Tag Archives: Social Media

Time for change: experiences of social media strategies and what happens when you cry on the internet

Last week I issued a blog post (below) which created a little stir..for those that didn’t catch it, I posted a video vlog of myself reflecting on recently occurring life events (having my PhD funding discontinued) that were upsetting for me. I think I gave an honest reflection of my feelings at the time and whilst I expressed emotion, don’t believe I came across as too irrational – probably just a little gutted and surprised, as whilst I knew that life would start to, and eventually take a different direction for me, I had planned on finishing my current commitments first.

It’s tempting, given the response, to take the video down, but I will leave it up for the moment as I like things that open up debates.

Since setting up this wordpress site last May, as well as having an additional twitter account I have made a deliberate attempt not to clarify my social media strategy or what the aim or point of my blog is/was but given that my new opportunity seeking status has caused me to rethink this anyway – I decided it’s time for a review.

What’s your aim?

Having taking the very enjoyable ‘The Digital Researcher’ course at UWE – I was admittedly already aware that my current approach to my blog already broke the ‘official’ recommended rule. Having a focussed specific aim. Most notably for researchers, it is about self promotion, communicating your research to both academic and non academic audiences, or communicating things in relation to your research, encourage debate, and building relationships and profile raising online. We also covered the possibilities of setting up a blog as a sideline to your work interests (for example in favour of pursuing a hobby – focused specifically on running, horseriding, creative writing etc) and also an attendee of the course had previously used her site as a source of personal catharsis – a bit like a diary – a place where she could unload the inevitable and guaranteed frustrations of the PhD process and/or life in general (an approach often promoted by mental health charities). I was also influenced by a course I took at the Arnolfini on writing and performance where I discovered that artists sometimes used social media/blogs as a deliberate artistic form – setting up ‘fake’ blogs by people who were in fact characters they had created, interacting with others online and then soon after becoming surprised when audiences struggled to unpick what was ‘real’ and what was constructed. Additionally I’d seen video vlogs on youtube of people/friends recording biographical video diaries of their everyday life  – everything from the mundane cat videos to personal struggles with weightloss/recovery from surgery and I found them genuinely interesting and inspiring to see something that was in some ways closer to ‘reality’ (contested term) rather than ‘reality TV’. However my argument would always be that if it’s a deliberate communication of any form that is intentionally performative (i.e a web posting/status update) it’s always a construction to varying degrees. Therefore I had hoped that by mixing genres (including those posited as ‘academic knowledge’ – of which admittedly there were not so many) it would encourage the viewer to not only respond directly to the specific posting they had picked up on – this given the wide variety of my posts/followers would be quite different, but also by reviewing the site holistically – give greater question to the material they were seeing, consider something different, learn something new, or see something from a different perspective. It’s this ‘mash up’ nature of twitter and social media that I think holds the greatest potential for humankind. To make explicit opposing views, arguments, problems and challenges as well as force us to consider how we interpret online information in order to open up date, broaden understandings, consider more critically the web content we consume and how we are consciously or subconsciously influenced by it and perhaps even crowdsource solutions to local and global problems.

This blog

My blog was originally set up as a response to an arts project, although this was not deliberately an artistic response, however as I progressed further along with the site and my postings, it’s fair to say that I was often simultaneously moving across all of these genres previously mentioned at one time or another. With regards to twitter – my strategy comprised both personal and professional – from mundane streams of consciousness, tweets containing sources of info that were interesting, important, or silly, things that I thought others may find interesting, things that supported my opinions and values as well as those that contradicted them.  I have also admittedly, sometimes used twitter as a source of support – with everything from communicating with friends on the other side of the world at silly hours in the morning, to networking and gaining input from academics in associated academic fields online as well as having a good old opportunity to shout at the world.

I’ve previously posted on my blog around my conflicting feelings on facebook, having shut down my account but reopened it mainly due to requests for access to photos I’ve taken from friends, parents and relatives, and the need to access ‘events and groups’. Some of which are so already deeply ingrained in facebook as an administrative system I fear they will never escape. I’m currently still using facebook and have recently explored it more as a source for my photographic images, but I am trying to re-compile and remove my previous albums onto to flickr as I continue to secure commissions for my photography and need to use it for a self promotional or portfolio tool. Normally I would say retain facebook purely for friends and family but as social media strategies differ and more organisations and groups utilise facebook it becomes harder and harder to stay connected as efficiently without a profile on the site (wrong, sad but often true).

