Social Networks

Entries related to social networks, group psychology, anthropology, and really any of the social sciences.

Random Thoughts about Social Media and the Reterritorialization of the Culture Industry.

Recently, I’ve been reading Exploring Videogames with Deleuze and Guittari and thinking about things like the culture industry, reterritorialization, and how it relates to social media and other stuff. I do not claim to have a firm or accurate grasp on these ideas.

With regards to culture industry, I’m talking about those who create, distribute, or benefit from the creation or distribution of cultural norms and artifacts. I’m taking this idea from Exploring Videogames with Deleuze and Guittari where the author talks about the videogame industry as part of the culture industry, along with other forms of art like film or painting. However, I’m wondering if we should really think a bit more broadly to include entertainment, news media, social media, religion, education, and politics, all of which are shaping our culture in new or different ways as a result of digital media. How must artists, journalists, priests, politicians, and teachers adapt to digital media?

The idea of reterritorialization is even more interesting to me. What as the borders of the culture industry shift, as people get left behind, get left in some sort of liminal space, and as others, once liminal find themselves in the center of things.

Prior to writing this, I had put down a few thoughts about things going on in Facebook. It seems somehow related.

I am starting the New Year with just over 3,100 friends on Facebook. Generally, I’ve been pretty lenient about adding friends. If I get a friend request from someone that has shared interests and shared friends, I’m fairly likely to accept the request. Yet Facebook limits the number of friends you can have to five thousand, and various people I know are hitting up against that barrier and starting to trim their friend lists. Different people are approaching this in different ways.

Just as I am fairly lenient about which friend requests I accept, I am loath to unfriend people because of what they write. I hold on to the idea that I can listen to others and learn from them. Perhaps they can learn from me as well. Perhaps we can have a dialog.

Yet over the past few days, I’ve unfriended a couple people. One person said if you are going to post about politics, religion, or sports, he would unfollow. I post regularly about politics and religion, so I saved him the bother and unfriended him. He didn’t have a lot of interest to say anyway. Another person, a devout evangelical atheist, filled his news feed with atheist tracts. He gloated about his unwillingness to consider other opinions and the fact that people who disagreed with him were unfollowing him. So, I unfollowed him as well.

Also, I’ve been seeing a bunch of people saying they are leaving social media, at least for the time being. I can understand the desire or even need to do that. Yet at the same time, it seems important for those who can stick around to remain as a positive influence.

What Next in Social Media?

Today, I received invitations to two new social media networks. Treem and Crowdify. They aren’t necessarily all that new, but they are new to me.

Tream’s pitch claims that “a majority of Americans (51.9%) are thinking about dropping out from social media this year”. The top two reasons they list are people wanting to avoid fake news and arguments about Trump. While the reasons sound legit, the assertion about a majority of Americans thinking about dropping out of social media doesn’t sound quite right. It’s interesting how ‘legit’ gets used in conversation these days.

Both Tream and Crowdify appear to be offering ways that people can earn money for their posts. I will spend a little time looking at them to see if they really add value.

As I think of what’s going on in social media, a few other things come to mind. Dan Edwards, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in Nevada posted on Facebook a few examples of times when he’s posted things aimed at starting conversations and helping people reconnect, only to receive lots of comments that shut down discussions. He concludes, “We have a lot of work to do”.

So yes, there are issues of trust and community online. There are issues of who gets what money out of social networks. Yet from my perspective, there are some other bigger usability issue that need to be considered, especially as we get more and more information coming at us.

I hope to explore some of these issues in some coming blog posts.

Coping with Trauma and Grief in the Digital World.

I understand that when people are grieving telling them to get over it isn’t usually very productive, but I’ve been seeing a lot of #Fuck2016 posts recently about different celebrities that have died this year and I’m starting to see people responding with “get over it”. I must admit, I’m feeling a little bit more in line with the “get over it” crew.

Celebrities die every year; important ones, ones that have shaped our lives. It is sad. We grieve. We remember how they entertained us, how they brought meaning to our lives. A standard response this year, has been to add #fuck2016. Have a substantially higher number of celebrities died this year? I don’t know. Is it that the celebrities are now childhood favorites of people on social media? In 2003, instead of posting #fuck2003 online when Bob Hope died, did people express their grief over a beer at the American Legion? “Remember his Christmas Show in Saigon?”

Other people die every year too. Important to those who loved them. Children in Chicago killed by gun violence. Christopher Brandon-Luckett, Diego Alvarado, Jovan Wilson, and many others.

To put things all into perspective, today is the Feast of Holy Innocents, when we remember the children killed by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus.

So, why is #Fuck2016 so popular right now? Is it that it has simply become the acceptable way to express grief over the death of celebrities? A new behavior normalized through its use in social media?

Or, is there perhaps something else going on, like Collective Trauma? Perhaps it is a combination of the two, since newly normalized behaviors may be a cause or result of collective trauma.

Perhaps most importantly, how do we respond? I posted links to stories of kids killed by gun violence in Chicago on Facebook. I wrote this blog post, and I’m exploring other ways of coping with trauma and grief in the digital world. What are your thoughts?

Praying for Milton

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook about a review of a church his wife works at that starts off, “These people are Zigeuner trash. These Gypsies should be all be rounded up and exterminated”. He said he had reported the post to Facebook, but they were not taking down the post.

I’ve shared my friend’s post a few different places suggesting others request the review be taken down or that the review gets drowned out by positive reviews. I am not a big fan of removing content, or of trying to silence other people’s speech, even if it is hateful or promotes violence. I’ve had to do it for work, and I often wonder if it is the best approach.

