“Keep a social media diary of one typical weekday & evening, hour by hour. Briefly characterize the kind of social media participation that you take part in or witness. Argue for or against the assertion that these activities are evidence of a “participatory” culture. Furnish examples to support your characterization.”
What should seem like a straightforward exercise proved to be a bit of a challenge, as I haven’t experienced a “typical” day and evening since Fall quarter began six weeks ago. Each week and day has its own special commitments. The reasons for this are due to many things culminating at once, in addition to my decision to enroll in a heavy course load. As a Master’s student, I decided to take as many units as possible by enrolling in 23 units, as well as to shop an additional 3 unit course for the first 3 weeks of the quarter; these units were in addition to completing a 5 unit statistics course at another college on the semester system and working 2 part-time campus jobs. In short, there just is no typical day.
Due to the scheduling of my courses, consistencies in my routine that could be thought of as “typical” occur in weekly intervals in which the second Monday may be similar to the first Monday, the second Tuesday may be similar to the first Tuesday, and so on. Even then, however, it seems that no two days have been similar enough for any day to be thought of as typical. Every day for the past week I would think to myself that, since this day isn’t typical, I should not use it for my diary. Further, because this quarter is uncharacteristically busy for me, I don’t spend ample time using social media.
In contrast to what would seem to be limitations on my ability to infer insight on my own social media use from this exercise, the varied nature of my schedule has actually revealed to me an insight I had not consciously acknowledged prior to writing this post. While my daily commitments are constantly in flux, there is a constant pattern across my usage of social media: in spare moments that I have to relax, I choose to do so by reading forum posts in online communities.
Finish my take home midterm.
2:00AM Read Reddit threads, and check Stanford YikYak for new posts. Check my emails. Go to bed.
9:00AM Wake up, check my emails. Get ready for class. Print my midterm. Get breakfast.
10:30AM Go to lecture
11:00AM while in lecture, filter emails. Draft email to the professor with my questions regarding the lecture as he speaks. (I do this for questions that are important to me but that I know are beyond the scope of what there is time to discuss during lecture). Check the Social Media Literacies Facebook group.
12:00PM get lunch. See notifications for activity on YikYak and ignore them. [Note, in retrospect: I should turn these notifications off. I always ignore them. I hadn’t thought to turn them off until now].
12:30PM do homework for next class and communicate in real time with project group via email.
1:00PM-5:15PM in class, no use of social media or electronic devices.
5:30PM-7:00PM: do homework
7:00PM-11:00PM: Work at product realization lab.
11:00PM: Get dinner. Check YikYak briefly.
12:00AM: Check email. Go on Facebook to check social media literacies group. Do reading for class.
A takeaway point I have from doing this activity is that although I feel like I am on social media all the time, my social media activity is actually very limited. I feel like I am on social media often because I choose to allocate the limited free time that I have to social media, especially as a source of entertainment and relaxation. My media activity is primarily devoted to email for utilitarian reasons, Facebook (very limited) also for utilitarian reasons, and YikYak and Reddit for entertainment. While I am not a contributor to Reddit (I am a lurker), I do consider my involvement to be participatory. I am actively listening to these posts and reflecting on them. My activity on YikYak is undeniably participatory, as I will occasionally (perhaps twice a week) contribute a post or comment.
How is it that I can be absolutely exhausted, yet I still would rather postpone sleep and read the personal anecdotes on interesting conversation threads than go straight to bed? It is because I find happiness reading the stories of other people and learning from their experiences. I enjoy reading jokes, learning about unfamiliar topics, and hearing different viewpoints articulated in ways that never would have occurred to me.
Interestingly, I actually feel I am a more active participant on Reddit than I am on Facebook. On Facebook I will occasionally post a status update, but the actual “participation” on Facebook comes from me simply having a profile. I have an online presence on Facebook due to the existence of my profile, but I am rarely on the website. In contrast, I don’t have a reddit account (at least I don’t have one linked to my identity and I never post comments. I do have an account so that I can subscribe to the subreddits I like), but I would make a strong case that I am a much more involved participant on Reddit than I am on Facebook. On Facebook, I have a profile, but nobody is home. On Reddit, you may not know I’m there, but I know I am, and that is all that matters.
Consider the 90-9-1 rule discussed by Jacob Nielsen, which he summarizes: “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.” While 1% of users may account for almost all of the content on Reddit, or on any online forum community, participation within the community is not restricted to those who post. Users may participate in different ways. Perhaps the meaning of participation in the context of social media should be reexamined.