Archive for the ‘facebook’ Tag

“What Do Metrics Want?” Summary and Reflection

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

facebook notification

On Sunday, November 9, Computational Culture published Ben Grosser’s article “What Do Metrics Want? How Quantification Prescribes Social Interaction on Facebook”. In this piece, Grosser provides a critique of the impact Facebook’s metric-centric interface has upon its users.

Here is my breakdown of his main arguments:

– Capitalist ideology has reimagined the intrinsic human desire for personal worth as the desire for more.

– Quantification (which he defines as “the reduction and enumeration of things and energies and practices and perceptions into uniform parts”) provides a cohesive system for measuring fulfillment in terms of growth, hence enforcing the capitalist valorization of more.

money graph

– On sites like Facebook, quantification manifests in the form of front-facing metrics, which enumerate users’ conceptions of social capital (ie Friend Count, Like Count), and frame the object of sociality in terms of accumulation.

– Metricated sociality, in combination with the prevailing culture of social surveillance, results in “the graphopticon”: “a self-induced audit within social networks… where the many watch the metrics of the many”.

– The graphopticon encourages users to measure their self-worth against that of their peers, in terms of metric performance. This circumstance drives competition and pressures users to constantly maintain an image of social success, characterized by high-performing metrics.

– Facebook’s ultimate agenda is to drive user activity within the site. Visible metrics support this agenda by 4 main strategies: competition, emotional manipulation, reaction, and homogenization.

  1. Competition: the desire to metrically succeed one’s peers drives activity
  2. Emotional manipulation: the social anxiety of anticipating metrics drives users to escape their suspense through constant activity
  3. Reaction: being rewarded for activity with notifications and metric feedback encourages compulsive activity
  4. Homogenization: not so much a driver of action, homogenization is the mechanism by which metrics abstract user activity into aggregate data, tailored to targeted advertising

pavlovs dog

Reflection:

I was really excited to see someone addressing the commodification of sociality within social media as both an internalized attitude amongst users, and as a corporate motive. Demonstrating the relationship between these phenomena, Grosser highlights the extent to which social media interface design can influence our social behaviours and attitudes. He warns that we are being pressured into a mode of sociality that demands constant labour and production, and that our social existence is being increasingly molded into a product that companies profit from.

data person

If I could build on the ideas brought forth, I do think his exploration of capitalism’s presence in user behaviours could be expanded.  Central to Grosser’s logic is that capitalism wants more, and that in the context of Facebook this desire manifests as the pursuit of greater metrics. I agree that a user’s perceived status and sense of worth correlates positively with the quantity of likes their content receives, but I think users – humans – deserve more credit than this. We can desire and pursue “more” in more complex terms than numeric quantity.

In this vein, I am interested in how the presence of a capitalist mentality pervades our evaluation of relationships and treatment of others. Some examples:

– Measuring what a friend is “worth” to you in terms of who they connect you to, how much they interact with your content, or what they invite you to.

– Adding friends for the sake of expanding the scope of your self-promotion

– Keeping tabs on the power dynamics of a relationship in terms of reciprocity and indebtedness

mutual friends map

With each of these examples, evaluation and the motivation to act is informed by the presence of visible metrics, accompanied by some form of aspiration toward upward social mobility. The major threat here is that we begin to conceive of our relationships as assets, or vessels for profit. If we think and act this way inside the environment of Facebook or any similar online social network, what is to stop us from thinking this way all the time? What new tools might emerge to further enhance such attitudes and behaviours?

Some things to keep an eye on:

snapcash

Snapcash

venmo interface

Venmo

carrot dating interface

Carrot Dating

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Tie Strength and Network Analysis on Facebook

Friday, January 17th, 2014

people-linked

In October 2013, Lars Backstrom (Facebook Inc.) and Jon Kleinberg (Cornell University) released a study suggesting a new method by which to measure and classify relationship strength (or “tie strength”) between Facebook users. The novelty of this method is its focus on the principle coined as “dispersion.”

