Just What Makes Social Media So Sexy?

Life 2.0 was the first time I was confronted with such an extreme case of online romance. I  mean, I’d heard stories before, but the couple who started an affair on Second Life really exemplified the ways in which our online relationships can both form new and affect existing offline relationships. This romantic aspect of the web was something I was particularly interested in finding out more about for this blog post, which is why I was immediately intrigued by this article entitled “Are You Too Sexy For Facebook? Social media and Relationships.” And while the article offers many interesting facts and themes, some of which are even present in the readings for this week, it also leaves out the reasoning behind these statistics, something I feel is important when studying Social Media.

The article discusses a new study conducted by Euro RSCG, which was released (appropriately enough), the week of Valentine’s Day. The study focuses on various ways social media plays into romantic and sexual relationships. Some of the statistics I found most interesting where that “16 percent of millennials have dumped someone via text message” and “40 percent of daily Twitter users describe themselves as ‘sexy,’ compared with just 28 percent of people who use Facebook every day”.  The first as shocking because I expected the number to be higher and the second because I was surprised anyone thought to ask that question of social media users in the first place.

And while the facts alone where interesting, they were also related to the topic of Friendship and community we have been discussing in class this week. A common thread through out the Week 4 readings was the ways in which Social Media foster interpersonal interactions. Nancy Baym‘s book discusses how Social Media Networks foster a sense of community while danah boyd’s reading, as well as her piece co-written by Judith Donath , talk about the importance of creating Friendships in our social media worlds. The study that this article focuses on seems to be preoccupied with the idea that these Friendships and communities do matter, especially in a sexual/romantic context. In this way they are validating the ideas presented in the readings for class, that social media can be a place to form community and find Friendship, or even romance, but the article still leaves much to be desired

Through out these same readings there seems to be an underlying interest in why these social media practices happen that is absent from the short Tech Journal South article . Instead of talking about the cultural and social conditions that have made sending nude pictures over the internet or stalking an ex boyfriend on Facebook okay, this article is simply a list of statistics. These readings were interested in explain why these practices were developing and even what they meant to society at large, but this article seems solely interested in proving that these tendencies do exist with hard and fast numbers.

In that sense the article comes off as too technologically deterministic for my taste. It seems to be saying that it is obvious that social media has affected the way we negotiate dating in the modern world and that there are numbers to back it up if you do not agree. If I could add anything to this article, which would probably need to be added to the research itself, it would be quotes from users who are utilizing the technology in these various ways. I’m more curious as to why those who 4 out of 10 people admit to flirting online have flirted online than as to how common place of a practice it is.

This use of numbers as an explanation for social behavior on Web 2.0 is a trend I see often, and one that has not really bothered me until taking this class. Seeing the possibilities of Social Media research into explaining both the why and how of social media interactions make me feel like I am missing something when I’m just reading numbers. I would urge Social Media journalists and researchers to continue to ask the ‘why’ question and not simply settle into the idea that the numbers can speak for themselves. That is the reason I found Life 2.0 so interesting, because even if the film chose to focus on heavily addicted Second Life users and portrayed them, for the most part, in a negative life- at least we still got to hear how the users viewed themselves in both the virtual and real worlds.

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1 Comment

  1. carolinepsayer

     /  February 24, 2012

    As I was reading this article (and your blog post), all I could think about was how representing social media with number and statistics leaves something missing. Then as I read your final paragraph I realized how much I agree with your final opinion of Life 2.0. While using data and statistics can quantify and show us graphs and pictures of “how” social media is being used and “who” is using it, I don’t think the emotions and feelings that live through social media cannot be quantified in this same way. Is there an honest and fair way to quantify emotions in general, not even specifically through social media? While Life 2.0 certainly seemed to be biased and making a spectacle of the people shown, it was clear that their emotions were real and were much more than just some statistic on a piece of paper. And when we look at statistics about social media and if we are “too sexy” to be on facebook, I feel like these statistics have no real relevance unless we can connect them to the real emotions that people experience as we use social media.


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