Violence against the Anti-Normative in Cyberspace

Cyberspace has created a social network similar to that of real space. One creates relationships, invites them into their limited circles, has a “home” page with newsfeeds and updates from sources familiar to them. Suffice to say that it is a simulation of real life,societies and spaces. Does it also incite violence against issues experienced in the physical world?

A person’s existence on social media relies on establishing an identity. This identity then anchors your world on the site. However this doesn’t mean you are creating yourself from scratch since these sites provide a set of options to a set of questions they deem relevant. If those options do not house your personality, you may have to compromise your representation to fit into an “acceptable” classification. Failing to recognize a person’s identity, being, or forcing a certain behavior on them is a violation against them.

Sarah Ahmed, in her essay ‘find your way’ explains that in order to find your way through a space, one needs bearings to “orient” themselves by. These orienters then develop familiarity of your path, creating essentially a “home” where you are comfortable because you are aware of your position in your surroundings. She implies that in a world with limited orienters, if one feels out of place perhaps it is disorientation and reorientation that will help one navigate through to a destination more appropriate for them.

Similarly, cyberspace creates orienters in identity creation. This is the contemporary version of the classic forms asking you for a name and to select a title from “Mr., Miss, Mrs.” or to check your gender from “male/female”. Unfortunately the contemporaneity doesn’t mean they have all made the effort to be inclusive.

To study this we can look at social networking sites and how we are able to make our profiles on these. Social media seems to fall into four major distinctions: flexible communication (i.e Facebook, Myspace, Tumblr, Maybe Reddit), singular content based, focusing on self expression (i.e insta, twitter, sites of this nature), dating sites (Ie. Tinder), and educational forums (i.e quora).

The sites that hosted singular content and self expression did not conform to typical profile creation forms. They required people to declare a name, a display name and an agenda of their profile. Educational forums also followed a similar method. These profiles mostly grow their credibility over time through their content.

On the other hand, communication based and dating sites classified people into gender structures that failed to accommodate everyone. Despite being customizable in later stages, initially they only follow a binary format for genders. To be able to establish your antinormative self, you may check options like “other:” “unspecified”. Only Facebook allows one to clearly claim if they are gay lesbian or bisexual. This too doesn’t house the entire antinormative community.

Social media’s use identifications to navigate interests and to put people into bubbles. These bubbles construct their own society in a cyber space platform. Majority of the social constructs are developed through people’s surroundings of “safe spaces”, which are created for engagement and understanding. However, “safe spaces” excuse millions dismiss the claims of violence against the antinormative in cyberspace. Social constructs become an everyday thing since almost all identification methods are similar and “privileged”. Social media’s can influence the way people can think and relate into society especially towards the younger generation.

In addition, social media’s connect similar interests together, which relates to walking a path constructed by society, which Michel de Certeau mentions in “Walking in the City”. Social media’s construct different surroundings based on individuals familiarities, which creates a familiar path that people won’t astray from.

Categorizing each individual and placing them into their own “safe space” can be seen as a constructed path by society since these are paths people are familiar with and willing to follow. People sometimes aren’t willing to go astray from their personal interests or “safe space”, thus pushing those who don’t share similar interests out of their “safe space”. Similar to the concept of the paths, different concepts and ideas are rarely explored due to the bubble, which can lead to being narrow minded and also in a bit more “privileged”.

Authors: Faiza Uppal, Thomas Case, Zhuo Cao

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