The photographic element of social media also deserves some attention with apps such as instagram and other photography/editing apps being positioned as a tool that brings a certain kind of freedom/creativity to the masses on one hand but does ‘proper’ artists/photographers out of a job on the other. The role of the ‘filter’ being hotly contested as a tool for applying a range of perspectives on the world in which you capture, whilst taking the user further away from the ‘reality’ of the picture.. (again I suggest any image is a construction to certain degrees, filter or not). I’ve experimented with instagram – mainly for ‘artistic’ photography rather than more mundane stuff although this does creep in occasionally. I enjoy photography, have had some pictures published in books and on the web and have received positive feedback on photos that I take  – all helpful in building my portfolio of images. I’ve created some great pictures, but also in retrospect the ‘looking back’ at ‘filtered’ photos of friends during more personal moments rather than ‘filtered’ photos as ‘art’ does feel a little different to me.. and there is probably room in this argument to explore the role of photography apps a little more outside of this blog post.

The future

I gained alot from this experience with social media but recent responses seem to suggest that my previous blogpost took things a little too far. I cover different topics in my posts, (not that unusual for those with an interest in the arts or sociology) and explore different things as well as re-blog from others.. but given my new status as an opportunity seeker it seems I am forced to focus my blog on the positives, the achievements, the quality writing and the ‘can do’s’ rather than expressing the doubts, insecurities, or ambiguities or indeed deliberately at times posting possibly contentious content in the hope it will stimulate debate or thought, when I run such as high risk of being continually misunderstood or misinterpreted and provoking reactions in people.  It’s probably also a reflection on the task of managing multiple identities such as emerging artist/performer/(previously) transport research student and now opportunity seeker.

The most outstanding need now, is to create or secure opportunities – both artistically  and professionally both and paid unpaid, and continue my explorations around social enterprise. It is for this purpose, I will have to move the more abstract or questionable posts elsewhere, present them differently and redirect my musings/work more specifically in future.

At least I can say from my efforts so far that I have the capacity to be creative, ask questions, stimulate debate and create interest and reaction in my work, but perhaps most importantly, particularly in the case of potential future leadership ventures,

a very fine set of balls.

I disabled my facebook profile (call the police!)

Last week I did something radical…

I DISABLED MY FACEBOOK PROFILE!!!!!!

And so far – it’s been interesting.

Facebook has experienced huge growth since its launch in 2004 with a reported 845 million active users in February 2012. The social networking site provides a shared online webspace for individuals and their friends to chat, post messages/email and share uploads /activities relating to their interests.

I’ve been a member of the site since around 2007/8. Since I joined I’ve spent a good amount of time using the site. I currently have around 250 friends (although at one stage I was hitting 700). I have been in contact with old friends from school, joined groups for events, shared photos and communicated with friends across the world both whilst at ‘home’ and whilst abroad travelling. I can literally communicate ‘on the move’ picking up facebook from my smartphone at any time where I have a signal. It has had some positive impact on my life, increased my online presence and connection with others.   So why the change?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the tipping point was that made me want to take a step back from it.  From a practical level the site has been subject to constant upgrades and re-designs with privacy rules and process changing frequently. This unsettles me as I feel less in control of the data that I share.  The most frequent introduction ‘timeline’ encourages you to input all your personal history and it got to a stage where I didn’t understand why that was really necessary. The accuracy of the targeted marketing on facebook is frightening (with ‘bots’ often picking up key words from status updates etc ) and whilst its great to share info on line this can also backfire with the world being informed of your relationship breakup or latest family drama. This is pretty rubbish if it’s something serious such as a hospital emergency or similar.

One of the key things I have noticed is the more that I have shared on facebook the less people in my life have felt it necessary to actually to talk to me.  Being a research student can be a lonely process at times, and whilst other people have felt that they are up to date with my goings on via facebook, I’ve really missed having face to face contact with them. My main resolution is to try and get back into the habit of having actual conversations with people and hopefully encourage them to do the same.

