Discovery in a World of Data

Today I had a revelation: the way in which I use social media has changed. This change is recent, very recent. The past six weeks have involved great discipline, searching, and attention to detail: discipline in tracking and taking notes on something I once deemed arbitrary, searching for what my media use means to me, and paying close attention to any patterns in my behavior. I feel that through this process I have become much more aware of who I am on the internet. From class discussions, the new media diet, and online readings I was able to make connections to my own behavior when using new media technology. I noticed elements of dualism and community, themes from class, pop up in my research. I was struck by class conversations about online reading and the internet as a privilege.

I’ve always known that sharing personal information on the internet should be done at your own risk. It was not until recently that I became aware that I am not immune from this. It is alarming how easily we can make our personal information readily available to virtually anyone without even realizing it. Not that I have anything to hide, but still I have become hyper aware of every little thing I post and interact with. I know I cannot be the only one who feels that how they present themselves on the internet needs to be the squeakiest-cleanest version of themselves. So many times I have been told that future employers do not like personal things on pages. The media project has lead me to become much more aware of my online presence and actions. I also feel that my behavior as a whole has changed. I have become much more tactful, and organized with my actions. I even updated my linked-in for the first time in over a year. With the twitter exercise and article I felt compelled to explore other forms of social media. However, none of these explorations stuck, but I still found twitter to be quite amusing. I also noticed an increase of use on Pinterest and Instagram, while my Facebook use seemed to decline. I actually completely redid my Pinterest page. I was feeling like my pin-boards were lacking cohesion. I wanted my Pinterest to be a reflection of who I am (or possibly even aspire to be), so I changed everything. I consolidated pins and renamed all the boards so that there was a general theme to my page. After stepping back from this project I realized that I did this because my attitude of how I view my image on the internet has changed. Before I was posting arbitrarily, but now I post with purpose. I think this change is because I realize that the internet is an extremely powerful and influential tool that I am lucky enough to have the privilege of accessing.

When you share things you are projecting a sliver of yourself out into the world. Of course you can decide to remove things, but with sharing on the internet do things every truly go away or do they forever remain a part of you and your online image? Nicholas Carr brings up the idea of dualism on his blog, and that as users of the internet we have two identities both online and offline. I would have to agree with this to some extent, but I lean more towards the contradiction of Vial in Digital Dualism and Everyday Experience. Vial uses the term digital monism to express his disagreement that we exist in two different worlds. As I was posting to the internet, all of my content was occurring in real time. Everything was an extension of myself: things occurring in reality. All my captions were thoughts occurring in my head before they were translated into text. My pins are reflective of my likes, interests, and aspirations. I’m not lying about who I am on the internet. It’s all me. I agree with Vial that there is but one world that we exist in and the internet is an element of it.

The media diet asked us to closely monitor a platform of social media we favored. I decided on logging all of my Instagram use. I monitored the times I was posting content, the likes I was receiving, and I even asked for feedback on why people were liking my pictures. I monitored myself on the app, as well, paying close attention to whose pictures I was liking and the genre of content I was liking. I found that the longer I was on the app, the more arbitrary my double taps (likes) became. The initial liking of photos fell into similar categories, but the more and more I scrolled the less I cared about the content I was looking at. Over one weekend, which was actually a very busy weekend for me, an out of town friend was visiting, I liked over 80 pictures and posted three of my own. 80 pictures is a lot of content to process! If asked to remember what I liked or whose pictures I liked, I would not be able to recall a single piece of information. On the contrary, I would be able to recant details of all the posts I made, as well as roughly how many likes and several of the people who liked them. This is because social media is very self involved. I came to the conclusion that a lot of social media is based on self promotion. In other words, lot of what we post is of ourselves. This does not have to be a negative thing. Even though, in posting, a lot of content is self interested, I still enjoy being able to keep up with friends from around the world in a concise format. Using Instagram or Facebook I can easily scroll and find out what everyone in my life is doing in 30 seconds flat. If they were not making posts about themselves, how would I know how they were doing? Because of this easy accessibility we have to other people, our friend groups have become incredibly vast.

