“Feathers Together” in Social Media

Boyd and Ellison’s “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” article articulated that social network sites are created for subgroups or niche communities. When boyd and Ellison wrote that social network sites are designed around people, not topics (p. 219), I experienced an aha moment. For what is a community without similar beliefs, and where best to find gaggles of other geese that share the same interests than online?

So really, social network sites are a way for people to gather and share experiences that others can relate to. For example, if, say, I were interested in crocheting monstrosities of detailed afghans and no one in my immediate physical community shared that passion, I could find support and inspiration for projects online and belong to a crocheting community without having to physically move to the crocheting capital (wherever that may be).

This ties into what Jack Molisani wrote about in his article, “Is Social Media For You?” when he emphasized the need to network and get your brand online. To follow the crocheting example further, if I wanted to be an active part of that community, I would need to brand myself as a crocheting guru or creator or something, and one way to do that would be to microblog, or Tweet and build my reliability and expertise online.

Posted on September 19, 2014, in Social Media and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Scott,

    Social networking sites might be created around people, but the topics are what drive the communication within the SNS’s community. On Facebook, I have my group of friends that post comments, articles, and pictures. There are some likes and one or two comments on most posts. But, the topics which we disagree on are the posts that will have 30, 50, even 100 posts. Given that, I have a hard time determining what defines an online community.

    I belong to a forum that discusses hunting and land management. It also provides an opportunity to share knowledge and past experiences. The passion for hunting and land management draws people to the community. However, there is rarely a consensus on any topic. What to plant, where to plant, how to plant and what tools are needed to be successful will draw as many different opinions as there are people commenting.

    There was a recent post about a hunting show that documented a dream hunt for a disabled 12 year old. You would think that is something that everyone could agree was a great thing, but there were two people that viewed it as a publicity stunt and slammed the tv show for it. I can’t help but wonder which beliefs we share that makes us a community. Is it as broad as an interest in hunting and planting crops? What if we disagree on every aspect within the passion for hunting? Are we still a group of people with similar beliefs? I only ask the question because I don’t have the answer.

  2. That’s a good question. I venture that the answer is a qualified yes. Yes, because frankly, I’m not interested in hunting, and would not go to a forum on it (although, perhaps land management). So while your fellow members on the forum might be heatedly debating whether the cross bow should be used to hunt deer, everyone cares enough to contribute.

    And that’s a qualified yes because I’m just brainstorming here and, like you, don’t have the answer.

  3. The con of only contributing and listening to people in your online community, and this is likely more related to politics than anything else, is that echo chambers can emerge: “In media, an echo chamber is a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored or disallowed.” See more about the media-specific version of this definition here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echo_chamber_(media)
    (Yes, I just relied on Wikipedia. I won’t suggest it for your final research papers, but I do find it reliable in cases like this!)

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