Why We Post: Social Media Through The Eyes of the World

Why We Post

Why We Post is “a global anthropological research project on the uses and consequences of social media” full of fascinating insights and myth-busting surprises. Check out the study website here, or read a commentary on the study in The Economist (link to the article); here is an excerpt:

These fly-on-the-wall perspectives refute much received wisdom. One of the sceptics’ biggest bêtes noires is the “selfie”—which is often blamed for fostering self-regard and an undue focus on attractiveness. “Why We Post”, however, reveals that the selfie itself has many faces. In Italy girls were indeed seen to take dozens of pictures of themselves before settling on one to post. In Brazil many selfies posted by men were taken at the gym. But at the British site, Dr Miller found, schoolchildren posted five times as many “groupies” (images of the picture-taker with friends) as they did selfies. Britons have also created a category called “uglies”, wherein the purpose is to take as unflattering a self-portrait as possible. And in Chile another unique genre has developed: the “footie”. This is a shot taken of the user’s propped-up feet, a sign of relaxation.

The often-humorous, marked-up images known as memes have also come in for criticism… Yet in all cases Dr Miller sees meme-passing not as limiting what social-media users think and say, but as enabling discourse. Many users happily forward memes laced with strong ideological messages about which they would not dare to comment individually.

“Why We Post” thus challenges the idea that the adoption of social media follows a single and predictable trajectory… The study also refutes the idea that social media are making humans any less human. Users are, in Dr Miller’s words, “merely attaining something that was latent in human beings”.

Thanks to Huw and Paul for the links!

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