In “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics,” author Danah Boyd’s main argument was that ‘network publics’ allow people to gather for a multitude of purposes on a singular, or multiple, platform to connect with the people next to them and all around the world. She states that network publics offer a different way to communicate with others, thus creating new opportunities one might not have experienced in other publics outside social media. She also makes the comparison between bits and atoms to further demonstrate how network publics differ from publics used to group things in the physical world, which is further used to touch on how network publics can quickly spread information and change what they are due to edits in code that happen instantaneously versus changes in atoms that take much longer and have a more complicated process.

I find no issues with Boyd’s argument, especially since my field of choice is all about changing, creating, and spreading information vis-à-vis code. I can change a problem I see in a website a lot faster than I can change a problem I see in myself, so the bits to atoms analogy is accurate and helps to better picture what the author means by network publics. Moreover, for someone who has never heard the word publics in the plural form and someone who grew up in the rise of social media, networks publics was a lot simpler to understand and accept that I thought it would be. I have been a part of a network public for years without even knowing there was a way to describe the opportunities and knowledge I gained online besides calling myself what everyone else in society does: a millennial. Continually, I’ve also experienced the blurring between public and private and the invisible audiences available to use on social media platforms like Twitter, so grouping that all under networks publics makes a lot of sense and encapsulates the many facets to digital platforms.

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Author Zizi Papacharissi in “A Networked Self” argues that the way we use social network sites causes us to create new identities in each platform we use. More specifically, she points out the differences between our individual identities and our digital ones, since SNS allow individuals the freedom to share and display themselves as much or as little as they so choose. She also states that the access to a larger social sphere influences the way identity is expresses and how people build their communities.

I think Papacharissi brings up some interesting points in her argument, specifically the part where she discusses how digital and individual selves are not twins. Personally, the way I express my self on Twitter compared to Instagram is so drastically different that if I didn’t have a picture of myself and the same username on both platforms, I don’t think anyone would believe that the person posting on Twitter is the same person who is posting on Instagram. I have two different personalities on each SNS, which I think has to do with what the author was talking about in regards to people putting on a show based on what they are trying to get out of each social media site they use. I use Instagram mostly to view other people’s photos, I rarely post anything and when I do it’s never personal and 9/10 times going to be a really dope sky photo. On the other hands, the amount of personal information I share on Twitter is astounding and I constantly retweet and interact with other people — something I never do on Instagram especially since my account is private on there while my Twitter is public. There’s something about the openness that Twitter gives off that makes me, and other users, put their inhibitions down while Instagram makes people strive for that perfect aesthetic to get tons of likes and confidence boots. Thus, I think the author was right about people having different identities on different SNS, but I also think that has something to do with the SNS themselves and less on the decisions of the people using them.

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As a digital media critic, Boyd’s reminder of an invisible audience is incredibly beneficial for me personally and professionally. Because of the anonymity SNS have, especially the one’s where you interact with people from all over versus just friends and family, it gets hard to remember that what you’re posting is being seen by a huge audience. For example, I don’t always get interactions on everything I post on Twitter so sometimes I forget the Twitter is not my unbiased sounding board and is, in fact, a very real and very public platform that thousands of users can connect and comment on. Remembering that I am speaking more to just myself and my timeline will help me put out more beneficial and meaningful information in my posts to help inspire and educate those around me. Moreover, it can give me a place to display my work and network to other user’s who might want to use my services. Just because I can’t see who is sitting behind the block of text they sent me, doesn’t mean they aren’t real and can potentially make an impact in my life. Furthermore, making sure I remember that my post are a part of network public and visible to audiences I can’t see will hopefully keep me more aware of what I’m saying and how I’m portraying myself/how people perceive me so it erases any potential issues that might prevent me from being hired later in life.

Boyd uses a couple broad terms like ‘public’ and ‘social’ that became a little murky for me the longer I read. I know she tried to define them as she went and spent some time explaining it further, but it was a lot for me to digest and remember with all the other topics and concepts she went into. I’m not sure if defining them better would help or if I just need to spend more time absorbing what I read before moving on, but trying to remember the terms she defined in context with the concepts and ideas she was trying to share ended up just causing a lot of confusion and time spent scrolling back and forth.

I think the sudden and massive out pour of reactions to ill-timed, poorly written, and just plain bad posts are a perfect example of invisible audiences. For celebrities especially, 80% of their audience on their social media sites are their fans while the other 20% is split between friends, family, and other nondescript people/products that are interested in them. After awhile, they get used to what they should post to gain popularity and promote themselves more, but sometimes they slip up and post something that people who used to be silent followers and/or people who don’t follow them period, start interacting and calling attention to an error they made. These critics didn’t just pop out of nowhere over night, they were always there even though the celebrity forgot was there because these ‘invisible’ people were not following the same pattern their active followers did. It calls attention to the public nature of social media that a lot of people forget exists because they get used to whatever pattern of interaction they normally receive and forget that their posts are still available to thousands of people. For example, actor Tyler Posey who is known for goofing off and not taking anything seriously online, as well as being an LGBT+ ally, came out as a ‘joke’ with a street sign he saw in New York. He thought he was furthering a comedic aspect he saw as funny, but, as an ally especially, people believed he should have known better to fake coming out — something that is very terrifying and life defining to many people. It caused the table to flip on him as he then became subject to criticism from a lot more people than just his followers, eventually leading him to put out a public apology.


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