Why We Post Week 2: Constructed Imagery

Week Two of my latest Future Learn course (details here) began with:

In this week we will concentrate upon social media as a significant change in human communication that makes images equal to text

– something that I looked at a lot back at university.

I’ve written before about how images (and increasingly, video) allow for a more universal form of communication, as well as conveying emotions that are absent or hard to interpret in plain text, especially with the character constraints of platforms like Twitter. Plus, I know from social media marketing that images = better engagement, and that applies to casual/personal posting as well as companies.

However this course takes things a little deeper by looking at how that changes in different communities around the world. For example, they looked at two places, Trinidad and Italy, where the culture expects people’s appearance to equal their social status, and social media posting reflects that, especially in selfies and photos with friends/family. But there were differences, as the course noted:

[In Italy] people expect social media to be consistent with their offline social status, while in Trinidad people may use social media to claim a higher social status online.

Also a thought from the course discussion of selfies and how many people view them as narcissistic – ‘selfies’ are more often thought of that way because the word sounds like ‘selfish’. 😲

It was also interesting to learn that this idea that placing a high worth on your outer image make you shallow doesn’t apply on certain parts of the world.

[People in Trinidad] consider that what lies deep inside a person to be more likely to be untrue because it is hidden.

This cultural difference is down to history – Trinidad, for example, is a place shaped by colonialism and slavery. In modern society, people there often don’t get their identity from class or upbringing, so how they present themselves in public is based on self-worth and aspiration. Therefore, how they show themselves on social media is cultivated to reflect how they think other should see them.

Interestingly, I think this is something that is starting to happen on social networks elsewhere in the world. As much as there is distain for the ‘selfie generation’, there is also a movement of encouraging that outer self-worth in carefully curated and created pictures.

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