Dispersion looks at a pair of users’ mutual friends in terms of network structure and measures the level of connectivity between each of these mutual friends (i.e. how many mutual friends do the mutual friends share). The tie between two users is deemed to have “high dispersion” if the mutual friends are not well-connected with one another. Within the absolute model of “high dispersion,” the user pair serves as the only node through which the mutual friends are connected to one another. As such, the user-pair’s relationship with one another is seen as the basis for whatever mutual friendships they share.

featimage-1013

This measure of tie-strength classification is posited as the most accurate means of identifying romantic partnerships among users through network structure analysis. Previously, the principle of “embeddedness” has been a standard measure for assessing tie strength.

Embeddedness looks at the overlap of “social circles” between two users as a means of assessing tie strength. An analysis using embeddedness equates a high number of mutual friends with a strong user-user tie. One major critique of this logic is that large networks of mutual friendships tend to form within foci such as workplace or school. Membership in such environments may allow two people to form a high number of mutual friendships without necessarily having strong ties to one another.

We can picture how such a model might not align with the network formation surrounding a romantic relationship.  In contrast, a highly dispersed group of mutual friends can reflect how a “couple” comes to share a diverse, unconnected group of peers, by means of meeting people through one another.

This being said, the accuracy of identifying a romantic partnership by sole means of searching a user’s network for patterns of dispersion is very low. An analysis combining dispersion, embeddedness, and other data, including profile pictures, tagged photos, profile views, and event attendance is obviously superior. It is interesting, though, to see how the nature of a relationship is reflected in its surrounding network.

facebook

I believe it is important to stay “informed” (as best we can) about how our online relationships are being processed as data. These processes, and the conclusions they draw about which users are “most important” to us, directly impact the content that appears in our newsfeeds, and the people with whom we are encouraged to connect.  Even a cursory understanding of the measures by which websites such as Facebook go about curating our social lives can help us to re-evaluate our conduct, interactions, and sense of community within and without social media.

For those interested in reading the full study, see here.

Embracing the Selfie

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

go selfies!

Oh, the stigma of the selfie. Not too long ago, if you’d have asked me my thoughts on the phenomenon, I would have scoffed about its narcissism, indulgence, bourgeois-ness, etc. These days, I say it’s got a tender place in my heart.

go selfies!

Maybe I’ve found myself in a more self-involved district of the internet. Maybe I’m more openly comfortable with looking through scads of random photos of the people within my “online network.” Maybe I’m a creep. But I now love selfies and am happy to declare this love.

go selfies!

Not to make this post ultra-shallow, but I don’t really feel like dissecting the selfie from a “critical theory” sort of lens right now. The selfie is a major artifact of the present age, and the discussion of how it relates to millennial culture is important. But that discussion is already happening, and I think it is important (for me at least) to sort out personal feelings around the matter before jumping in with academic jargon and “big picture” thinking.

go selfies!

So right now, what I’m feeling is respect for the people who openly embrace the selfie. There’s something very honest and upfront about the sharing of self-photography, and it seems to brush aside some very contrived and restrictive camera etiquette.

go selfies!

The first tier of this etiquette relates to acknowledgement of the camera. I feel as though there is often a strong taboo around paying heed to the camera – don’t obsess over taking photos, be “natural” in front of the camera, don’t let the camera impact your behaviour, etc. I see these taboos as feeding directly into the anxiety around the selfie.  If we’re really honest with ourselves, though, the presence of the camera is embedded in our daily ritual: we are constantly posing for and anticipating photographs – even when candid.

go selfies!

The second tier of this etiquette relates to authorship. Doesn’t it seem cooler to be tagged in someone else’s photograph on Facebook than to be tagged in your own? I sometimes sense a attitude of hierarchy – like, the coolest people will be constantly surrounded by people taking their photos, and will thus never need to take their own photo. If this is the case, though, there is a dependency one must have upon those photographing ( “when are you going to upload those photos?” – ha, another taboo, but we’ve all heard it and I always want to ask).

go selfies!

Then there’s the obvious tier of etiquette regarding vanity, which I think is so basic we don’t even really need to get into it.

So aside from overcoming these totally riduculous/repressive social codes, what I really love about selfies is their act of self-sharing. I see the selfie as an open invitation, a gesture of “here, come look at me, I want to share myself with you.” Sure, there’s the rhetoric of “why would you assume people want to look at you?,” but I think we really do want to look at one another. I want to see people’s outfit of the day, I want to see people looking happy and fancy with their friends when they go out for a night on the town. I want to see what people are doing and looking like, even when they don’t have someone else there to take their photo.  The sharing of a selfie lets these things happen.

go selfies!

