Smith and Watson’s Virtually Me expands their pre-existing work on autobiography, into digital spaces which they state is, “categorically different from what is understood as traditional life writing” (70). Part of what we have been talking up to this point in the class is how digital photographs are presented online and how different types of sites change how we perceive and interact with images. Ultimately, most social media sites develop their audiences through the way digital images and uploaded and shared. The popular social media site, Reddit ultimately hold responsibility for being one of the major curators for this generation’s digital memories, but lacks the policies in place to protect the circulation of unwanted images. The site is often the source of malicious treatment of images based on how the owners of the site communicate with their users and through the ability to remain anonymous.
To evaluate the audience of a social media site, Smith and Watson consider what group of people are being marketed to, what actions the site encourages the user to take and what the demographics of the users are (74-75). An important aspect of photos on social media is how the site deals with privacy and sharing including rules for online commenting and profile creation. Anonymous sharing can promote intimacy, boldness and even abuse between social media users. Reddit promotes the concept that “every man is responsible for his own soul”, an idea for ultimate free speech. Users for the most part, find this kind of rhetoric appealing because it promotes the acceptance for every type of ideology but can also be problematic when users create communities (or “subreddits”) for malicious intent.
One such page called r/TheFappening was used for the sharing of leaked celebrity nude photos during the Jennifer Lawrence scandal. Comments on the photo were sexually degrading, misogynistic and promoted the sharing of property the celebrities is not wish to share. It took over a week, well after the damage was done for the page to be taken down after a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) request, marking one of few instances of Reddit mods stepping in from their usually extreme “hands off” approach to the site. Ultimately the “absolute free speech” rhetoric of the site owners lead to and supported the abuse of a privacy leak and a venue for toxic thoughts to be shared freely.
Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation.” Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Ed. Anna Poletti and Julie Rak. Madison: U of Wisconsin, 2014. 70-95. Web.
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