I started to also wonder what the implication was in terms of emotional investment in the past. Having your entire life history mapped out in front of you may not be the best thing in terms of relationship break up or family dispute and who really needs to be reminded of certain past events?  I know several of my friends who have completed the obligatory ‘facebook stalk’ of their new partners torturing themselves with photos of their current beau in previous relationships.  I was also contacted by a ‘bully’ from years gone by who seemed to have no recollection of what she put me through.  So I silently ignored her friend request and the more I ignored her well guess what? She attempted to bully me again via the internet. Not really sure I needed that… is it really necessary to get back in touch with everyone from our past.. maybe if we’ve not kept in touch it’s for a reason and it’s better to let them go?

I noticed other changes in social activity too. One of my interest is photography and lately I have been making greater attempts to understand and document different aspects of social life. I want to understand and represent social issues (by social I mean those concerned with society) using photography to try and do that. So I am trying to think more about the meanings of the photos that I take.  I’ve been on a few nights out recently where the activity seemed to be taking photos for facebook. Not enjoying the moment, or celebrating a specific event but for taking photo after photo of ..well..not a lot really. The whole dynamic of an evening out seems to be shifting from enjoying the moment to documenting it. Performing it even. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been just as guilty of this in the past as others have.  I guess from my clowning training I am learning to try and live in the moment,  but I witnessed how facebook is changing our sense of ‘being there’ with people posting on facebook groups about the night out whilst all being on the night out and a few metres away from each other. I started wondering if this was quite right. Also my research is concerned with the older people and they highlight so much the need for ‘being there’ with others. It made me more aware of my own absence in the present through technology/facebook.

I’v e been having these thoughts for a while and Shelly Turkle’s book ‘Alone Together’ has been on my amazon wish list since last year.  Recently I picked up on a TED talk via Twitter (Oh the irony) given by Sherry regarding her research which discuss this concept of almost individual/group isolation.  Have a look and see what you think.

One of the most interesting things is the way people react when I tell them.  It’s become such a social norm that most people think I am bonkers. In addition more and more activities are being organised via facebook and my lack of an account has been seen as a real inconvenience. Also interesting to note is that a lot of people weirdly assumed they had done something to me personally and that I had singled them out for deletion rather than cancelling my own account.

I didn’t delete my facebook profile as I have lots of info I need to pull off as well as contact details of friends and family. I can go back in at any time and restore things if I want to, it has had some great benefits and in the past I have enjoyed sharing certain things with my friends and family. I guess what I’m doing currently is taking stock. Trying to exist in the moment and rekindle the physical co-present aspects of my relationships.   Although people think I’m weird I’ve felt a lot better. Maybe I will re-boot the profile at some point in the future, but currently I am enjoying a new kind of freedom,  – one of privacy, of acting in a different way, of trying to be in the  here and now…. and to be honest the strongest feeling I have is a strange sense of relief.

Happy New Year blog! Looking back at 6 months of meanderings and the privileges of sharing

Happy New Year blog! You are just over 6 months old..you have 4! (count em) 4 official followers! Some people have RSS’d you!! You’ve had over 3500 hits in the past 6 months!!!

As is the way at this time of year – it’s often useful to look back at events and experiences of the last 6 or 12 months, weigh up and contemplate successes and failures and have some kind of plan for 2012.  Since beginning this blog I’ve had discussions with people, received feedback and begun to read the blogs of others.

So here are my thoughts on blogging so far.

The aim.

It’s hard to know if I should currently count my blog as a ‘success’….. doing so would possibly imply that it had some kind of aim.. and I’m not sure what the aim of it was to start with to be honest. I wanted a place just to put down thoughts to myself which perhaps others could share, reflect comment on…. to show things I make, create, write… to share photos I’ve taken and to attempt to document both my intellectual and artistic journey. I also occasionally use it for thoughts around my academic work.  I guess what I’ve struggled to do is to refine it down to one single thing which I think in terms of  blog ‘effectiveness’  (i.e communicating a single message) is traditionally not thought of as a good thing – but in terms of personal benefit I think it is. The blog is not just about my passions or my work or wholly biographical, wholly evidence based or wholly arts based. It is a combination of these things, because I am a combination of these things. I found it incredibly hard to define myself through one single activity or discipline or pursuit, and I rather think that perhaps similar to twitter this diversity, I would argue is a good thing.