The test also provided me with information on who was liking my pictures and why. I had never given too much thought on why people liked me pictures until now. When I asked for feedback, an overwhelming amount of friends said that they thought my posts were well crafted and witty. For logging who was liking my pictures I devised a spread sheet with several categories of people. Three of those categories were close friends, aquatinted friends, and people I just know. I always had a disproportionate amount of acquainted friends to close friends. Initially I felt a little hurt by this. How could my close friends care so little, while people I am merely acquainted with seemed to give out likes so freely? Then I realized that despite my friendly interactions with these people, our relationships are mostly based off of what I know about them from their online presence. It is almost scary how much I know about people based on the things that they post online. Through this I realized that my close friends already know what I am up to, however, these other aquatinted friends do not necessarily always know what is going on in my life. Social media allows me to share things that in the end help to strengthen the ties between me and other people that I want to be friends with, forming a vast but closely knit online community.

The internet is another great tool for sharing things that lead to a better more informed society. There were many times during the social media project that I engaged in the reading and watching and sharing of pro-feminism related content. If it was not for using Camtasia and capturing my walk through, I would not have noticed this pattern. There are so many communities on the internet that preach negativity and hate, but the online community of feminists is something I am happy to get behind. It is a community where people can be free to speak their minds about a topic that is has become so prevalent in our lives. Some articles are light hearted, while others take on a more serious tone. Almost all the feminist articles and content I came across during the new media diet were found on the internet. Unfortunately, I discovered that this community is not free of hate. There is so much trolling that occurs on the internet, and it really breaks my heart. There are people who are trying to get serious social messages, not just about feminism, across using social platforms as a means to reach a large and diverse amount of people. One can only hope that the way in which some people decide to behave online is not reflective of how they behave offline. I have come across far too many articles promoting a positive message only to find the comments riddled with hate and negativity. Freedom of speech has been taken to a far extreme, and I really do not know what can be done to stop this.

The free internet is something that I never realized should be seen as a huge privilege. Being able to at any given moment find the answer to any questions in mere seconds is  pretty amazing. In class we discussed this privilege and how it relates to our own lives. we also watched several old videos which introduced the internet as being something open to everyone: a place where no classes, races, ages, or genders, exist. The internet may have started this way, but has since evolved into a very dialectical world in which only privileged people can access. The internet, which serves to connects us, at times acts as a barrier. It was not until this month, when I was talking with my Chinese host student about using Facebook, that I found out Facebook is blocked in China. She is my first Chinese friend who actually lives in China so it makes sense that this revelation never occurred until now. It makes me feel as if the internet is a little bit of a lie. A lie controlled by the government. It is not always the free space that it claims to be. E-waste was another class topic that really struck me. Trash is such a magical thing. You put something you do not want anymore out to the curb and the next day, by some miracle, it has completely disappeared. I wish getting rid of old electronics could be this magical, the reality is quite the opposite. It makes me sick to see how sick outsourced e-waste centers are making people. It makes me even more sick knowing that I am a contributor. However, I was comforted when I recently found my parents’ ancient Macintosh Classic II tucked away in the garage, thankfully not in a tangle of discarded other computers in a far away country!

Towards the end of the new media diet project I picked up an actual book for the first time all semester. This was not a text book, but an actual leisurely paper back. I feel that I am constantly flirting with the idea of being a reader, but I find it difficult to commit when there are so many other distractions that I could be reading online. In one of the readings from this semester, Literacy Debate: Online R U Really Reading, by New York Times writer Motoko Rich, children are asked whether they prefer to read online or physical books. Most of these children preferred reading online: favoring concise and easy to access content. During my Camtasia research I read several lengthy articles. Watching myself, I looked incredibly bored and unengaged. Conversely, when I picked up the book, something I found unassumingly laying around my apartment, I felt my face light up as I read. I noticed myself laughing and repeating lines that I felt were worthy of sharing with the people around me. Reading online feels so cursory in comparison. There is just so much content out there that most of what I come in contact with seems to wash over me. I think it is very curious that the internet is meant to engage us, and that it is the new form of reading, when there is still nothing more sensuous and captivating than sinking into a tangible paper book. I am happy that sitting down with a good read is still able to put a smile on my face and I have not crossed over completely to the dark side of internet reading.

