History 427: History of the Information Age

HIST 427: Social Media Habits and Representation

During this past week in History of the Information Age, our class discussed global social media habits and representation in the digital age. Part of this discussion involved reflection on our own habits.

Thursday’s (04/18/2019) end-of-discussion activity proved to be different than our usual Canva-based student-driven activity, as myself and my classmates stood in a line against the wall of the classroom, taking steps if a certain phrase applied to us. These phrases included common activities such as “take a step forward if you have a social media account” or “take a step forward if you share and/or like political content online.”

I myself was among the students who took the most steps. While I do not create too much content specifically for social media, I would classify myself as a social media lurker, and therefore, simply liking and following content and content creators is indicative of my online participation.

At the end of the activity, our class discussed the possibility of conducting our “experiment” with a different group of participants, perhaps a random sample or maybe some people outside of Chick-fil-A. I would first predict that more users who took steps forward would be part of younger generations, such as Millenials or Gen-Z, because, according to a Pew Research Study, the majority of social media users belong to these younger generations.

However, I do speculate that at least in the United States, some individuals may be dishonest about their social media usage, particularly those belonging to older generations, for fear of appearing as vain or as participating in frivolous activities. From my personal observations only, I have detected differences in the types of content posted and shared to social media between younger and older generations, with older generations more likely to share as though they are speaking directly to close family or friends, and younger generations often (but not always) more apprehensive of such detailed content, and more likely to craft a specific “online persona.”

I cannot predict what social media usage among future generations will look like, because I am aware that technology and habits are ever-changing and evolving. However, I wonder if social media – or whatever modes of sharing information that come about in the future – will bridge perceived generational gaps in communication.


Bain, Marc. “Nike’s Kaepernick Ad Is What Happens When Capitalism and Activism Collide.” Quartz. Sept. 29, 2018. https://qz.com/1400583/modern-corporate-social-activism-looks-like-nikes-kaepernick-ad

Brichacek, Andra. “Six ways the media influence elections.” University of Oregon, School of Journalism and Communication. https://journalism.uoregon.edu/news/six-ways-media-influences-elections

Erigha, Maryann. “Race, Gender, Hollywood: Representation in Cultural Production and Digital Media’s Potential for Change.” Sociology Compass 9, no. 1 (2015): 78-89.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/soc4.12237

Macafee, Timothy. “The Interplay between Social Media Politics and Offline Political Participation.” American Communication Journal 20, no. 1 (Winter 2018): 19-30. https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=133823102&site=ehost-live

Noble, Safiya Umoja. “Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression.” https://youtu.be/iRVZozEEWlE

2 thoughts on “HIST 427: Social Media Habits and Representation

  1. I do not necessarily create a lot of content but have particular areas of interest I frequently look at via Twitter or Reddit. Being a social media lurker is something that fits me as well. Like I said in class, I also feel it is the electronic version of people watching. Everyone has a Facebook friend that posts outlandish stories that catch our attention. Some people enjoy to watch reality tv shows for mindless entertainment. With social media readily accessible for most people, head scratching content is not hard to find.

  2. I really like your points about people feeling somewhat ashamed about their true level of engagement with social media and that many would consider “lurking” to be different than actual engagement. I also fall into this category, where I barely ever post but use social media on a daily basis. So I would say I am heavily engaged in social media use regardless of what I am specifically doing on it. It’s interesting to consider why people would be so self-conscious about their use of social media given that it is such an integral part of life now. I definitely have that concern myself, depending on the company I am with. For example, if I am with my grandparents I’d be more willing to point out the negatives of social media largely because the medium is regarded as unreliable and full of bad information.

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