I think that when you take a selfie, you make yourself vulnerable in many ways, re: the etiquette mentioned above. In turn, you let your viewers overcome the vulnerability and anxiety they might feel when looking through your pictures (ie “am I a creep?”). A selfie is like saying, “no, it’s not creepy, I want to share, keep on looking.”  I think that’s a nice gesture.

Thank you to all my friends who shared their selfies!

And, side note:  check out DIS Magazine’s #artselfie blog, with a cool intro from Brian Droitcour.

Who’s Viewed Your Profile?

Friday, September 14th, 2012

In the age of social media, we are invited to indulge our voyeuristic tendencies. Friends, acquaintances, and celebrities share titbits (and upwards) of their lives in various public and semi-public online domains, allowing us access to personal details that were very recently considered intimate. You can now know what your old classmate, with whom you haven’t spoken for years, had for lunch today, or what Rhianna was smoking backstage at Coachella.

This new culture of information sharing has changed our behaviours and interactions in many ways. One of the most frequently condemned side effects is the increased rate at which people now report on the trivialities of their lives — a predictable result considering how much the average person enjoys talking about him-/herself. Less often mentioned is our obsession with exploring these trivialities. Sure, there are people in your newsfeed who you wish would stop talking — perhaps you’ve even unsubscribed from their posts? — but there are no doubt others whose words, pictures, and updates you pore over and anticipate with excitement.

“Creeping” is a commonly-used term for this sort of behaviour. The connotations are explicitly negative. I believe they capture the sense of shame and anxiety we feel as we look into the lives of others on the internet for too frequent or too long of a time. Maybe we justify our actions by claiming that these people put their information out for others to see in the first place, but the guilt is always there.

I’ve worried more than once that a person would somehow be able to tell if I’d been looking at their Facebook profile excessively. I know that Facebook has some sort of promise about keeping this activity private, but I would still feel the dread, and I would wonder what if we could know who has looked at our profile.

In some ways, Linkedin has answered this question for me with its “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature. For a user with the most basic account, Linkedin will tell you 5 of the x number of users who have looked at your profile in the past week (something like this — I haven’t figured out their algorithm exactly yet). There is an option to remain anonymous as you look at the profiles of others, but it comes at the cost of not being able to see who has looked at you. I would rather know than not.

Image

How does this feature impact activity within Linkedin? I have noticed a few things:

1) I generally restrict myself from viewing another person’s account more than once.

2) I feel as though it is “safe” or “socially acceptable” to look at a person’s account for a second time if  I see that they have looked at mine for a second time.

3) A new power dynamic of “looking back” seems to be at play: who looks at you after you have looked at them, and what does this say about your relationship? If someone doesn’t return your “view,” does it mean to say that they are less interested in you than you are in them? Withholding your view can be an exertion of power or a statement of superiority.

4) People are choosing to disable their profile statistics in the name of remaining anonymous viewers.

Image

Watch your Face

Monday, August 20th, 2012

I just read a rather disturbing article on GOOD tonight —

“Facial-Recognition App Enables Next-Level Web-Stalking”

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have conducted a study that tests the powers of facial-recognition software – how much can it recognize and what access to personal information can this recognition enable?

Too much, it seems:

“Using store-bought [facial recognition] software, cloud computing, and publicly available information from social networking sites, the team was able to gather data about people, sometimes even their Social Security numbers, just by pointing a camera at them.”

The study uses personal information gathered from online dating sites and Facebook accounts.

While I am not active in the online-dating scene, I use Facebook almost every day, and have exactly 367 tagged photos of myself available for all my “Friends” to see. For other reasons, I’ve already been whittling my “Friends” list down and untagging the less-than-professional photographs I’d like to disassociate myself from — but this process has been slow and laissez-faire. Let me tell you, it’s about to get a whole lot more intensive.

