This week’s readings dedicated to digital activism and the consequences of algorithmic filtering brought about connections to a social media wide hashtag I will be participating in this Friday called #BlackOutDay. Friday, March 6th all Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Vine users are encouraged to post and re- post positive depictions of Black people all day long. The demonstration was first intended for Black Tumblr users to combat the under representation most of us feel when combing through tags on the site. On Tumblr “notes” are like currency and give a post immortality as it is liked and re-blogged throughout the site while being seen by its 225.5 million blog-owners and countless lurkers. But often when I hit up the trending page that shows the post with the most notes, I don’t see people quite like me. Today, there was Beyonce and Kanye among the cats, SoundCloud, One Direction and other popular post but when it came to just regular people I only saw White women. Pictures of women in cute midriff barring outfits, with floral crowns and awe worthy eyebrows that could have easily been women of color but were just not. #BlackOutDay creator Expect-the-greatest.tumblr.com , echoed the same sentiment and was compelled to do something about it:
I got inspired to propose Blackout day after thinking “Damn, I’m not seeing enough Black people on my dash”. Of course I see a constant amount of Black celebrities but what about the regular people? Where is their shine? When I proposed it, I thought people would think it was a good idea, but not actually go through with implementing it. Luckily people wanted to get behind the idea, and @recklessthottie created the #Blackout tag…We need a unified agreeance that ALL black people are beautiful and worthy of praise and admiration, and Blackout day is a step towards that.
Tumblr’s main page is an example of the impact algorithm filtering have on what we see and #BalckOutDay is how we can unite as communities to take control of the algorithms. Zeynp Tufecki explains in her article What happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering, and Ferguson: ” … algorithmic filtering, as a layer controls what you see on the internet. Net Neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention , coverage ad control.
The problem with algorithms is that they are a representation of the systemic deficiencies in media representations of minorities that have already been in place for ions. If you had trusted your Facebook alone the night Ferguson erupted after the non-indictment announcement, you would have thought the story was not a top “trending” issue just like if I had trusted my Tumblr mainpage alone,Id think people like me don’t exist.
Professor Noble cautioned in her lecture to us the other week the importance of recognizing algorithms as not these infallible, all knowing representations of what you are looking for. The sad truth is that because the average person does not know the way an algorithm works exactly there are higher levels of trust in that technology than there should be. With demonstrations like #BlackOutDay and the passing of Net Neutrality we can usher in response to these oversights and be in charge of what we want to see.
The above video is the introduction to a YouTube channel called How to Adult. The channel was started last year and has over 60 videos dedicated to their motto, “Adulthood isn’t something that happens to you, it’s what you make”. The channel has almost 100,000 subscribers and popular videos include; How to ask someone on a date, do your taxes, ace a job interview, and how to manage living at home after college, plus all types of other things every burgeoning adult should know that your schools or parents didn’t necessarily teach you. The channel, its viewers, and creators all encompass this week’s concept of the Digital Native. This generation learns, teaches, interacts, and creates largely online and can barely remember a time when that was not the first option. Because of that we are innately different than generations before us but the idea that this someone creates this impossible rift between one generation and the next is comical. We are only using different mediums to communicate the same humanistic wants and needs we always have.
The term Digital Native has taken on many lives of its own and can now be seen with one simple Google news search as a divisively drawn line between us and them. Articles like CNN’s What Does it Mean to Be a Digital Native? , opens with the line “The war between natives and immigrants is ending. The natives have won “. What war were in ? Please explain, I was born after 1980, when have I been in this interweb combat you speak of?
There has definitely been a switch towards technology but this scare tactic of come with us or be left behind by the masses is problematic and mostly just silly. In authors Shah and Abraham’s Digital Natives With A Cause?, they explain that a Digital Native can be a person who has “realized the possibilities and potentials of digital technologies in his/her environment” (Shah and Abraham 21), can’t that be grandma and grandpa face timing? or your Aunt learning how to do a recipe she saw on Pinterest thru youtube? And no one was forced toward that, its just been this natural progression that we have all experienced just some of us sooner than others.
“Although new forms of drama find home through social media, teens’ behaviors have not significantly changed. Social media has not radically altered the dynamics of bullying, but it has made these dynamics more visible to more people. We must use this visibility, not to justify increased punishment, but to help youth who are actually crying out for attention. Blaming technology or assuming that conflict will disappear if technology usage is minimized is naive.”
In chapter five of It’s Complicated, Danah Boyd examines the hot-button issue of Cyber Bullying and questions if social media has amplified the meanness and cruelty of adolescents. The excerpt above culminates the chapter and echoes the sentiment I wish most people would adopt. Children have always been cruel, social media and the easy accessibility of cell phones do not create bullies; it has only granted them with new platforms to engage in the same old cruelty.