As humans we are inherently habitual creatures and as Bourdieu writes, our experiences of everyday life and our place in the social settings/structures within which we are situated often lead us to ways of acting or ways of being which encourage us to replicate learned behaviour. Perhaps the continual stream of diverse subjects/topics coupled with a conflicting  a lack of narrative (i.e mainly individual and unrelated blog posts) encourage not only small bites of knowledge dissemination or thinking points, and dialogue across disciplines,  but also in addition (as is the way with this blog) combining art with this – will encourage the followers to interpret and reflect on their own experience in order to succumb to the often common modern human reflex which is to ‘order ‘ or to ‘make sense’ of everything. Again I view this as a positive thing. All to often in life we are taught to expect the linear neat ‘story’ this is demonstrated through our telling of history to the simple childhood fairytale. Its is an uncomfortable truth however that this is never really the case.

Whilst mostly blog posts have no specific narrative the one story that currently does emerge throughout is my story, as I am the sole creator of this blog. My story is inevitably told then perhaps covertly by demonstrating the topics I am interested in and more overtly by the inclusion of an element of biographical material, this which needs on to my next thinking point….

To share or not to share – that is no longer a question…

Blogs spring up for all sorts of reasons and I guess like twitter its entirely up to the individual how little or how much they disclose, or what level or personal topics they cover.  At first I approached the blog with an intention of the ‘I’ remaining more removed from my writing. However unexpectedly as I began to write it seems that it became easier for me to express things… I also made another significant discovery. The word press site management functions enable me to see the search terms that people entered into google to arrive at my blog and I was really surprised as to the things that were coming up – a lot of the time they were related to productions, artists, theorists that I had mentioned but often they were more personal:

  • My PhD supervisor shouts at me
  • PhD student expectations
  • PhD first year unhappy
  • PhD I feel alone
  • The body

There were a number of others, but I realised how the internet could be used to create meaning. As well as providing an element of personal catharsis I began to realise the potential of the internet to act as a type of virtual support for people who were experiencing the same/similar things whether positive or negative. By revealing the truth about our lives and revealing our authentic selves and to remove as far as possible the conscious effort to ‘self present’ ourselves.. the possibility that stigma around certain experiences may be removed, and perhaps in a most idealistic sense – support could be given even if no interaction between reader/blogger ever occurs.  I noticed that as my posts became more honest and I revealed deeper things so did others. So they benefitted as well – in a way. Also I find the roots of my internet meanderings often come down to some basic philosophical things – life, death, love, family, food, sex, leisure – this perhaps reflects my own values and past/current experiences. Also my research – concerned with the experience of ageing often highlights these basic things. As we grow older and our worlds shrink, our bodies change and we approach the end of life inherently we appreciate and see things differently. The basic principles are often the most important and I guess so far my feelings around the issues brought to my attention all add up to the simpler and most fundamental things in life. It’s difficult and it becomes almost meaningless to attempt an over intellectualisation of the theory/issues/context surrounding the humanistic experience of ageing particularly when published in the blogsphere. I want it to be accessible. Not aimed at academics but to somehow use a language that speaks to everyone.

The future of this blog

So what’s in store for 2012? I guess for me and for the blog? I currently have 76 posts pending covering ideas for research, art, creativity, ageing, biography and other ideas. I hope to have a greater focus on my photography work and on my research which I hope will be of interest. I still have a number of reflection around courses I’ve attended and productions to write up which I hope to get done before I go back to work. I guess next year you can expect more of the same but with new stuff too – telling my story and the story of others. I expect that at times you will find it beautiful, uncomfortable, interesting, confusing and hopefully inspiring and thought provoking too. I currently plan to maintain this blog until September 2013. Then after that perhaps will act as documentary evidence of a transitionary time for me. Anyhow, whatever happens I hope somehow you get something out of it, even if you don’t always agree with it.

So, I’ll sign off now, I don’t think I will get a chance to post tomorrow so I guess from me I have to say ‘Happy New Year’ and thanks for following and commenting.. .. maybe on New Years eve you are off out to do something exciting…. maybe you are staying in and rejoicing in domestic bliss.. maybe you’re going to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and wish the whole fucking pantomime would go away.. whatever happens I will see you on the other side…and maybe.. just maybe.. 2012 is going to be our year…

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