This final paper will be focused around why digital personal networking, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others have become such a large part of our society; examining both the actual draws it has for individuals and the downwards pressure created by such exhortations as ‘Like us on Facebook!’. I will mostly address networks which don’t have a specific product which they are pushing, rather than having yourself as the product, however the main exception of this will be some discussion of Instagram because it is a unique network in that it was one of the premier networks established initially as a mobile platform (also, I would argue that many people use this service as a way to document their lives – as evidenced by the famous tags gpoy [gratuitous picture of yourself], selfie, in fact selfiemonday’s thru selfiesunday’s). Sarah Ahmed’s writings on fear will be one key way that I will engage with the different drives to join these networks, as well as how the inherently non-spatial aspects of networks relates to her conception of fear as linked to the bodies. I want to address social networks in a similar way to how Ahmed views stereotypes as a sort of social ‘safety blanket’ a means to fix your relationship to others and to instantly know their ‘status’. But I will also examine where this sense of safety begins to dissolve and the implications of this. I haven’t done sufficient research yet, but I am interested in contrasting the more standard social networks to social networks which imply anonymity - yes 4chan fits this criteria, but I am more interested in deep web (tor) based social networking engines, which simultaneously delineate you as an individual but do not link you to your name or face.
My other main entry point will be Lauren Berlant’s ‘Cruel Optimism’, using her general conception as a basis for what people think these networks will do for them, and why they cling to them even after they realize that not all of these ideas are realistic. Furthermore I want to address her idea of the historical present, and how a digital persona creates a curated historical present, which can lead to an extremely skewed view of the world. Though Berlant’s text heavily addresses the worth derived from being employ and being able to enjoy a ‘good life’ as a result, however I want to examine the cruel optimism of emotional ties, and more to the point week emotional ties. Likely I will compare this to Granovetter’s text, and the new conception of new weaker ties. I also want to use the implications from Didier Fassin’s essay, and how technology and the networks it allows is similar to Berlant’s idea that the newspaper creates an imagined community. From all of these questions I want to elucidate whether these kinds of loose connections are a sign of the times, or whether they are creating the times.