It’s not me, it’s you

The article posted by Fox Business “ Social Network ‘Oversharing’ Not Just a U.S Problem” explores the challenges of understanding how new media both fulfills certain desires yet provides us with unwanted information and complaints. When examined with the ideas discussed in class, the article also draws on the important question of how we see others and how we see ourselves in these new online social spaces.

While not completely technologically deterministic, the article does imply that the notion of over sharing is only facilitated through, and actually caused by, social networking sites. This is true in my personal life- I wouldn’t know that my friend was having fries for lunch if she didn’t instagram all her meals. And this is where the problem of new media comes in: how much is too much? As these technologies become domesticated (Baym’s idea of a technology becoming integrated into daily life to the point where it is expected) it becomes more difficult to differentiate between the information we want and the information we get. The author also implies that we socially shape these social networking sites, yet asks us to what extent are we okay with the way other people shape these platforms?

Furthermore, the idea that people in certain countries have different complaints in regards to over sharing (Australians dislike how mundane the information is, while people in Indonesia feel it is too profane, and Americans complain that everyone is complaining) highlights how the same technology can be domesticated but in different ways. While we assume everyone has facebook, the particular details involved in its day to day use differ from country-to-country because it appears that Australians use their online voices differently than Americans. At the same time, domestication is not possible to begin with unless it has widespread use and Dr. Genevieve Bell notes this and adds “What is most interesting is not necessarily how widespread our use of mobile technology has become, but how similar our reasons are for sharing, regardless of region or culture,” ultimately concluding that we end up using the technology in more or less a similar manner and “most people share information through mobile technology to express themselves and to feel connected to friends and family”.  The problem then is related to the manner in which we are expressing ourselves online.

However, Michael Wesch from the video “ An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube” would perhaps argue that over sharing is not necessarily an annoyance. He discusses voyeurism and sees it as a positive aspect of new media because it allows you to connect with people without constraint. He cites James Joyce’s idea of “ Aesthetic arrest” and how in the past we may not have been able to process a person when they are in front of us because our mind goes still but now with new media we can examine a person in detail without the discomfort of physical presence-therefore actually knowing the person better.  But the problem of authenticity that Wesch discusses is still present, and in fact admitted to, in the article: “In Japan, nearly a third of adults admitted that they had released false information, and 55 percent said they had a different online personality than their real one. In the United States, the number of admitted online fibbers was 19 percent.” This leads me to wonder to what extent are we over sharing fake versions of ourselves? Or oversharing in order to portray this false version of self?

But in my opinion the most interesting part of the article is when the discrepancies are noted: “although many complain about oversharing, few people admit to doing it themselves: ‘We feel like others are sharing too much information, that there is too much to consume,’ Hansen said, ‘but when we self-reflect, of course it’s not us. We’re not the ones who are over sharing.’” This problem of how we are to understand ourselves through these new platforms is perhaps the most difficult question of them all.  Wesch references “the looking glass effect” and how we know ourselves through our understanding of how others know us- but this is strange when you mediate your life online. Everyone is looking at you but you are also looking at yourself- perhaps with the knowledge that you will look back on this tweet, post or picture in the distant future. But this article questions if (just like in face-to-face relationships) sometimes the very thing that annoys you about others, is in fact, something you do too—showing that the evolution of a relationship and the coming to awareness of oneself that develops over time is part of human life, whether it be in person or online. 


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