Then again, will this do much good? What real control do we have against these new technologies, especially if they get into the hands of people with governmental power or malicious intent? As the article suggests, “Perhaps its time you stopped allowing people to tag you in photos on Facebook”. I’ve read through the Facebook Help Centre’s “Tagging” guide, though, and I don’t think it is actually possible to stop your friends from tagging you. Any of your friends can tag you. While you can choose to prevent posts or photos in which you are tagged from your profile, you cannot remove your name from the information with which it has been associated. Is this a problem? I think so.

In light of this study’s findings, then, what is Facebook’s responsibility?

Facebook, Kierkegaard, and Self-Abstraction

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

The following post is an academic paper I wrote during the final year of my undergraduate degree in Humanities. This project was my first thorough investigation of the impact social media places on our abilities in self-definition, self-expression and relationship-formation. 

In The Present Age, Kierkegaard describes his society as an apathetic, static, disconnected and homogeneous populace in which no one exists as an individual. He asserts that individual identity has been engulfed and repressed by “the public” – a flexibly imagined concept of collective society that is both authoritative due to its status as the voice of the majority and unaccountable due to its lack of attachment to any specific autonomous agents. Although “the public” only exists as an abstract force (and not as a physical body of people), it still somehow succeeds in assimilating real human beings[1].  In assimilating with “the public”, a person becomes an abstract idea in and of her/him-self. (S)he forfeits all of her/his distinguishing characteristics and becomes an average equivalent of everybody else. Kierkegaard refers to this sort of assimilation as “the process of levelling[2], the end of which he describes as “the victory of abstraction over the individual”[3].

Although Kierkegaard wrote of mid-nineteenth-century Danish society, the observations he puts forth in The Present Age bear an uncanny resemblance to many patterns I have traced within my own culture (present day North American society). One contemporary venue in which Kierkegaard’s notions of “levelling” and “the public” can be seen at play is Facebook. This paper will examine the ways in which Facebook users abstract their identities and engage in methods of levelling within this phenomenal, age-defining social network.

Before beginning this discussion, I will first explain the slight revisions that I have made to Kierkegaard’s terms.  Apparent in Kierkegaard’s vision of society is the stark binary between “the individual” and “the public”. In this model, where both ideas are presented as extreme absolutes, one must either imagine a person existing as a pure individual or having been entirely homogenized by the all-powerful “public”. The two-dimensional nature of this model is problematic for anyone trying to apply the philosophy of The Present Age to an actual context.

In his defence, it has been suggested that Kierkegaard exaggerated the contrast between these two ideas as a rhetorical means of alerting his reader to the existence of their individuality and warning them of the dangers in adopting a group identity[4]. If we follow this suggestion and imagine “the public” in terms of group identity or, as Graham Smith describes, as “the general characteristic of association in modernity”[5], we can conceive of a multitude of publics, rather than the absolute public that Kierkegaard describes. In this case, a public can be any popular fad, political view, social movement, or community that people effortlessly and inconsequentially associate themselves with and base their identities off of, without any sense of commitment.

Richard Stivers likens assimilation with the “public” to the conformity a person undertakes in adjusting to a peer group, drawing attention to the “transitory norms of taste” a group will cycle through as well as the ambiguity in group power-relations.[6]  While Kierkegaard would agree that a peer group participates in levelling, he would not equate it with “the public”, on the grounds that a peer group is still a tangible body, and thus “only the first movement of an abstract power within the concreteness of individuality”[7]. If, however, you broaden the parameters of the peer group and weaken your commitment to it, as you do, say, with the sorts of “imagined communities”[8] you engage with on the internet, the peer group can come to exist as a public. I will later discuss this particular notion of a public in relation to the extended network of “friends” that one accrues on Facebook.

Whereas Kierkegaard describes the public as one mass body that assimilates the entire populace, I propose that there are various publics that appeal to different demographics and that different people will choose to assimilate with different publics. In addition, I propose that people can assimilate with multiple publics simultaneously. If this revision of “the public” seems to contradict the notions of “levelling” and loss of identity that are put forth in The Present Age, consider levelling as a process in which a person forfeits possessing an individual identity by assimilating with a group. In The Present Age, this group is the all-encompassing “public”. In my model, there are a variety of groups to choose from.

