Personal Connections in the Digital Age by Nancy Baym

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Titel: Personal Connections in the Digital Age – Forfatter: Nancy Baym

★★★☆☆

Nancy Baym investigates what the effect of social media has been on our social interaction: ‘What does personal communication mean when it’s transmitted through a mass medium? […] What do ‘private’ and ‘public’ mean anymore? What does it even mean to be real?’

Kenneth Gergen deals with the struggle of presence: ‘of being physically present yet at the same time, being mentally and emotionally present somewhere else [online on social media]’ (ibid.). These claims show an individual in psychological struggle. It has become more difficult to distinguish what is real and what is staged – what is posted on social media, statements from celebrities and also statements from the regular online user. Can the individual fake itself to a new identity online, which is more glamourized than the actual identity behind the screen? As Baym claims:
‘Personal identity refers to the aspects of our selves that distinguish us from others. This includes things like values, traits, tastes and biographies […] Some of these are involuntary – our ethnicities, sex, [and] sexual orientation’ (118).

The question is if we have become too influenced, possibly manipulated, by what is considered accepted to like, be interested in or how to behave and act in social conventions. Does popular culture set the course of what we should like or be interested in as individuals? Do we choose to follow a celebrity online because we feel actual fascination or respect? Are we affected by others people’s opinions or are we simply curious? In 2016 where we are highly affected by life online, it is difficult to distinguish what are truly our own ideas and values, and what society and the media expect us to feel and think.

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