I can confidently say that all my attention payed towards new media has led me to conclude that media is a very intrinsic part of my life. It has truly infiltrated all aspects of my life, from social justice to a platform to jump start my career. Media does not have to be viewed as a necessary evil that separates the online world from the offline world, but rather a powerful tool that is helping to propel us forwards at speeds faster than any other generation has experienced, and for this I realize that I am very privileged. It is important for us to become more aware of this privilege, while at the same time continuing to value older forms of media that still hold merit in society.

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Instagram Test Results

Collecting all my Instagram behavior proved to be a lot more difficult and time consuming than I had anticipated, perhaps this is because I am spending a little too much time liking and posting pictures! Regardless, what I found was not too terribly surprising, but still proved to show some trends in my media behavior.

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The first thing I tracked was who was liking my pictures. I was a little disappointed to see that very few of my family members liked my posts on Instagram. I’ve always kind of felt like you are obligated to like your family’s media posts, but I suppose this is not always the case! I was very surprised by the number of people liking my photos who are “People I just know.” I created this category in the sense that these are people I have never exchanged words with, but have possibly seen around from time to time. The number was exceptionally high compared to family and close friends. How are people who don’t even really know me liking my pictures when those who are supposedly near and dear to me are not? I do not really understand this phenomenon.

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On the contrary, when I collected my own data on the pictures I was liking I found that I was much more likely to like posts from people I followed on Instagram but did not know in real life. Maybe, just maybe, I was being  a tad bit hypocritical of my family.

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After my test period was up I made a post asking followers why they had interacted with my recent content. This was actually the most fun data to collect! I had an overwhelming amount of followers report that they really liked my content because my photography was always something fun and creative and that they enjoyed the witty and humorous quotes. I’d be lying if I denied that this made me feel a little bit good about myself… I’d also be lying if I denied thinking long and hard about each caption before tapping the committal share button!

photo 23 photo 22 photo 20  photo 18 photo 14 photo 4 photo 5 photo 13 photo 21 photo 26

Another trend that I found noteworthy in my data was the types of pictures I was liking. It was actually pretty ironic; most of the pictures I liked were of food and the other majority of pictures were of something fitness related. Albeit a lot of the food was health food. I can definitely see the kind of lifestyle I like to live reflective in the content of the photographs I double tap. As you can see from several of the pictures I liked, I tend to follow some central themes: food, fitness, Chicago, and cute kids.

Test Proposal

I noticed that throughout my social media use I get really into likes. I like liking other peoples posts almost as much as I love getting likes on my own posts. I think it would be really fascinating to do a little more research on this aspect of my social media use. I would track the times I post things to see if time of day has to do with the kind of reception my posts receive. I will also track who’s pictures I am liking and exactly who is liking my picture. Are they close friends, family, people I don’t really know, or complete randos? I think this could be done in a spread sheet sort of manor. This way everything would be very quantitative. A lot of media research can be very qualitative but with quantitative research I think the results would be a lot more understandable. On the other end of the tests, my own personal liking would have to be tracked a little differently. I am thinking that keeping a log, similar to me media field notes, but more structured, is the best way to track this information. In this log I would track who’s post I liked, and why I liked the post, as well as what time of day I was liking the posts. This type of tracking would be more qualitative.

Who is liking my posts?
Who is liking my posts?
Tracking Instagram activity.
Tracking posting activity

Media Research and Reflections

Every day, every waking moment, so it seems, we are engaged with media. Throughout the past few weeks I have gone on a journey, digging deep into the depths of my own personal media use. Some things revealed to me were surprising, and my original ideas of what constitutes as media were definitely challenged. Contrary to popular belief, media is more than Facebook and Twitter. In my own experience media has been radio, online articles, streaming music; basically anything that infiltrates your personal self and asks for your attention. Interestingly enough, we don’t always give media our full attention. In a world full of information and stimulation I somehow find my way every day and have a kind of media routine. Through my research I have found various trends and patterns, surprising findings, and have come to the conclusion of why I use media.

