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Oversharing on Social Media- Another Case of Fractalonia?

// Posted by on 04/15/2014 (9:50 PM)

After reading Deirdre’s post this week on the Wired article, “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online,” I was struck by an opinion piece on Wired.com. The piece, entitled “Science Says: The Baby Madness on Your Facebook Feed is an Illusion,”… Read more

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After reading Deirdre’s post this week on the Wired article, “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online,” I was struck by an opinion piece on Wired.com. The piece, entitled “Science Says: The Baby Madness on Your Facebook Feed is an Illusion,” (http://www.wired.com/2014/04/babies-on-facebook/ ) serves as a case study on whether oversharing on social media is a legitimate of perceived trend. Many people tend to complain that new mothers are constantly posting photos of their newborns, and it escalates to the point where photos of someone’s new baby are all over one’s newsfeed. However, “Morris discovered, new mothers post less than half as often… Photos grow as a chunk of all postings, sure—but since new moms are so much less active on Facebook, it hardly matters.” Based on your experiences, do you believe these findings to be true? If these claims are valid, then why do we still hear people complaining that others overshare on social media sites?

The answer can be linked to our perpetuation of the phenomenon and Rushkoff’s notion of fractalonia. According to Rushkoff, we try to see patterns and make links between things with such fervor that we sometimes end up drawing links that have no truth. Morris first cites algorithms as a probable cause indicating that “viewers disproportionately “like” postings that mention new babies. This, she says, could result in Facebook ranking those postings more prominently in the News Feed, making mothers look more baby-obsessed.” From what I have observed on Facebook, posts that highlight a significant event in one’s life tend to get the most “likes.” Such posts could be about a college acceptance, an internship, a job, an engagement, and yes, a new baby. We look to link the perceived increase in posts to the fact that the baby is new and the parents are excited, yet in the process, we lose sight of the reality that more “likes” on a photo makes Facebook advertise it to friends of the poster more ubiquitously. Thus, we fall prey to fractalonia by making a link between a cause and effect that is not necessarily the case, and we further perpetuate the perceived “oversharing” of the photos by continuing to show our support by “liking” them.

Another cause cited by Morris is a frequency illusion. A Frequency illusion occurs as “once we notice something that annoys or surprises or pleases us—or something that’s just novel—we tend to suddenly notice it more. We overweight its frequency in everyday life.” Again, we are guilty of fractalonia by engaging in this thought as we are drawing a link that does not exist in an effort to make more sense of things. Based on our class discussions on overwinding and present shock, I believe we commit fractalonia because in this day and age, “any and all sense making must occur on the fly” (Rushkoff 201). Information is linked in order to constantly create new information as we live in an age of multitasking and constantly being “plugged in.” It forces one to question what would happen if everyone cut back even just slightly on the number of times they logged into Facebook. Would we still think people are oversharing? Or would we see a photo of a newborn, like it, and continue scrolling without a second thought because the same or a variation of the photo has not already been seen the other six times we logged in that day?

It is important to recognize “the value of observing the world around us like a scientist—to see what’s actually going on instead of what just happens to gall (or please) us.” Rushkoff seems to agree in his statement that fractalonia “doesn’t mean pattern recognition is futile. It only shows how easy it is to draw connections where there are none, or where the linkage is tenuous at best” (Rushkoff 202). Based on this case study and the nature of fractalonia, do you think that oversharing on social media is actually a phenomenon? Or are we so consumed with checking social media sites multiple times a day that we begin to perceive a few photos as ubiquitous?


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