Taking Statuses Out Of Context

As we are living in a social media saturated world today, the number of articles I saw circulate on social media, specifically through Facebook and Twitter, was endless. Some of the funniest and most creative articles I came across were on BuzzFeed. Matt Stopera, member of BuzzFeed staff, wrote an article titled “The 25 Funniest Facebook Status Updates of the 2012 Presidential Election,” essentially a list of hilarious and absurd Facebook status posts throughout the election season. Before providing screen shots of these ridiculous statuses, the only thing he seemed to have written himself was “Oh, America. Keep being you.” This statement is cynical, directly making fun of Americans collectively, but can be interpreted in many other ways. While the majority of BuzzFeed’s audience understands that their articles are purposely comical and outrageous, there are always people who come across these articles without knowing BuzzFeed’s background and context. In reality Stopera may be a beloved and devoted American, however, through his article he might come across as completely anti-American, framing U.S. citizens as moronic.

The statuses Stopera found are hysterical. One of the funniest was, “They count every single vote in America in less than a day and it takes my teachers like 3 weeks to run a scantron.” As the writer of this was well received, getting 106 “likes,” this post may have been this person’s way of posting something related to the election without any kind of political commentary or bias. Another status, “Voted in my first presidential debate! Obama Biden 2012,” receiving a mere 3 likes and a comment stating, “literally was going to post the SAME exact status!” simply makes Americans sound stupid and uninformed. We must hope that he meant to write “presidential election,” but without knowing the context or background of the writer, it is impossible to know if this was accidental or not. My favorite status was,

“I think it’s annoying that it’s already Wednesday in Europe and they know who won the election but won’t tell us.”

I was extremely quick to judge immediately thinking that this person must be a complete idiot. While it received 9 likes and a comment stating “agreed,” another comment stated “…….really?” This comment leads me to believe that he did in fact think that Europe’s time difference allowed Europeans to know the election outcome before us. Lastly, this status,

“If Obama wins, I’m getting the heck outta this country! I’m going to Alaska!,”

was just sad. It is horrible to think that Americans do not know the 50 states of America and I can only assume that this person did not realize that Alaska is in the U.S.

While this article provided endless laughter, it is definitely important to look at these status updates critically and realize that Stopera probably chose statuses from random people. Further, Stopera likely saw these statuses without knowing the context of the writers, leading to context collapse. In learning about the importance of studying differences of people on social media from Eszter Hargittai’s article, “Open Doors, Closed Spaces? Differentiated Adoption of Social Network Sites by user Background,” Stopera is unaware of the writers’ backgrounds, races, ethnicities, schooling, media exposure and acquired knowledge. Knowing these characteristics are essential before judging posts on social media outlets, as this may be many peoples’ medium of sharing thoughts and opinions. Lastly, as danah boyd discussed in our class this week, everything on social media is continuing to lose its privacy, leading social media users to rely on subtext. Many of these statuses may include subtext, making them sound silly to random readers, but may provide deep meaning to people who have localized relationships with the writers. Stopera created this article to give people a good laugh. However, because of our class, I now look at these statuses and writers differently using a less judgmental eye. The truth is that I, as well as Stopera, don’t know what these people are trying to say or mean because we are not familiar with them in a localized, personal way.


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