To Be Exposed (Research Update #4)

It’s become increasingly clear to me that the work of digital research doesn’t really end. Yes, I will be presenting my work and progress as a symposium in just a few short weeks, where I will talk about what I learned through the summer and early fall with both peers and faculty. The internet, however, keeps going; I always find new tweets worthy of my attention that I incorporate into my existing observations. Some of these recent tweets, however, lit a lightbulb inside my head in relation to everything else.

In my spotlight on Amélie Lamont, I touched upon how she intentionally makes herself vulnerable to her audience in order to make more effective her narratives. Revisiting this, I realized that this exposing of one’s raw experiences isn’t exclusive to her – just often done in a different way. Figures like George M. Johnson are very active in conversations dominating politics and society today – as such, tackling macro issues on a macro scale, as opposed to Lamont, who deals with issues on the more micro, personal level. Being macro in one’s approach, however, does not make them immune to vulnerability to their followers. Johnson and others can very pointedly utilize their own identity to make a point about, say, racism or Queerphobia. Though perhaps not to the extent of Lamont, these instances of putting one’s self out there is a mode of vulnerability that highlights the tragedy of the injustices they see and humanizes them in the eyes of those who would otherwise see them in a higher or lower light.

 

Taking time to consider this matter of vulnerability has actually quite changed the dynamics of my research. Instead of looking purely on influencer-to-audience interactions as a reactionary, I have started to see influencers’ posts as interactions in their own right, as they provoke responses from their followers in a way that a simple retweet of a news or opinion article cannot. Looking at my case studies in a more personal light helps me with deciphering their motivations in using social media, and even doing the work in their activism or careers in general.

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