Who is Milton? What has happened in his life that fills him with such hate and hurt? What has gone on in his life that makes him think it is okay to post stuff like this. I set these thoughts aside, and got on with my day.

Throughout the day, as I read articles about the anniversary of Sandy Hook, the conviction of Dylan Roof, and the latest news about President-Elect Donald Trump, my mind went back to Milton.

I believe it is a sin to refer to any person as ‘trash’ and I wondered about the word “Zigeuner”. Wikipedia says this is a racist term most likely from a Greek word meaning “untouchable” used to describe Romanians and Gypsies, especially by those, like the Nazi’s, intent on genocide. My sense of Milton as a broken person, a sinner in desperate need of God’s love became clearer.

I did a little searching online. Milton’s Facebook page talked about going to various elite schools, but the times didn’t make a lot of sense. He posted a very positive review of a church in New York.

He posted on the page of a Bar “I hope you die.” about a week ago.

All of this made me think of Evan. What are we supposed to do when we see someone posting about death, hatred, and genocide? My first reaction is to pray for Milton. To this, I’ve posted a comment on many of his posts that I am praying for him.

I am sharing this post as a question to all of us about how we respond online.

Living Digital; Joining God - #sms16 and #missionalvoices

Saturday, I participated in a gathering of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut called “Living Local; Joining God”. This is an effort by the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and a few other diocese to explore encountering God with our neighbors. The Episcopal Diocese of Maine describes it this way:

The world has changed. More and more of our neighbors are encountering God in places other than church buildings and services. And more and more, if we want to encounter God with our neighbors, we have to go out into our neighborhoods and see what God is up to.

At one point during the gathering we expressed concerns and I shared my concern that too often people think of their neighborhoods geographically. As a social media professional, I asked people to think about their digital neighborhoods. I asked people to talk about their community of interest neighborhoods and their professional association neighborhoods. My comments appeared to be appreciated and led to a great discussion over lunch.

During lunch, I talked a bit about Marc Prenskey’s great essay, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. I noted that it seemed like almost everyone at the gathering was a digital immigrant, someone who had grown up in a non-digital world but now lived in a digital world. I noted that I often identify as a digital aborigine. If you know where to look, you can find stuff I wrote online from 1982. There may be older stuff still online, but I haven’t found it.

As a digital aborigine, I often talk about living in a digital world, in digital communities and digital neighborhoods. My digital immigrant friends talked about a future that was becoming more and more digital, and often spoke of that as if it were a bad thing. I think some of that may simply be because of them looking at the world from a pre-digital perspective.

Prensky write, “The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first.” I pushed this a bit further and suggested that viewing online relationships as being inferior to face to face relationships may also be part of digital immigrant thinking. I met my wife online. We were married in an online community before we were married in a church. Our relationship is enhanced by both its online and its physical aspects.

Online relationships often lead to face to face relationships. They have advantages for people who have problems communicating face to face, including people on the autism spectrum, or even simply introverts. My fourteen year old daughter has many deep meaningful online relationships. Some have not yet led to face to face interaction, for example because of distance. Others have started off online and have become empowering face to face relationships. We need to be connecting with people online, even if we are digital immigrants or digital introverts.

Another issue that people expressed was the concern about sacred space. I’ve visited physical spaces considered so sacred that you must take off your shoes before entering them. Surely, people suggest, there are places so sacred that digital technology should not come in. I think this is an important point. We need to think about how we view sacred spaces in relationship to digital technology. We also need to think about sacred digital spaces. It is an area I haven’t thought enough about. Like a good digital aborigine, as I wrote this, I did a quick Google search of sacred digital spaces and found various links I’ll explore later:

Intervarsity has MINISTRY IN DIGITAL SPACES with the hashtag #thisisreallife. It reminded me of discussions back in the nineties I had talking about “real life” and “virtual worlds”. I maintained back then, and today, that our interactions in virtual worlds are part of our real lives.

As I explored their website, their digital neighborhood, if you will, I found, Pokemon Go: a modern day well. At the event this morning, when we went out to ‘map the neighborhood’. One of the first things I noted was that the church we were starting out from, like many churches, is a Pokestop. Churches should own this part of their space.

Another article that caught my attention was Thin Places in Digital Spaces written by Kimberly Knight who describes herself as a “Minister of Digital Communities”. It is an article I want to go back and read more closely later and includes this:

We at Extravagance—myself and the other two ministers, Jo Hudson and Lawrence Tanner Richardson—work to create and sustain community through a variety of online ministries, such as live Bible studies on Zoom.us, asynchronous Facebook retreats, and ancient spiritual practices using Livestream.com. We even engage in frequent pastoral care through private messaging on Facebook, email, and text messages.

The discussion about digital sacred spaces is an important one to have.

So, people asked me if I was posting during Social Media Sunday. Yes, I intend to, although as I’ve written elsewhere, I am a little ambivalent about it. It often feels to me like digital immigrants promoting physical spaces instead of living digitally. To use the language of Living Local; Joining God”, it feels a bit developmental instead of transformational. It feels like one of those programs we feel we should be doing to reach the unchurched, instead of something we are doing to transform ourselves and our relationships with our neighbors. It doesn’t feel, to me, at least, especially missional.

Yet it is very important, just like attracting young families with checkbooks to church on Sunday morning is important. I offer these comments as a challenge, to invite people to try on a more missional approach to social media, as well as part of my own search for people who are living and worshiping in digital spaces.

So, I ask you, if you’ve managed to make it to the end of this long blog post, “What sort of transformational digital sacred spaces do you seek, envision, or participate in?”

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