Monthly Archives: November 2015

The passage above is from Amy Adele Hasinoff’s paper “Sexting as media production:
Rethinking social media and
sexuality,” which I was rereading in light of the recent teen sexting “scandal” in Colorado

That highlighted sentence jumped out at me because I think the logic cited there is precisely backward. Social media’s tools don’t permit the “authentic point of view” so much as posit it, subjecting users to demands to produce “authentic content” for the network. The “authenticity” of that material will then be evaluated by other users, and if validated, used to augment the marketing materials of the advertisers who fund social media. 

Social media companies have been effective at selling the belief that their products enable access to “an authentic point of view,” mainly by defining a social space where users can seemingly post whatever they want. In practice, users’ expression there is curtailed by technical limitations that preformat their expression. It is also governed even more acutely by social norms, given how the space is intensely monitored and users cannot know the extent of their audience or the context in which their posts will appear. 

Everything posted to social media can be disqualified from authenticity for a variety of reasons: context collapse, overweening self-interest, favor trading, narcissism, whatever. Yet the idea remains that the discursive space defined by social media could be authentic, if only the users were better people.

Thus social media use authenticity to set up a protocol by which users can mutually shame one another for their failures to be entirely real. This prods continual further posting amid the recriminations and mounting suspicions of bad faith. 

Social media produce the supposed potential for authenticity while deauthenticating the everyday practices of the people using it.


fear of content

I wrote an essay called “Fear of Content

An excerpt:

“When we post our own material online, we are always in danger of turning ourselves into content: either the meaningless kind of internet content, content for content’s sake, representing ourselves as pure form, articulated by the affordances and conventions of social media platforms rather than in terms of some inner essence; or the kind of overdetermined content Sontag abhors, too eager to be interpreted, to be meaningful in some trite and anti-artistic way. But we are trying to live our lives as art; that is the promise of personal expression as public documentation. The self is a content farm.”