A screenshot of my Facebook profile page.

I’ll be the first to admit that my Facebook persona is fairly different from my everyday self. This is not to say that my online personality is fake, but I believe that because we can easily control impressions online, I instinctively attempt to present the “best” version of myself online.

On Facebook, I rarely post statuses or photos. However, like many others online, I do want to seem sociable. I certainly friend at least a few people each month, and I message others, comment on posts, “like” various things, and reply to what my friends posts on my wall and vice versa. One might say that this is setting up a false pretense of being shy or even coy, but there are two reasons why I restrict my activity on Facebook: one, I honestly don’t have many witty, humorous, or informative things to say that I feel my entire friend list would appreciate, and two, I don’t want to seem like I spend too much time on Facebook by spamming notices on the dashboards of my friends. In reality, I’m considerably talkative around my friends or acquaintances that I’m comfortable blabbing to. I believe I restrain some parts of my naturally chatty personality because I don’t want to annoy others, particularly acquaintances on my friends list that I don’t know as well and I would not feel comfortable talking so much to in real life. Moreover, there are certain conversations (see: personal messaging on Facebook) that I’d prefer for some people to not even be privy too, to save myself the embarrassment of explaining why I poke fun at friends or why friends tease me, inside jokes, questionable language, etc.

As Goffman argues in his essay, when we present ourselves in everyday life, we consciously and unconsciously control the impressions that we give to others. Most of us do not go to such extents as status-obsessed but well-intentioned Preedy on the Spanish beach (whom I personally find a bit endearing and pitiful), but we definitely work to create a status for ourselves. Status is undeniably important, both offline and online: humans inherently want to be liked, and thereby want to achieve status. Online, this can be achieved by liking people, inviting others to events, etc., and in our everyday, offline lives, we also reign in our personality, speech, mannerisms, and facial expressions. As for myself, like most others I also desire status, otherwise I wouldn’t attempt to friend others or check in to places. I feel that online, I am far more blatant and assertive when talking with others because in some ways, Facebook highlights the need for status while simultaneously making it easier for users to meet and communicate efficiently, establishing for establishing weak ties, which Ellison defines as “loose connections between individuals who may provide useful information or new perspectives for one another but typically not emotional support.”

With Facebook in particular, because cover photos, the number of friends, likes, profile pictures, wall posts, notifications, comments, check-ins, and a multitude of other factors make judging a person’s social capital so simple, it is likely that casual observers of my profile page will be quick to assume my level of popularity and the depth of my relationships with others. Bourdieu and Wacquant define social capital as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.” In other words, social capital is the pool of online and offline resources that an individual has access to from their relationships with others. While Facebook does make ranking levels of social capital among its millions of users relatively simple, the website also allows individuals to accrue social capital. As Ellison puts it:

It is clear that the Internet facilitates new connections, in that it provides people with an alternative way to connect with others who share their interests or relational goals… these new connections may result in an increase in social capital.

In terms of literacy, on Facebook, I do attempt to be decently literate. By this statement, I mean that I try to spell things correctly and at the very least I use correct spaces when typing and correct punctuation in order to avoid confusion. However, I definitely slack more online than I do in academic writing or in real life, only because within internet etiquette, it’s often socially acceptable to use abbreviations, improper grammar, emoticons, and poor capitalization and punctuation, as in the following meme about Facebook:

Gender does indeed play a role in text messaging. Below are two samples of text message conversations that I have held with two friends, the former with a male acquaintance and the latter a female acquaintance.

Bennett: When are you eating dinner

Kathy: I have no clue, preferably around um 6:30 with em and again around 9 for mich

JK 6’oclock cause em has bio

Bennett: Meh, nevermind then. I’m eating in like an hour cause i have work

Kathy: Dude em and I can join you she just needs to be done by 7

Appel or rpcc?

Also my interview for trp went pretty swel!! 😀

Bennett: You choose. That’s great! I want to read your article when it’s finished

Kathy: Likewise, I wanna read your article too! Um how about rpcc?

Bennett: Rpcc works. 5?

Kathy: Yesss 🙂

—–

Kathy: Hey where are you eating lunch? I’m at trillium probs eating alone lol fml 😦

Michelle: oh sorryyeah jevan is at appel. imworking inbaker. crap, can u bring your food here??

