Boyd & Ellison have differentiated our relationships from the physical world and the digital world in their article Social Network Sites: Definition, History & Scholarship (http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html). They explain that our friends and our Friends are different. Capital, F, being online, lowercase, f, being in the physical world. They also distinguish between mediated and unmediated communications. Is there really a difference though? Beers is able to contradict both their theories on differences in context with the digital world we “live in” verses our other life, in the physical world.
Beer critiques almost everything that Boyd and Ellison say (it’s obvious they must not be FB friends or follow eachother on twitter). And if so, Beer wishes there was a dislike button, because he basically disagrees with all of what they say and then digs the knife deeper by explaining what they forgot to discuss, or maybe didn’t understand: capitalism.
Beer doesn’t think we need to distinguish between Friends and friends and well, I agree. Most of my Facebook friends are people I know in the physical world. And most of my relationships online are similar to that of the ones I keep in the physical world. I simply use digital media to remain in contact and facilitate my communication with people I would otherwise grow distant from.
I do think, however, that Boyd and Ellison have a point. At times, we follow people we really would never have contact with. I mean come on, how many of you would LOVE to be friends with hmm…
Yes, we might follow Barack or Britney, but not in the same way we follow our best friend or that girl you took chemistry with in High School. There is a difference. Maybe Barack and Britney are “Friends” (as boyd & Ellison put it) but, most of the people I follow are friends and the way I communicate with them does not differ from how I do in the physical world.
The one thing I will say is it can get you in trouble. How many of you have left a sarcastic remark that, well, written down without the tone of your voice does NOT come off sarcastic and instead plain mean? Or , how many of you have tagged somebody in a picture you know they won’t like or gave been tagged? It is far from fun, but it’s the price we pay. Though digital media is meant to facilitate already existing relationships, it can definitely do some damage. There is NO doubt about that.
Something Boyd & Ellison left out that I thought was very interesting was the “capitalistic” perspective. Thinking about the fundamental business models for many of these media platforms makes you question, where do we tie into this? How are they making money off us? With this, we must think about how saturated our lives have become with social media. Most of us cannot survive without it, yet, we don’t think about the person or company out there controlling our every move when it comes to socializing through these mediums. It’s not really like gambling (though just as addictive), but instead, we don’t lose anything from it, we instead feel like we’ve gained. They however, determine what information we provide, how we provide it, to whom we provide it, etc. Does this make you question how it ties into our physical world?
Though the relationships we maintain online parallel mostly to the ones we have offline and our friends are just our friends, no need to capitalize the, F, or differentiate, do we think about how controlled they are? And the setting in which our communication is mediated. We can only say a certain amount of words on twitter. On Facebook, we must control what we say and who we say it to, because it may offend others or cause problems with information and written words that will remain available to the public forever.
So many of us cannot go a day without checking Facebook or Twitter. However, without thinking about the business perspectives are we just puppets? It is ingrained in our lives. Beer brings up a very good point. Thinking about capitalism is extremely important. Especially when we realize how closely these platforms tie into our everyday life in the physical world.