The most glaring of my observations was when and where I use different types of media throughout my day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my phone the moment I woke up for any likes or messages that I accrued over night. However, after this constitutional I flip to something a little more old-fashioned, but still a very live form of media. Almost every single day I begin with WBEZ Chicago. I feel guilty when my mornings don’t start this way. I’m a communications student, so there is almost a civic duty that I feel to listening to the news. Of course, WBEZ isn’t all world events. They feature a lot of Chicago specific stories. By including the radio in my morning routine I feel more connected to my city, more balanced, more ready to start my day. As much as I love WBEZ I notice myself tuning out after a little over an hour of listening. This is when I turned to Spotify. Spotify is simply wonderful. I find that it caters to my every mood and need. It’s a great mindless replacement when I become weary of hearing about what is going on in Turkey, The Middle East, etc. Spotify accompanied most of my train rides and walks to campus. While on the train I would sometimes peek at other people’s screens just to see what they were doing. I noticed that the behavior amongst everyone in my car was pretty homogenous: aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, pausing every few swipes to like a post. I’m on the run a lot so Facebook is not a big part of my day, which I actually was a little surprised by. It’s not until the evenings when homework is as done as it can be and everything is laid out for the next day that I indulge in a long FB sesh. These usually happen in my bed while I am browsing other websites; pinterest, online retail, and youtube. I found that I was pretty consistent with my usage during these different times and locations.

Going into this project I was worried that I would be alarmed by my outrageous amount of time spent using media. Thankfully my original suspicions of my self were not as bad as I thought they were. I put a timer on my web browser which tracked the time I spent on certain websites and the different times I had been on the sites. I spent a lot more time on school sites doing homework/work. When I was on Facebook a lot of my interactions were between friends whom I do not get to see every day. These friends live in different countries, go to different schools, or are family from home. These kinds of interactions make me feel so happy. I find myself smiling and laughing out loud at our conversations. Adversely, when I recorded myself with Camtasia and did my walkthrough I did not smile much or laugh. I looked and sounded extremely bored the entire time. I also used Facebook for getting information about events and parties. For my job I have to post from a separate page than my own. This is really fun because I get to post really exciting statuses about events going on around campus. When I post using the Community Relations Page my online voice is a lot different. My tone is more excited, and I feel more comfortable taking risks with what I post: making it more cheesy, often. Through my research I noticed that I was using Instagram a lot more than I was using Facebook. I am a very visual person, which makes Instagram the perfect social platform for me. I get a lot more caught up stalking on Instagram than I do on Facebook. I feel a lot less weird scrolling through peoples’ older pictures and liking them, since Instagram serves only one purpose and this is it. If I couldn’t sleep at night I would scroll through Instagram. In retrospect, Instagram is probably the worst thing to do when you can’t sleep at night since there are so many different images and it is very stimulating. On the posting end, Instagram is my favorite platform to post from. All the filters and obsessing over the perfect caption: witty but not too witty, cute and attention grabbing, whatever will get the most likes. Let’s face it, most of us do it for the likes.

I do like getting likes on social media. It’s positive affirmation! However, the likes are not the only reason I use social media. I predominantly use media to kill time or to give myself something to not think about. Most of us are aware of this wave of mindless media that we allow to flow over ourselves whether it be a daily ritual or just something we indulge in on a rare occasion. I found myself letting the wave wash over me after a long day at work or school. After focusing for hours it’s kind of nice just to have something like Facebook or Youtube to look at, because you don’t really have to think. You just let it do its thing. It’s interesting, during my little unwinding ritual I noticed myself getting bored after about 15 minutes. There was only so much mindless material I could handle. I consistently found the internet to be less fulfilling than I had anticipated. Even if I wasn’t really paying attention to media, I had it on in the background. I’m one of those people who really can’t stand the idea of being alone, and whenever I was my computer or phone was there to fill that empty space. I live with two other people and I work in an office with a lot of people, so thankfully I don’t find my self turning to media to fill this empty space very often. However, as the month progressed and I had moments to myself instead of checking in on Facebook again or watching youtube I would go for a run instead. Ironically, even on my runs I rarely escape media because I listen to Spotify or NPR.

