Oh, The Places We Post!
April 20, 2019
On Social Media Use & Living a Normal Life: Part 1—
I want to consider what the words place and post mean in their real life forms. Like: what these used to mean, before the internet, before social media. Because I wonder: If I think about place and post as the physical precursors to what they mean now for online life, maybe I might somehow grasp just what it is about social media that makes me feel that it’s not what it first claimed to be? When I immersed myself in Facebook and Twitter ten+ years ago, I experienced it as an obvious next step in connectivity, since email—which I didn’t use until college—was already ubiquitous, Google had made information so easy to access, and bloggers were putting their self-published lives out into the public on the regular. What came next made sense at the time: instant simultaneous connection to everyone’s self-published lives.
I didn’t register for a Facebook account until two years after it was available to everyone, just a novelty for keeping up with people I already knew. I joined Twitter in 2010 for advocacy work and I was wowed by how immediately I built a network for that project; I soon used it to connect with artists and for the first time, I had an art community (my art school community hadn’t stuck).
There’s a lot I liked about the connections—I made lots of art about it!—but it’s not so natural as it seemed at first. For a while, I’ve been feeling like there’s a flaw in me that made it so I can’t do it (social media) very well anymore. Why haven’t I been able to tolerate it like I used to? I’m now realizing I’m not the one with the flaw; what’s flawed is social media itself, wanting me to change to conform to it. My uncomfortableness with it is my human feature, not a flaw after all.
This is what a place is supposed to be: a physical environment or space or spot, an indefinite region or expanse, a building or part of a building, a particular location, or a distinct position. Places are all around, it’s the most generic term for any of the spaces we move through, from a specific sitting spot in a man-made structure to an unspoiled vista as far as the eye can see, to a named land mass in between oceans. Places are physical, they are one thing but not another. It distinguishes where I am from where you are. There is a place on the couch where I curl up and rest my head; there’s also a place on my left temple that’s a smooth patch of skin where stitches held a gash closed while it healed.
This is what a post used to mean: a beam that reinforces the structures where we make spaces for ourselves, or a support in a doorway, which we close up to separate or leave open for joining one space to another. That’s the noun. There’s also the verb: we post things on posts, notices or pictures tacked up in convenient places for place markers, signs, declarations, and information. Names of businesses, roads, towns, neighborhoods, and schools are posted, along with signage on how to get to them. There are warnings that implore us to be safe, and other posts that say they are already safe spaces by noting “everyone welcomed here,” and there are even covert communications on how to find safety for those who live in fear (domestic violence resources in women’s bathrooms). In modern life, we’re marketed to on posted signs (billboards, sandwich boards) and we market to others (garage sales, papers tucked under windshields). We encounter posts everywhere, all the time, walking or driving up to them and past them, posts guide us as we move our bodies from place to place.
Here, in real life: I reflect on the places I know around where I live, and I think of other places I’ve been, how I experience gathering places, and how I receive or exchange information with other people. I bring these to mind as I imagine myself going through my day where I live, in these places I know well. I think about the rooms of my home here, my boys who are eclipsing me with their height and youth and volume. I think about going out from my little road onto nearby roads, walking my dog Cocoa, keeping her busy since her litter-mate sister (who didn’t like walks as much) passed away suddenly four weeks ago. I walk Cocoa and she’s walking me, finally getting me to move myself outside, feeling the morning breeze. In my mind, I can see in all around my city, the buildings and the streets around here named around a hundred years ago, making a new (segregated at the inception) neighborhood out of a place that already had a history to other people. I think about the culture and the laws that drew the lines here, the practices and the norms of the people here, the decision makers and the recipients of those decisions, the values they thought they had and the values made evident by their actions. I think about all that went into making this actual community here where I live.
There, online: The more I’ve seen these platforms for what they are, the more I want to really be here, alive and unattached to tech, and the less I want to be there, unmoored from my life.
Series: On Social Media & Living a Normal Life
(NOTE: this was originally posted 2/5/2019 as a super long blog post, but I decided to cut it down and re-edit it into parts, so I can get into the practice of writing shorter things. There are several more of these coming in the next couple days. My apologies if you already read it in February!)
~ Maritza Ruiz-Kim
Links for this series:
- Book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
- Book, Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger MacNamee
- Video, NYT’s “Opinion Video Series”: Operation Infektion: Russian Disinformation from Cold War to Kanye
- Podcast, Vox’s “The Weeds”: Facebook is Bad, Please Join Our Facebook Group
- Podcast, Vox’s “The Ezra Klein Show”: Cal Newport on Taking Your Life Back from Technology
- Podcast, NYT’s “The Book Review”: Assessing the Facebook Problem
- Podcast, NPR’s “Morning Edition”: Facebook, Google Draw Scrutiny Over Apps that Collected Data From Teens
We miss you, chunkyboo. xoxo
Sugar the Pug Kim