Kathy: LOL maybe, our next class is right upstairs from trillium tho

if I have enough time ill come, the line for wraps is ridiculously long though :I

Michelle: oh cerapp!! urr right!! LOLLLL IM COMING

The most striking difference in the two conversations is the length of the texts from Bennett versus Michelle. As a whole, Bennett produced far shorter texts than I, while the lengths of the texts between Michelle and I were relatively the same. The single longest transmission was written by me in both conversations. This could be indicative of the tendency of women to elaborate (some would say ramble) more, while men tend to keep conversations short and terse. As Naomi Baron mentioned, it could also mean that women treat texting as a written medium more often than men.

Interestingly, only I used emoticons in both conversations, although it should be noted that I have seen Michelle use emotes in past texts far more than I have seen Bennett or most of my male friends. The variety of emoticons used is fairly large; not a single emoticon was used twice in either conversation. This seems to agree with Baron’s assertion that “females [are] the prime users of emoticons.” My excessive use of emoticons could indicate that women prefer visual signs or spoken casts rather than their written counterparts. It could also signal that females are more emotional, or at least more willing to reveal their feelings.

In concurrence with Naomi Baron’s findings in Are Instant Messages Speech?, I (the female) used far more multi-transmission sequences than Bennett (the male). However, the same is true for my conversation with Michelle, which could negate my prior observation, assuming that I simply like to use multiple transmissions more than the average typer. As for spelling mistakes, Bennett had none, I had one, while Michelle had a few. I distinctly remember correcting several spelling errors in both conversations, which could mean that I’m either a sloppy typer or a conscientious fixer. In Michelle’s defense, the keyboard on her cell phone has recently been acting up, making it difficult for her to text accurately. All three of us demonstrated the failure to capitalize words (especially “I”) properly at some point in the conversations. In my case, my Blackberry conveniently autocorrected most of the potential capitalization errors, but I certainly lacked proper punctuation in many of my texts. Bennett demonstrated the best capitalization and punctuation, while Michelle had the worst.

Oddly, the conversation I had with Bennett far exceeded the length of the text conversation I had with Michelle, which seems to contrast Baron’s assurance that female-female texts were generally much longer than male-male texts. Another refutation of Baron’s essay is the fact that the conclusion to my text with Michelle was far shorter than that of the conclusion with Bennett. This could, however, simply be because Michelle and I met in person shortly after the last text message exchange mentioned in this post.

One of my favorite pieces of art, L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas.

This text was rather dense– but among its intricacies were many brilliant nuggets of information concerning art, history, science, linguistics, and even philosophy. I like that Walter Benjamin seems very well-versed in art history and that he wasn’t afraid to demonstrate his expertise in writing. Just by listing the various events in art history and several obscure (or maybe not so much to an art historian) artists, I feel like he’s showing the depth of his knowledge in this particular field.

Quantity has been transmuted into quality.

Benjamin makes an viable point in noting that quantity has become the new quality. There are many, many more writers in the world today than there were back in former centuries, blurring the distinction between the artist and his or her audience. Indeed, “with the increasing extension of the press, which kept placing new political, religious, scientific, professional, and local organs before the readers, an increasing number of readers became writers.” The bigger audience for various art forums has indeed changed the interaction between artist and viewer, and for the better, I’d say.

Clearly, this is at bottom the same ancient lament that the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator.

Honestly, the anti-television quote from Duhamel that Benjamin included in his article seems elitist, and I feel as if that sort of attitude is what gives some art critics a reputation for being snobs (of course, some actually ARE snobs). Everyone deserves to appreciate a piece of art, no matter the degree of their understanding on the particular exhibit’s background or their individual lifestyle choices. I understand that the basis of this debate is concentration versus distraction, with art demanding the former and the masses gunning for the latter.

Moreover, I find Benjamin’s theory that audiences are entitled to ask for realism in one’s art highly intriguing. He believes that “that of the painter is a total one, that of the cameraman consists of multiple fragments which are assembled under a new law. Thus, for contemporary man the representation of reality by the film is incomparably more significant than that of the painter, since it offers, precisely because of the thoroughgoing permeation of reality with mechanical equipment, an aspect of reality which is free of all equipment.” Essentially, Benjamin is saying that although digital media and machinery may at first seem to foster a disconnect between the audience and the artist, in reality movies more closely resembles reality than traditional modes of art. This is true because movies can transcend the equipment used to create films and the still life, one-shot snapshots of paintings and instead present art in motion.

