Understanding Social Media
Can love be found in social media? After playing with media including paint, text, video, interactive art, and performance art to explore connection, facebook was the next logical direction. I wanted to expand media research and my practice to include social media by posing the question:
“What makes social media, social?”
To try to find ways to connect I explored social media as an art form in “Miss Understood”. I used facebook to deconstruct dialogue as a form of connecting. I went back to language and emotional expression and expanded visual language by layering video with facebook text. I separated myself into two personas and created a dialogue with myself and with everyone on facebook. I attempted at unifying various ‘membranes of an orange’.
In the process of reflecting myself using social media tools in facebook, I researched social media in terms of technological tools, sociological dialogue and the psychological effects of virtual connection.
Each day I recorded a video and uploaded it onto a facebook page I created under the pseudonym “Miss Understood”. I wanted to see how dialogue worked in social media by exploring forms of emotional expression and connecting with others thru combined media sources of text, video and social media. After posting a video, Miss Understood watched the videos posted on the fb page and critiqued my video in terms of content and expression. I invited family members and the facebook community at large to participate in the discussion on dialogue. Was Shirky right? Was the Internet a form of love?
After 64 days filming and analyzing myself as a separate identity in social media I went through a process that paralleled stages of psychological growth. I examined the mechanics of social media, the positive and negative sociological and political aspects of social media and the dynamics of human media development.
In the final analysis I found answers to human media development in Lacan’s Mirror stage. If we accept the fact that media changes our behaviour as can be seen with the introduction of radio, and television; we can compare behaviour shifts and patterns in human development to the stages of adapting to a new media form.
'We shape our tools and then the tools shape us.'
As Shirky points out, we are in a phase of transition. Social media as a relatively new media form is in the early stages of growth similar to what Lacan may refer to in child development between the ages of 6 months to 2 years as the “Mirror Stage”. At that stage we are developing an ego as reflected in the identification of self in the mirror. Miss Understood was a frustrating process that found me falling deep into personal isolation. From this deconstructed state, I discovered a new way of connecting and found the meaning of dialogue in the social virtual new world.
Faced with myself I saw reflected back the emptiness of sorrow, and the lightness of joy and gratitude and everything in between. I saw patterns and layers of identities.
As a media source, demographics and traffic, subject matter, showed no real surprises with peak posting traffic times and common themed posts similar to media patterns in television.
In terms of dialogue, social media showed the biggest promise. Dialogue in social media is open-ended and expansive. The possibilities of interconnected voices, especially in politics and education, are mind-boggling. We are shifting the ways we identify ourselves based on the groups we socialize with in a virtual world of connections. The effects of social media behaviour patterning are changing the way we are heard. Massive communication now moves as a shape-shifting unit without static leadership.