Nowadays, a variety of cultural, political, and social developments have led to the disappearance of traditional social bonds. Nevertheless, the social media platforms like facebook, twitter and Instagram are using the term “community” as their core/ fundamental attribute. “Every day, people use Facebook to share their experiences, connect with friends and family , and build communities.”
Departing from a personal experience of being a part of a community that got censored in instagram, this research attempts to investigate the notion of agency in social media platforms, and formulate questions, problematics and paradoxes on the concept of community. From a very personal point of view marking the entry, I’m gradually zooming out, looking at the macro-scale of the problem I have initially stated, I’m attempting to delve into a deeper understanding on the semantics of community and how the promise of connection and inclusivity lead to a paradox of exclusivity.
The question that is raised after the analysis : If communities have always been places associated with exclusion as much as inclusion, why do social media platform still use the term “community” to be perceived by their users as tools of connection, inclusion?
Is it possible that social media platforms can facilitate a common ground for communities to grow or do social media actually reinforce this double animosity ?
To be able to answer to this question, first we need to understand how communities are constructed and constituted in social media, and what is good about community that still keeps us attached to this idea.
In the first part I am attempting to dissect, and create an anatomy of the social media network, what is consists of, what are the basic components and how these components interact. It is important to understand the possibilities and the limitations of the social media platforms, to understand how agency plays an important role, and how the essence of community is formulated. What is the sense in the community when someone else controls and defines its limits ?
The second part deals explicitly with the notion of community, dealing with its dialectics. The community as well as platforms has its own components and design strategies, being a socially deployed and constructed term, creating an anticipation of a concept with specific characteristics that is meant to evoke certain values and fulfil emotions. Presenting it as a design object, as an archetype with a primal symbol of “inclusivity”, I’m introducing the paradoxes lying within the concept of community that lead to the impossibility of community, or how I call it “ the illusion of community”. Is it possible to imagine a concept that interrupts normative accounts of community and calls on us to recuperate community not as a passive idea -one that has already been constituted- but as an active one ?
The third part introduces the importance of the illusion. Juxtaposing a set of differently employed illusions, I’m arguing how our idea of community falls into an illusion as well. How is our sense of community similar to the phantom limb sensation ?
There is a focus on deconstructing the system of the social media, in order to unveil how the illusion of community actually is reproduced, and how certain concepts – such as the concept of community – are being used as a branding tool, by fetishising the word, by elevating it in an inanimate object worshipped for its supposed powers of connection. This essay, strongly influenced by the existing social media critique discourse, attempts to alter the prevailing narrative that ends up in a banal lamentation or nostalgia
The research aims to open a discourse about the position of community in social media, question the agency of the user, and create a robust understanding of community by combining personal observations and social media literature intersecting with philosophical inquiry.
I got convinced to make an Instagram account just because it was the place to be inspired as a pole practitioner. YouTube videos were outdated and limited, Facebook groups didn’t function, and pole influencers were not updating their Facebook profiles. So Instagram it is. My saved posts on Instagram are pole tricks, pole tricks and pole tricks. I don’t always get to try them all, most of the times I forget about them, or they’re too many and I can’t cover them all during a training. Pole dancers love to share their new acquired skills, to post sneak peeks of their training routines, their failures as well as their achievements. Therefore Instagram becomes a place where pole dancers of every level can post and share their snippets of practices and trainings. Every move that can be performed on the pole has a name, and therefore a hashtag.
Instagram censors a vast number of pole dance related hashtags, as their content doesn’t comply with Instagram’s policy of what is supposed to be posted. In a way the community responsible for these posts attached to specific hashtags, didn’t fit the guidelines of Instagram’s communities. The identity of the community belongs to the platform, as well as the authorship of framing what a community is .
A petition to call was made in Change.Org and it was signed by nearly 18,000, amateur pole dance athletes and dancers, from across the world. The petition also asks them to review its algorithm and settings, and prompt signatories to use the new protest hashtag #whereisthepoleloveInstagram. There’s a certain ambiguity lying around the identity of pole dance community that triggers the Instagram guidelines/ algorithms. This realisation led to a series of thoughts and ideas around how we perform our understanding of community and what are the limits of it.