On another note, I found it amusing that Benjamin would bring up Dadaism. When the article was discussing the individual auras of artistic pieces, I was precisely thinking of Dadaism and how it somewhat lacks the commercial value and individualistic nature that is so characteristic of most art… not to mention how Dadaism completely rejects the value of an artistic aura. Yet Benjamin notes that “the Dadaists attached much less importance to the sales value of their work than to its usefulness for contemplative immersion,” which is admirable yet confounding in the modern age of consumerism and material wealth. I find another interesting facet of Dadaism is that it completely rejects logical reasoning and contemplation, and instead adopts a fierce strategy of distraction and public disturbance, much like the Internet’s trolls.

Raoul Hausmann, Mechanischer Kopf (Mechanical Head). An example of the Dada movement.

Finally, I found the last note of the article to be a bit out of place. Fascism almost seemed to pop out of nowhere, and while it did somewhat connect with Benjamin’s previous mention of politics and its aesthetics, I still felt that I ended the article on a completely different note than where I started. Perhaps if I had gone into the essay knowing that it would concern politics, it would feel more appropriate… but instead I just feel like Benjamin was thinking on an entirely different train of thought than his readers.

Quite frankly, writing’s never been my strongest suit. I like that there exists a subtle creativity in bending and shaping words into coherent sentences, but for me, the inspiration to write is a much rarer find than the inspiration to sketch, paint, compose, play, or sing. I genuinely prefer appreciating the writing of others than producing words and phrases of my own. I feel that writing is like learning the piano: most people are born with an innate potential to play simple tunes, albeit mediocrely, on it. However, it takes years of study, dedication, rehearsing, and consultation to really become a master of piano. Similar to piano, writing is a skill many people are able to dabble in, but it too requires plenty of work to perfect. And even then, it’s impossible to “perfect” the art of writing, because the connotations of words are subjective, and what one individual may find exquisite may seem thoroughly half-baked to another.

With that said, one of the most gratifying experiences of my life is realizing how my writing has improved over the years. It’s akin to comparing a crude sketch from elementary school to an oil painting done in my teens: something about understanding that all the reading and writing I’ve done, whether for academic or leisurely purposes, hasn’t gone to waste is indescribably satisfying. Although I typically cringe whenever I reread my own writing from junior high school, knowing that my writing abilities have markedly progressed over just a few years is exhilarating. I’m not deluded enough to believe that this type of growth is exponential or that I’ll become a New York Times bestseller later in my life; however, I’d like to think that I have some room to grow before I finish college and that with enough work, I will develop into a better writer than I am now.

As for my writing style, honestly, it’s sporadic at best. I favor formal to informal writing, which I imagine is fairly uncommon. I have a tendency to ramble (see the first two paragraphs of this post), but sometimes a clear and decisive prompt will reign me in and prevent me from going off on too many tangents. I am most comfortable writing about issues in which I have strong opinions about; something about a debate can and will set me off and push me to keep ranting writing. For instance, I love to write about animal rights, because it encompasses a host of issues that I hold strong opinions about.

I definitely prefer to know precisely who my audience is before writing, whether it’s to a friend or a specific teacher who may or may not prefer I use certain writing mechanisms. I believe my favorite audience is a friend, either one I know in real life or just a distant online acquaintance. The latter offers  a veil of anonymity while the former offers familiarity, enough to catch the implications in my writing as well as any abnormalities. Either would be easy to talk to, and thereby easy to write to, since both lack the critical judgment of formal academic writing. For instance, if I’m exceptionally frustrated, I’ll more than likely Skype a short anthology on whatever is upsetting me. If the audience happens to be a friend, they’ll likely notice that the very length of my writing indicates how angry or disoriented I am. I can also freely let loose when writing to a friend, using certain words that I could hardly utilize in essays for my teachers or letters to my family.

Curiously, I actually prefer to write under the guidelines of a set prompt, because that allows me to focus and refocus when writing. I think the writing format that I would be least comfortable with is a “topic of your choice” academic essay, or worse, “why should we choose you?” These essays are intentionally broad in an attempt to refrain from limiting students to a set topic, but I find that I draw the largest blanks when I am given little to no direction at the very start. I’ve also discovered that writing about myself is troublesome, even agonizing… I take no joy in flirting on the border between humility and ambition. One can imagine how fun college applications were for a writer like me. On the bright side, writing essays for college admissions did teach me to be hyperaware of the length of my essays, since many applications restricted the writing portions to a set limit of characters or words.

