Last night, I went to the College of Communications Pockgrass lecture on Social Media, given by Zizi Papacharissi. To be honest, it wasn't totally my cup of tea. Maybe it was the hour, maybe it was the fact that it was so overly academic, but I didn't get a whole lot of new ideas out of it. Perhaps it was the terminology flying around ("mis en scene?" Seriously?), but I would have far further enjoyed a lecture that discussed the research while still drawing helpful, applicable conclusions. Not to be snarky (nod to @MaxSpiegel), but it felt like the new school was trying a bit too hard to fit into the old school (I repeat: "mis en scene?" "MIS EN SCENE?").
However, one thing Papacharissi said did stick with me--her notion of social networking and social media as performative. I thought about that a bit over the course of the evening and this morning, and I think it's true, at least to some degree. Let me 'splain.
Some of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook might notice that my general morning post is something like, "Good morning, everyone! Happy Tuesday!" or some such. I sound perky as hell, annoyingly so, even. The truth is, I'm generally (though not always) un-caffeinated, ready to head back to bed, and cranky as hell. In other words, "perky" I am not. That definitely fits into the notion that my post is some kind of performance. But here's (especially to me) the question: Is it therefore inauthentic?
If it is inauthentic, then I should be posting how I'm really feeling, which is something to the tune of "Holy shit--AGAIN with the alarm? Crap." Honest. Real. Un-caffeinated, as I've said.
But here's the thing--I don't want to feel like that in the morning. I want to feel perky. I want to feel like I'll wrestle Tuesday into submission, and I want to feel like hopping out of bed with a smile on my face. And posting as if I were already wearing a smile actually helps me to feel that way.
Did you ever hear the saying about smiling even if you don't feel like it, because it improves your mood? It's true. I feel that every day. Posting as if I'm energized makes me feel energized, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is especially true when someone else comments on my post, saying "I'm in!" or "Thanks, Stevie! You have a good day, too!" At that point, we are mutually cheering each other.
David Eddings wrote that "the word gives meaning to the event." Somehow, I think that a chipper post that makes me chipper is one way this works. And if my apparent cheer brings a smile to someone else, or helps them get on their way, or even makes someone roll their eyes because they know I'm not wholly awake (I'm looking at you, @Robin2go), then I still stand by my posts' authenticity.
My friend Nancy pointed out in discussing this that any public face we put on (in a meeting, at work, even with friends) is essentially performative. And I think she's right. We perform, to some extent, all day, every day. But performative acts are not necessarily inauthentic, because the goal is to be in community with each other. One day, I may not be able to muster up the cheer--but that will be okay, I think. Others will step in and support me. And how can I not do the same?
One of my favorite essayists is Robert Fulghum, he of "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Part of that essay is the quote, "When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together." That's what we're doing in social media. So let's grab a hand, everyone, and get out there! :)