I am guilty of re-posting this video of #shovelgirl on my Instagram last year. At the time, I thought nothing of it because it was literally everywhere. But after seeing adults just like me laugh and make accusations about this 16 year old child, I feel a certain level of disgust with myself and this culture of making bullying and children on children violence more visible than it ever has been. When posting these videos, we’re almost like co -conspirators in these children’s torment. While it is funny it’s created the misuse of visibility that Boyd refers to. While children will be children, as adults we could be using this expanded visibility social media has afforded us with to aid children not make fun of them for likes on Instagram. The anchors speculated if the video had been staged and all came to the conclusion that the girls had planned on recording their fighting so that it could go “viral”. A goal that isn’t so unheard of when there’s websites like WorldStar , who have millions of viewers everyday posting and re-posting these fights.
Boyd suggest that while we can not prevent youth from being hurt, we can make an effort to empower youth and recognize their hurting. I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. I sympathize with children who are victims of cyberbulling, I couldn’t imagine my insecurities being disperse for the world to see with a click of a button and .So I’m going to stop reposting or tagging my friend in kid fight videos because I just don’t want to be a part of the larger problem anymore.
Often when I engage in social media practices, like posting status updates, selfies, or amusing anecdotes, I ask myself the very important question: “Why are you sharing this?” and if my honest answer is a little too vain or unfair to someone else -I decide not to post. This Snap Chat story above probably would have benefited from that inner monologue but I guess they probably didn’t have time to think once the car flipped. But the last time I had this conversation with myself I did decide to opt out of posting a photoset on Tumblr of Beyoncé and Jay-Z apparently fighting at a restaurant. I think taking photos of celebrities at restaurants without their knowledge is so inappropriate. Have you no shame? Just eat your food, and maybe if you absolutely have to you can tweet “OMG JAYONCE all up in Chipotle!!!”.
But it is like the mantra of social media: “if you don’t take a picture, it never happened”.
As an avid Beyoncé “stan” I was going to repost the photos with the caption “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear”, as a way of commenting on how extremely out of context celebrity photos are taken. But by posting this, I had to admit I was just as guilty as the original iPhone paparazzo. Why did I need to make this public indictment to expose the exposer? Why did I have to perpetuate this event that was ultimately none of my business?
Danah Boyd’s article on “Super Publics” brings up the idea of how social media has made us all the reporters and in response to not wanting to be reported by others- we report ourselves first:
“Media is obsessed with revealing the backstage of people in the public eye – celebrities, politicians, etc. More recently, they’ve created a public eye to put people into – Survivor, Real World, etc. Open digital expression systems coupled with global networks took it one step farther by saying that anyone could operate as media and expose anyone else. What’s juicy is what people want to hide and thus, the media (all media) goes after this like hawks.
Should it surprise anyone that teenagers have responded by exposing everything with pride? What better way to react to a super public where everyone is working as paparazzi? There’s nothing juicy about exposing what’s already exposed. Do it yourself and you have nothing to worry about.”
When we are participating in social media we are all just being little reporters, reporting on each other and reporting on ourselves. It makes total perfect sense but where it gets tricky is being honest about why things need to be reported and what we are perpetuating by posting certain aspects of our lives and the lives of others. So like the writer of article about the obnoxiously inappropriate people at the very solemn Domino Sugar Factory exhibit suggest: we gotta have some chill. Not everything needs to be up for public consumption.
A 2014 study conducted by social media marketing company, Spreadfast in partnership with Instagram owner Facebook, found that 11% of #NoFilter tagged photos on Instagram were actually filtered. That equated to about 8.6 million duplicitously hashtagged pictures. Photos as mundane and innocuous as hair buns or Starbucks coffee cups and countless selfies and sunsets were all published by users with the purposely deceitful tag. Insta-frauds favorite mode of #NoFilter filter was the Amaro setting(% 15), a filter that slightly weakens the center of the photo while increasing exposure that results in extra light and a stylish vintage look to the photo that is really quite noticeably different than unprocessed pics. The “epidemic” is so out of control there’s even a website dedicated to fishing out sham unfiltered photos called FakerCatcher where you paste the photos URL in and voila, there’s your proof, list of filter use and all. There’s also a Tumblr account dedicated to the pictures exposed using FakerCatcher called FilterFakers, the site uses the tagline : “…There are obviously a few cheaters out there…that want you to think that their photos just came out that great and you had to believe them- until now”. The site scolds, “Go nuts with Instagram filters just be honest about it” but further down on their About section, we find the advice that only built in Instagram filters can be detected and if you want to cheat use apps like Camera+. It’s ironic they’ve devoted that much time into uncovering “liars” only to offer another avenue for Insta-deceit.