One might argue that because I propose it possible for a person to assimilate with a variety of groups simultaneously, my model allows for individual identity to manifest itself in the unique combination of a person’s group associations. This argument does not work for two reasons. First, the guise of individual identity that people achieve through assembling their “own” personal set of group associations is merely a fragmented collage of self-abstractions. Kierkegaard would assert that to define yourself in terms of a group that you are associated with is to rely on the characteristics of the group for your sense of self and to equate yourself with the other members of this group[9]. To repeat this process with multiple group associations simply adds multiple dimensions to your abstraction.  Second, I have defined publics as networks so broad that you can hold no strong commitment to or affiliation with them. The inherently transient and fluid nature of these sorts of associations precludes the formation of a stable identity. If we look to The Present Age, Kierkegaard describes this same transience and lack of stability when he cautions against aligning oneself with “the public”:

“Whilst, therefore, no majority has ever been so certain of being right and victorious as the public, that is not much consolation to the individual, for a public is a phantom which forbids all personal contact. And if a man adopts a public opinion today and is hissed to-morrow he is hissed by the public.”[10]

Kierkegaard pictures the individual forever trying to align himself with the sporadic, ever-changing “public” and losing himself along the way. I picture the individual forever updating him-/herself to consist in the most desirable combination of associations. The individual’s notion of desirability is informed by his/her particular social circumstance and is thus always adjusting in relation to the constant shift in circumstance.

The reason for which I have dwelled on this clarification is that the element of variety in this method of identity-assemblage deludes people into thinking that they have formed a unique and meaningful personality for themselves. People tend to overlook how generic and temporal the signifiers they choose for their identities are.  We will see how these misconceptions fuel “the levelling process” when we examine the manner in which people depict themselves on Facebook. The abstraction we subject ourselves to in using Facebook is in many ways “disguised” as a form of self-expression. I use the term disguised lightly because the common person will at least partially realize the necessary conformity that comes with engaging in such a structured form of social networking. Nonetheless, the general Facebook user-base does not fully understand the extent to which their efforts towards communication and self-expression are restricted, and, to a degree, determined by the format of Facebook and the various unwritten social rules that their particular network of “friends” is constantly developing within this format.

This being said, I’d like to examine two forms of levelling at play within Facebook: first, the inherent abstraction of individuality that comes from constructing a personality for oneself through the template of Facebook’s profile page; second, the methods of abstraction that individual Facebook users initiate of their own accord, in particular disabling walls and hiding tagged photos.

 Abstraction and the Profile Page

In creating a profile page on Facebook, the general intention is to put forth an image of yourself to the Facebook user-base that you are connected to. All the information that you post on your profile page, — be it your taste in music, your present field of study, or your place of employment — you post for the sake of saying something about who you are. Even if the information that you include is nonsensical or flippant, even if what you are including is the absence of information, you are still trying to say something about yourself. For example, in the category of “Books”, you jokingly include Twilight: you might have done so with the intention of exemplifying your sense of humour or your disdain for the novel; if you leave this section empty, perhaps you are demonstrating your lack of interest in reading, or perhaps you are advertising the sorts of values you uphold in regards to privacy of information, or, perhaps still, you are demonstrating your apathy towards the opinions that other people hold of you. The possibilities in constructing your Facebook personality are seemingly endless.

There is, however, a very stringent restriction surrounding the sort of persona you can develop on your Facebook profile. As is the case with all venues on Facebook, if you want to say anything, you must speak through its template. When you do so, your expression necessarily surfaces as a reduced, less-accurate version of what you intended to say. In the case of the profile, you have reduced yourself to information, which, in relation to the complexity of your self, is actually quite a scarce amount of information.  If we consider this reduction of personality in relation to the function of stereotype, we can begin to understand the immediate typecasting and abstraction that you subject yourself to upon entering Facebook. Ania Loomba describes stereotyping as “a reduction of images and ideas to a simple and manageable form; rather than simple ignorance or lack of ‘real’ knowledge, it is a method of processing information”[11]. If we consider Kierkegaard’s description of levelling as “the negative unity… of all individuals”[12], with this account of stereotype in mind, we can see how stereotype functions as a formative step in the process of abstraction: individuals are unified by means of being reduced to information that is simple enough to process and categorize.

