The reason that I get grouchy is that I hate how the risks that we’re concerned about are shaped by the fears of privileged parents, not the risks of those who are already under constant surveillance, those who are economically disadvantaged, and those who are in the school-prison pipeline.
20. Life is the theory; Today is the practice.
I’m currently reading a lot about the way teenagers use social media, partly for my thesis, and partly based on fascination. One of the aspects that interest me in this context is the connection of speech/voice and space in relation to the new possibilities of the internet.
I just finished danah boyd’s great new book It’s Complicated, an in-depth study of kids’ social media use.Teenagers are increasingly isolated by “overprotecting” parents. As danah boyd argues, a result is that physical space where young people can just hang out with peers is vanishing, and the social media platforms give them an alternate space to socialize.
There is also an argument to be made that thanks to social media, “youth as a protected space” is evaporating, it is changing everyone’s self-consciousness. Sady Doyle discusses this aspect in a recent article at In These Times, and points out that young women aren’t “unarmed” in the “social media wars.” Young women are often uniquely equipped to handle the different pressures; for them, the Internet is home turf, they don’t know a world without it. Social media does have good things to offer, creating pro-girl resources like Rookie Mag, Scarleteen, and numerous tumblrs.
Last weekend, Ebony editor Jamilah Lemieux, a Black woman, was severely attacked by (mostly) U.S. republicans after she mistakenly identified a right-wing critic of color as white. (She quickly apologized after realizing her mistake.) Racism ensued. I didn’t follow the mess in close detail, here is a good way to get a sense of it.
These harsh attacks on social media are common, unfortunately. As, Imani Gandy pointed out on TWIB on Thursday, it seems that the attacks and insults hurled at Black women/women of color are especially vile, and public support is rare, even from people who should be close allies to these women (white feminists, black men, the left.) That must be incredibly frustrating and tiring
I wanted to briefly comment on one aspect of the debate: The sense of entitlement by (white) guys to jump into discussions they are not part of, and/or the complaint of women of color (and other subordinate groups) about outsiders intruding into discussions they have among themselves. It is next to impossible to keep unwanted outsiders out of social media discussions due to what danah boyd calls the “affordances of networked publics” (persistence, visibility, spreadability, searchability.) However, I think it is perfectly reasonable for women (etc) to express the desire to have certain discussions with each other, without outsiders crashing in with their unsolicited opinions, comments, or hate. We (™) really have enough attention for our opinions, by default.
In addition, I think that people inserting themselves into discussions they haven’t been invited to violate another unwritten rule of civil society: Civil inattention. The concept, defined by sociologist Ervin Goffman, describes the necessity for people within close public proximity to respectfully ignore each other in order to make public order possible and respect personal boundaries.
Social media platforms (Twitter, tumblr, blogs, facebook pages, ..) are a public forum, websites that can technically accessed by all, which is what makes it so amazing. More often than not, publicly voiced discussions are open to the public, or at least open to followers. In order for the platforms to remain functional, democratic, and amazing, we need to respect other people’s wishes and boundaries.
danah boyd published an interesting post on the value of Snapchat:
In a digital world where everyone’s flicking through headshots, images, and text without processing any of it, Snapchat asks you to stand still and pay attention to the gift that someone in your network just gave you. As a result, I watch teens choose not to open a Snap the moment they get it because they want to wait for the moment when they can appreciate whatever is behind that closed door. And when they do, I watch them tune out everything else and just concentrate on what’s in front of them. Rather than serving as yet-another distraction, Snapchat invites focus.
Snapchat is one of those elements of the Internet that has the possibility of fundamentally changing the way we communicate. I’m personally not a user of Snapchat nor a big selfie guy. As someone who feels better communicating through text than through pictures, I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with that, but it is fascinating..
Anyway, a majority of our communication, especially on social media, is still text based. Snapchat – or the gif answers so loved on tumblr, other image-based communication tools – expand the possibilities of communication again.
Image-based communication might also create a more inclusive form of communication, as it gives people who can’t read and write well more options to express themselves in a creative, unique manner. It’s certainly interesting how Snapchat, Instagram, and (other) selfies reintroduce a corporeality, for better and worse, into Internet-based communication, an area that before detached human communication from the human body.
I don’t find it surprising that it’s kids, teenagers, who drive the rise of Snapchat. Not only do younger people historically always adapt earlier to media trends, kids today (the “digital natives”) grew up in a digital multi-media world, whereas people my age and older were mostly socialized with text and broadcast media.