It’s crazy how much of our lives are now consumed by media. It is part of almost every waking moment. There were very few moments throughout my day when I was not using some form of media, and even then, those around me were engrossed in their own media worlds. Often times, my generation of Millennials can be seen as media obsessed. Not to say that this statement is not true, however, I think that because we are so engrossed with what media, it can be a very positive tool and enhancement to our lives. Take for instance my mornings. I spent most of them listening to radio news. More often than not, something I listened to on the radio that morning would come up in my every day life and conversation. Because I listened to the radio, I was able to contribute to these conversations. Additionally, Facebook was a great tool to organize social gatherings. A handful of times this month I was invited to and attended events both social and academically related that were communicated via Facebook. I’m happy to live in a world with media, even if I do at times use it in a negative way.

Browser Timer
Browser Timer

WBEZ-Logo

Walkthrough

For me social media is very tit for tat and I’m very “like” driven. Throughout the walkthrough I realized how much I like receiving likes, and as a result I can sometimes be particular about who I give out likes to. Unless the pic was posted by someone I know usually gives me a like back I didn’t like their pics posted on Instagram and Facebook. I noticed myself liking a lot more of the blogger Instagram picture than my friends own pictures. I feel like this might be because I see the pictures they post have tons of likes so I feel obligated to like the picture too. What’s one more like?.

I also noticed myself yawning and looking bored while on social media, which can be seen with me resting my head in my hand and yawning multiples times. I think I yawned approximately four times throughout the entire video. I really do seem to touch my face a lot while engrossed in my phone. I’m not really sure why I do this, but it is something I noticed from watching the walkthrough several times.

One of the many yawns.
One of the many yawns.
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Exhibit A
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Exhibit B
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Exhibit C

Video Capture

This felt really bizarre. Thankfully the function was very discrete and this was something I could do publicly. I found that recording myself in public allowed me to forget the recording was even on. Although, I found it really hard to keep myself on social media long enough to truly capture what it is that I do. I usually get so bored of all the scrolling and liking. I find much more enjoyment in talking with people face to face rather than behind a screen. Aside from this, I noticed that I was clicking on a lot of feminist related things: reading elite daily, watching why I am a femme feminist rages, and the new music video “All About that Bass.” That’s a feminist anthem, right? It’s interesting. I noticed that through 45 minutes of looking at a screen I looked bored beyond my mind, and honestly I kind of did feel this way at the time. I only truly smiled once during the entire affair, and it was at this very moment:

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Watch the video here 

Field Notes

Tracking down all my field notes was a little bit of a task. They are everywhere. From sticky notes in the pages of my planner, to the notepad I keep on my nightstand. I tried to jot down a thought right away when I noticed myself doing something note worthy while using social media. One thing that I noticed a lot in my notes was that I would watch youtube only if I was eating alone. Whenever my roommate was home and we ate together youtube was never on. I also noticed that a lot of my notes contained the word “mindless.” A lot of my mindless scrolling took place on the train during my commute. In general a lot of my social media use felt and feels mindless. I’ve been quite busy since school started with classes and my job. I work 10 hours a week in front of a computer. I was surprised that during these 10 hours I logged very few field notes: quick Instagram checks (snuck on my phone), or using Facebook to post for my job. I don’t know if people use social media much at work, as this is my first real office job where I am actually doing work. Another thing I found notable was my cumulative time spent on social networks. I always thought that I was spending hours and hours on Facebook. To my delight this was not true! A lot of my visits were a minute or less; scrolling quickly to see what was going on in the world, then logging off. I do that a lot: log off. I’m not so sure if that is normal behavior on social media, but it is just a part of my routine.

 

Nigh stand notes
Nigh stand notes
Planner Post-its
Planner Post-its
Notebook Loose Papers
Notebook Loose Papers