To give an example: if we were to study a random group of people in an attempt to “make sense” of their demographic, we would reduce or simplify each individual in the group until there began to appear tangible connections or patterns between the individuals. If we continued to simplify, our ability to draw connections between these individuals would increase. Simultaneously, each individual in the group would gradually cease to possess an individual identity. If this process were to have an ultimate end, it would be for us to define the group as a sample of “humanity” and nothing else.

Applying this concept to the context of Facebook: by reducing yourself to information that can fit within the framework of Facebook’s profile template, you make yourself immediately susceptible to the process of stereotyping. In a sense, you have already completed half of the stereotyping process: you have simplified yourself into a manageable set of information that is ready to be compared, sorted, and grouped with all the other manageable sets of information available on Facebook. Consider the reliance that so many research groups have on Facebook and the ways in which your profile information might be used as statistical data.[13]Facebook further enables this sort of grouping by putting a hyperlink on each piece of information you include on your profile, which connects you to a list of the Facebook users who have posted that same piece of information to their profile.

Imagine each hyperlinked piece of information as a public. For example, you list Nirvana under the “Music” category. In this case, the Nirvana fan-base is a public. By putting “Nirvana” on your profile, you have associated yourself with the Nirvana fan-base and have consequentially assumed the characteristics that are ascribed to this group. Now consider how easy and inconsequential it is to change your profile information. You have no real commitment to this virtual Nirvana fan base: you can disassociate yourself from them whenever you like, and without any sort of repercussion. In this way, you are always able to update and reinvent your Facebook persona. Studies in the internet’s impact on the modern conception of identity suggest that we have begun to think of the self in terms of multiplicity as a result of our ability to “build a self by cycling through many selves”[14]on the net. What Kierkegaard would argue is that this built “self” is far too transient, non-committal, and instable to be considered as an individual identity[15].

Ressentiment” and the “Levelling Processes” of “Wall”-disabling and Photo-hiding

This section will focus on two currently trending methods of self-abstraction that Facebook users initiate in attempts to avoid competing with the superior Facebook profiles of their “friends”: disabling the wall and making tagged photos invisible.  As I have asserted that there are various publics that appeal to different demographics, I acknowledge that I am writing from within my own variety of publics and that the particular forms of levelling that I am about to outline will not apply to everyone’s experience with Facebook.

Both of these trends stem from the extreme self-consciousness that Facebook breeds by encouraging its users to constantly compare their Facebook selves to those of others and to constantly imagine their profiles from the perspectives of others. This sort of self-analysis draws people into extremely neurotic processes of self-editing. These processes include deleting wall posts, removing recent activity from one’s profile, and untagging photos. The impetus to self-edit is reasonable: we are competitive beings and wish to put forth the best possible image of ourselves. Nonetheless, there is a very negative stigma surrounding these types of behaviours. This stigma is directly linked to Kierkegaard’s concept of “ressentiment” – the urge to debase any form of greatness that might pose a threat to one’s own self-worth[16].

Self-editing is looked down upon within Facebook as it involves effort, which, in the mindset of “ressentiment”, is often the first point of weakness that we attempt to identify and attack. Consider this passage from The Present Age in which Kierkegaard imagines how the ice-skater’s feat is to be belittled at his celebratory banquet:

Even at the height of the banquet, when the applause was loudest, the admiring guests would all have a shrewd notion that the action of the man who received the honour was not really so extraordinary, and that only by chance was the gathering for him, since afterall, with a little practice, everyone could have done as much.[17]

It is easy to degrade effort due to the common conception that it is accessible to everyone. For example, whereas not everyone can be innately brilliant, everyone can try hard at school. If everyone can exert effort, everyone could have exerted effort. Whatever greatness a person achieves by means of hard work is dismantled on these grounds. Within these circumstances, people are inclined to avoid making any conspicuous effort towards their achievement of greatness.

In the context of Facebook, people desire to perfect their Facebook image while simultaneously trying to conceal the amount of effort they have put into creating this image.

This is the circumstance that motivates people to disable their walls and hide the photos that they are tagged in: if they can’t be effortlessly popular and beautiful, they can disable the venues in which their popularity and beauty would have (“could have”) been displayed.