As for the writing that has influenced me the most, I think fantasy series like The Boxcar Children and The Magic Treehouse remain some of the most valuable literature of my childhood. I was a lucky, lucky child whose parents took her to the library every weekend throughout grade school. I will readily admit that I was that kid— the one who stumbled through the stacks with an enormous pile of books in her arms. Eventually, I got smarter and moved onto ebooks, but only after many years of perusing the main library’s stacks. By 5th and 6th grade, I had moved onto books like Howl’s Moving Castle and Stargirl, and by junior high I had developed a fondness for classic British literature like the writing of Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll. Nowadays, I read and value anything from peculiar articles in TIME to books about sound theory to to Facebook posts to my indispensable Sibley field guides.

Possibly the most dog-eared, bookmarked, and worn-down book on my bookshelf back home.

The media’s presence has undoubtedly increased in the past century. With the development of new technologies, mass media has rapidly advanced to a point where it easily supersedes traditional ways of communication. Media has thoroughly permeated our lives, whether in the form of a newspaper, billboard, television show, or personal messaging system like Facebook or texting. In addressing the proper usage, sociological effects, and deeper purposes of media by emphasizing digital literacy in education, students can learn essential skills that will allow them to function fully in modern society.

The very foundation of the Internet and other forms of mass media is to reach as large an audience as possible, and thus, more and more people around the world now utilize digital technologies. As the propagation of media continues, its influence on society also increases. And yet, while many classrooms readily include the Internet, computers, television, and other forms of broadcast in lessons, few teach students proper Web etiquette or require students to examine the deeper implications of media messages. If students were to learn to access, evaluate, and analyze media properly, they would gain a greater understanding of media’s impact and intentions, therefore becoming able to better comprehend an increasingly important facet of today’s culture. Moreover, by evaluating the purpose of media, students would learn to be more critical of information obtained online or otherwise. Critical thinking is not only intellectually stimulating, but at its best, it can precede clear reasoning, sound evidence, and fair judgment.

…we tend to focus on the media that we feel is most important or relevant to us at that given moment. And as a result, the vast majority of media we’re exposed to goes unexamined.

I especially agree with the video in that we rarely dedicate enough time to deciphering the intent of media. The goals of, say, a commercial may seem blatantly obvious– to promote Starbursts, in this case– but what about an online article and its comments? Does the author of the article want to promote their stand on a current issue, or is he trying to inform his readers of all sides of the debate? Maybe he’s trying to provoke his audience to express their opinions in the comments, which represents an entirely different form of media, since anyone with access to the Internet can contribute. Comments too hold individual intents, even if the commentators may not be conscious of it. A comment as simple as “I think the author of this article is an imbecile” can incite a slew of opinions, perhaps not all of them friendly. One could argue that this particular commentator’s goal was to prompt readers to be more critical of the author’s tone or any possibilities of bias. Alternatively, he or she could just be “trolling.” Regardless, my point is that all media forms inherently contain some aim or purpose. We may all be entitled to our opinions, but should one choose to voice (or type) it, there is almost always a reason for doing so. These reasons may not be obvious, so analyzing our contact with media is imperative to better digest the information we receive.

Schools ought to teach students to remember to be critical of the media they absorb, especially in an age of information overload. Better yet, if education systems were to explore literary etiquette and literacy on the Internet and various other digital media, students could learn to creatively and intelligently develop their reading and writing skills, even on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These social media technologies allow efficient, fun, yet though-provoking forms of communication if properly used. Digital literacy also has the added benefits of greater cultural understanding as well as cooperation with others on the Net. Finally, being well-versed in digital media also allows students to distinguish the facts, while filtering out the fodder. This is an indispensable skill in academia, research, and productive learning.

Here is the original video for your convenience.

Hi there! Welcome to my blog, everybirdy.

I’m Kathy, a freshman at Cornell University majoring in biology/pre-med. I love birding, playing the flute, reading, listening to music, drawing, and sleeping in.

This blog will revolve mainly around my Literacy in a Digital Age class. I’ll be discussing the importance of media literacy in a society that increasingly relies upon technology. Some of my posts will be direct responses to a video or text, others will be more personal.

As for the title, everybirdy is intended to be a play on the word everybody. ♥