Thoughts 1/16 (Prompt 1)

“Think/write about your own motivations for using social media and joining online communities. How are your motivations and goals similar to the early Wellites and virtual community members. How and why are they different?”

The first thing I thought of when I read this prompt was YouTube, especially since Professor Rheingold mentioned it as the most surprising/unforeseen social media platform today, and its move to become more commercialized today. However, because I think I have talked about YouTube in every class and in every blog post thus far, I decided to ponder this question a bit more and try to find another perspective.

I will caution you, the reader, by saying that the rest of this post might seem biased. But, I will try to keep it objective as possible. I am not saying that the entire social media world is like this today, but this post will explore how I believe people are advertising themselves today in social media.

A recurring theme that we have talked about in class about the earliest virtual communities was the community aspect – strangers from all over the world were able to come together because of shared interests, experiences, or general perspectives. The Internet also seemed like a great opportunity for people to receive support through adversity or hardships.

While communities like that still exist today, I found a peer’s (Luke, I believe?) comment about the ability to create a second personality on social media extremely poignant. Because content publication and creation is now at the hands of the common man, it’s become very easy to filter what an individual wants or doesn’t want to post on social media. Automatically I can think of numerous friends who only post positive experiences on their social media platforms, such as where they went over break or who they were catching up with over dinner.

While I admire the breadth social media posts can reach, I worry about how only sharing the positive aspects of life on social media can deter one’s ability and comfort to be vulnerable in society today. I wonder if there is a stress that comes with constantly upholding a positive image on social media. I also wonder if this is comparable to the “Duck syndrome” on Stanford campus, where students always seem happy and put-together on the surface when in reality we are all paddling our feet to death trying to stay afloat.

Obviously this is simply coming from an anecdotal and observational experience, which is why I would love to hear any comments that either support or disagree with what I mentioned. Articles or academic papers would also be very welcome!