SOCIAL MEDIA: POSTMODERN COMMUNICATION
December 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
Below is an excerpt from my master’s Dissertation.
The Individual as the New(s) Authority
Part X of XI
POSTMODERN MEDIA & COMMUNICATION
Social media is the utmost postmodern form of media because it has completely deconstructed the traditional channels of media and human communication. Postmodernist do not view truth as a single thing or idea; but instead see truth as assembled and constructed from many different components. Truth can be gathered from science, theories and studies; or happen simply through society, created though cultural mechanisms and processes seen by the individual. (McCandless, D. 2009). By applying this definition to the modern spread of information we can begin to see how social media by its nature is nothing short of postmodern.
Social media has stripped communication down to its barest identity. Any sort of announcement, story, personal account, gossip, statement, revelation or intelligent comment has become substance for our news feeds. Truly anything can be considered fodder for news and communication. That is to say, social media has completely democratized media giving everyone the power to contribute to the news. There is no longer a difference between refined and popular, no more high and low culture, instead everything is online and available to the publics discretion. Social media embraces contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, interconnectedness and the fusion of the masses, all of which are key principles to postmodern thought (McCandless, D. 2009). Social media has utterly obliterated the distinction between the producers and consumers of media giving anyone the opportunity to be both a consumer and producer of news (Basulto, D. 2009). Through social media’s general nature it has completely torn down traditional forms of media and communication creating a new system for human communication where the individual has the power.
Modern social networks are a perfect depiction of postmodern concepts because they each deconstruct human interaction in their own way thus breaking down the conventional forms of communication and conversation. For example, Facebook has deconstructed the word friend bringing it to a point of near meaninglessness. By definition a friend is, “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection,” a companion, soul mate, intimate, confidante, familiar, playmate, playfellow, classmate, schoolmate, workmate; ally or associate (Oxford University 2005). However, at 27 years old, I have about 900 friends on Facebook, yet I would classify very few of them as confidants or companions, some are schoolmates and coworkers yes, but most are people I shared some sort of experience with at some point in my life. My “Facebook Friends” are people who I share a similarity and regard with a certain amount of trust to be both sources and receivers of information and messages; they are not necessarily friends by the traditional definition. Fundamentally, Facebook has deconstructed the word “friend” and what it means to know someone, and by doing so has allowed a greater amount of information to be shared between not only with individuals but throughout the public sphere.
Perhaps unknowingly, the creators of social networks like Facebook and Twitter have used postmodern thought by completely deconstructing human communication and dismantling how we share news and information to its barest form. Social networks have given way to a collective trans-critical and the meta-analysis of our existence. We each combine our own reality and truths into these social networks through sharing links, posting photos and information. Our individual messages are presented to us in constructed news feeds and lists of 140 character messages where communication boarders on Alter-modernism. Both the form and function of social media have given the individual the power to assemble truth accurately and safely. When a news story is shared by the individual via social media other users have the opportunity to discuss and verify the truth. The power to contribute and approve information through social networks keeps organized bodies who claim to hold absolute truths from attempting to assert power over the public.
Postmodernist do not believe in absolute truths but rather that ideas of truth are used as a means of control over a populous. Attempts to skew media and perceptions of truth by the powerful have become less effective since the birth of social networks. For instance, recently the NYPD tried to deny the use of pepper spray on crowds at an Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City when they had in fact sprayed the crowd. (Masnick, M. 2011). If this had happened 10 years ago the events would have been left to speculation. Technology has given people the ability to digitally capture real time events and share them in open forums like Youtube. The popularity of smart phones and the ability to post real time events via social media enabled individuals to bring the truth to public sphere giving them a new power over those who were once all powerful.
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