The sentiment behind these strategies is to debase whatever distinction that can be achieved within these venues, which aligns well with the idea that “ressentiment not only defends itself against all existing forms of distinction but against that which is still to come.”[18]To fully secure this self-defence, however, the Facebook user is forced to not only demean the expression of distinction or greatness within these venues, but to altogether eliminate the venues for him-/herself. By doing so, he or she perpetuates a process of levelling in which Facebook users are encouraged to forfeit an element of their individuality for the sake of avoiding competition with the Facebook users who might appear more effortlessly popular and beautiful than themselves. As more and more Facebook users within one’s network eliminate these venues, one becomes more and more distinguished and alienated as a Facebook user who has not eliminated these venues, and is thus compelled to do so. In this way, we see how the Facebook user’s initial “ressentiment establishes itself [in] the process of levelling”[19].

——————————————————

I now address anyone who can admit to themselves their status as an active Facebook user. If we each begin to think of our Facebook network as a public – or, more accurately, as a convergence of several of our publics – we can learn to use the site as a tool by which to become better acquainted with the processes of “levelling” that are functioning within our own particular social circumstances. I am speaking of the social circumstances both inside and outside of Facebook – for if “levelling” is at play within Facebook, it is most certainly at play without Facebook.

Take note of the linguistic trends within your network and be wary of the way in which you structure your wall-post composition in relation to these trends. Then notice the speech patterns within your various peer groups and be wary of the ways in which these patterns influence your particular choices of diction.  Take note of the wall posts that have earned you numerous “likes” and examine carefully whether or not the positive response from public opinion has influenced you to model your subsequent posts after this well-received fashion. Have you happened to rework the content of your most well-received posts into subsequent topics of conversation?  Have you happened to fashion a particularly well-received joke into a subsequent wall-post?

These are the sorts of questions you must ask yourself if you are to accept the revised, multi-dimensional vision of “levelling” with “the public” that I have presented in this paper. Here, conformity is not a generic process by which everyone adapts to assume the same uniform identity. For this reason, it is more difficult to identify “levelling” as it occurs. Acknowledging the tremendous extent to which it does occur, then, we must become as aware as possible of the various publics that inform our identities and scrutinize the way we present and conduct ourselves, bearing in mind the individual influence of each of these publics.

Works Cited

Kierkegaard, Søren. The Present Age, translated by Alexander Dru. Toronto: Harper Perennial, 2010.

Lewis, Kevin and Andreas Wimmer, “Beyond and Below Racial Homophily: ERG Models of a Friendship Network Documented on Facebook,” American Journal of Sociology 116 (2010): 583-642, doi: 10.1086/653658

Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. New York: Routeledge, 2005.

Smith, Graham, “Kierkegaard from the point of view of the political,” History of European Ideas 31 (2005): 35-60, doi:10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2004.08.002

Stivers, Richard. “Technology, Character, and Personality” in Shades of Loneliness: pathologies of a technological society, 9-31. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

Turkle, Sherry. “Aspects of the Self” in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, 137-232. Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 1995.


[1] Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, trans. Alexander Dru (Toronto: Harper Perennial, 2010): 36.

[2]. Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 23.

[3] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 24.

[4] Graham Smith, “Kierkegaard from the point of view of the political,” History of European Ideas 31 (2005): 50, doi:10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2004.08.00.

[5] Graham Smith, “Kierkegaard from the point of view of the political,” 51.

6 Richard Stivers, “Technology, Character, and Personality” in Shades of Loneliness: pathologies of a technological society (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004): 14.

[7] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 32.

[8] Ian Buchanan, “imagined community,”  A Dictionary of Critical Theory (2010),  <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t306.e347&gt;

[9] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 23.

[10] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 35.

[11] Ania Loomba. Colonialism/Postcolonialism (New York: Routeledge, 2005): 55.

[12] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 24.

[13] For example, this particular study bases its data set on the social ties mapped on the Facebook pages of a cohort of students, using profile information such as a student’s previous school to determine his socio-economic status. Kevin Lewis and Andreas Wimmer, “Beyond and Below Racial Homophily: ERG Models of a Friendship Network Documented on Facebook,” American Journal of Sociology 116 (2010): 583-642, doi: 10.1086/653658.

[14] Sherry Turkle, “Aspects of the Self” in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 1995): 178.

[15] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 35.

[16] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 20-23.

[17] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 9.

[18] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 23.

[19] Kierkegaard, The Present Age, 23.