I tried it, but I just don’t get it.
I got an account last year, but I’ve never used it – seemed like a waste of time.
Why would anyone be interested in whether I chose a tall decaf caramel macchiato or a skinny hazelnut latte? I don’t see the point in telling the world what I’m doing every minute of the day.
These responses may seem familiar to you. You may have uttered a variation yourself, or it may be the response you often get while trying to explain social media to friends, family and colleagues. The reason for these type of responses can indicate a) resistance, b) confusion, c) frustration d) fear. However, the source of all these emotions is a lack of understanding. They reveal that those who exhibit them are yet to develop a feel for the game.
One way of exploring this contrast between those who ‘get’ social media and those who don’t is by turning to the theories of French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu. He posited that society consists of a multiplicity of fields with each field operating according to intrinsic logics pertaining to hierarchical strata, and the practice of position-taking in relation to those hierarchies.
One example that we can look at in order to illustrate this is the field of literary production; in this field there are a variety of agents such as publishers, authors, readers, booksellers etc. and they are all invested in the practice of producing literary texts. Their success is then measured in two ways: economically and symbolically (cultural kudos). In order to participate within this field, Bourdieu argues that we need to gain, through knowledge and experience, a set of dispositions which affect our practices, perceptions and prejudices. Our habitus needs to develop in order for us to interact with others in the field – we need to gain that feel for the game.
If we then transpose this example from literary production to social media, it begins to explain why social media is intrinsic to the daily lives of some and a total enigma to others. Those who understand social media to the degree that they can function quite happily within its structures have developed the habitus necessary to that field. Those who don’t ‘get’ it, have yet to acquire that knowledge and experience which would facilitate their participation.
So how does one develop habitus to enable participation in the field of social media?
I would like to suggest that one of the best ways is through immersion. It’s all very well reading blogs about social media, talking to social media ‘experts’ or enrolling in a social media degree, but it’s only when you give yourself the freedom to sit down, start an account, and begin to play with your medium of choice (FaceBook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn) that you begin to understand.
After all, it’s all very well learning the rules of the game, but it’s only through playing the game that we develop a feel for it.
– This is the first time I’ve tried to articulate these ideas, and where I’ve tried to simplify it, I can already see gaping holes in it. However, let’s think of it as a jumping off point. I’ll be exploring this theory further over the coming months and those explorations may ultimately render previous musings obsolete. But, I’m looking forward to see how it evolves though!
If you have any questions or theories of your own – please do leave a comment. I may not be able to answer your questions, but then maybe we can look for answers together.