So why do we care so much exactly? Why do we, 8.6 million users, care so much to lie in something as trivial as a hashtag and then simultaneously care enough to find those that lied? In Jill Walker Rettberg’s , the author dives extensively into filters and our fixation on them in social media representations of ourselves. Jill Walker Rettberg describes filters in several different contexts and highlights Instagram filters as a way to “…make our selfies and photos of our everyday life seem unfamiliar, but the filter itself is repeated so often that the defamiliarisation effect wears off and becomes cliché” (Walker Rettberg 26). So is the fraudulent #NoFilter a response to the desire to not be cliché? Obviously it is shallow but is it just a natural progression to what the act of over-processing on social media has done to our acceptance of the actual appearance of ourselves and our surroundings in actual reality? We want to be real but can’t really handle what the real, really looks like. Jill Walker Rettberg writes how selfies can be too raw and too revealing, so simply #NoFilter filters can’t handle the truth. So why do we care when others can’t handle how we handle their representation of the truth on social media? Jill Walker Rettberg also brings up Katie Warfield’s notion that “the outstretched arm of the front facing camera selfie, includes the viewer in a space like a forced embrace with the viewer between the person and camera” (Walker Rettberg 9). Are these lies a violation of the implicit intimacy and trust of a selfie? It is plausible but it’s also laughable, because simply put people are insecure and people lie. 8.6 million people couldn't handle what you thought about the raw footage of their selfie, their Starbucks or their sunset. HASHTAG SAD.
Privacy ends where safety begins. I found that phrase several times after googling the words “mom outraged over Snapchat”. While the first three chapters of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated offered many fascinating insights on adolescences and their use of social media, the stories of parent and children arguments over Facebook and Live Journal felt dated. I searched for stories about parental fear and anxieties over Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram to see if those same emotions felt over Facebook and the like several years ago are handled today, now that the social media sites teens frequent aren’t as accessible to parents. Turns out the fears and anxiety over what their children are doing on social media are obviously the same as before but the methods to deal with them are quite different than peeking in on a Facebook wall.
In my search I found several different products and app aimed at parents to monitor their children’s every move. Each spyware advertised the same sentiments as the parent Christina in Chapter 2: “a good parent is an all knowing parent…I’m the parent and not the friend” (pg. 70 Boyd). I found an app called mSpy, it allows parents to see exactly what their children are sending on Snapchat, as well as who they’re calling, texting, emailing and even where they are. First the parent downloads mSpy onto the child’s phone. I immediately thought of all the kids who got the iPhone 6 for Christmas with a little something extra. Because once mSpy is installed it leaves no trace on the actual phone, not a banner or an icon. All the monitoring messages are seen on the parent’s device only.
I do see products like mSpy as an invasion of privacy but I also see a parents need to feel their child is safe and not participating in behavior that harms themselves like being in dangerous places with questionable people or even sending nudes. I do not however see privacy ending where safety begins. I agree with the concept Boyd offers about parental violations of privacy being an expression of love but essentially constant surveillance is a form of oppression. The affects of excessive snooping and monitoring limits children and negates the formation of trust and understanding. mSpy parents operate under the implication that their child is unable to make informed decisions and ultimately, children have to become adults and will find a way to make all the mistakes their parents prevented them from with much larger consequences than those faced in adolescence. And guess what mom and dad, there’s an mSpy blocker app too.
This week’s reading struck a particular cord with me because like a great majority of couples today, my relationship is long distance, started primarily online, and is assisted greatly by text messages. Through this experience, my life has echoed the same issue of an honest and authentic social identity like that of which Baym accounts in New Relationships, New Selves?
I accepted my future boyfriend’s request on Facebook because we went to highschool together and while we knew each other superficially back then, we definitely didn’t know each other here ten years later. So I am very aware that the pictures, places, and events I’ve posted not only helped him get to know me but also sparked his initial attraction to me. He saw me as really similar and fun online and was interested in knowing me better because of that. Lucky for us, our relationship has provided connections that are deeper than Facebook post both emotionally and intellectually but I still honestly feel a certain amount of pressure to uphold that visual image of the cool, exciting, pretty and attractive version of myself he initial responded to.
I wouldn’t describe my Facebook or Instagram accounts as a highlight reel of my life that only depicts the most glamorous, enticing form of me but as Baym describes I often “…present one’s best look rather than my everyday appearances (103)” because well duh, I’m not that excited about the world seeing my worst or even my mediocre. But where this gets tricky is I am trying to form an actual authentic and lasting commitment that cannot and will not be aided by the constant editing or fabricating of one’s appearance. My significant other will eventually see my mediocre and my worst and I want him to see all facets of me and accept that. I want to be comfortable with being that transparent but if I’m posting my “best of the best” on Instagram, Facebook and flooding him with filtered pictures of myself, what message am I really sending? I can be emotionally giving and vulnerable but not physically in my appearance?
Baym explains that “When people meet online, it raises questions about whether they are honest about who they are, and whether they and the relationships they create can be trusted” (121). I thought I was trustworthy in this relationship because I haven’t misrepresented my personality, where I live or what I do but after reading Baym’s New Relatioships, New Selves?, I am a little weary about the image I am presenting and the consequences this may have. The selfies I send today may have to be a little different.