Conference Agenda

Session
RN18_05a: Social Media, Identity and the Personal
Time:
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Magdalena Kania-Lundholm, Uppsala University
Location: UP.4.209
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

Presentations

“Tindered” Romance: Identity, Sexuality, and Gender on Mobile Dating Applications

Yvonne Alexia Kosma

American College of Thessaloniki, Greece

Mobile dating applications have increased in popularity in recent years, and transformed the ways in which people interact, perceive identity and form relationships. In the process of pursuing a variety of relationship goals, users negotiate romantic connections through strategies that juggle selective self-presentation, and the assessment of potential dates. To achieve their romantic goals, online daters need to construct versions of self that are attractive to potential partners, and to simultaneously decipher their potential partners’ profiles, anticipating they will also attest to embellish their own images. In this framework I will discuss understandings of self-presentational practices, the shared expectations that are relied upon during mediated communication -that is how descriptive terms are typically interpreted by those in the dating community-, and how these reproduce or challenge gendered offline expectations. Drawing from research data on the use of dating apps by undergraduate students at an international institution (The American College of Thessaloniki), I will examine how users conceptualise their online dating experiences in light of the factors described above. Data was gathered during the academic year 2018-19 through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. According to preliminary findings, especially heterosexual males tend to project traditional expectations about female users, confirming the traditional heteronormative matrix. This means that although new media offer multiple options for young people to challenge the given gender order and identify outside the gender binary, interestingly they are also a place where patriarchal perceptions are being reproduced.



Bodies in Digital Space: “Grindr Tourism” in Tel Aviv, Israel

Rachel A. Katz

The University of Manchester, United Kingdom

As an app for gay and bisexual men to interact, Grindr has become a fixture in the landscape of what is often uncritically and broadly called “the gay community.” However, narratives about a singular community used by the gay tourism industry undermine nuances of the boundaries, roles, and prejudices that exist within LGBT+ spaces. Grindr’s geolocative features make it a unique tool for tourists to interact with local LGBT+ people and spaces. Grindr reconfigures gay tourism practices away from a community-structure by allowing for a form of engagement through technology; it facilitates novel individual habitation of local spaces and interaction with the people who make them.

The research project discussed examines how Grindr reconfigures practices of space specifically within tourist-local interactions in Tel Aviv. It employs a multi-method qualitative sociological approach. 19 tourists and locals in Tel Aviv, Israel were interviewed by the researcher. Prior to the interview, some also chose to complete an audio diary recording their daily Grindr routine. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling with multiple entry points: online in public forums, through email, and via posters displayed around Tel Aviv.

This presentation focuses on initial findings regarding perceived spatial assumptions on Grindr, norms of interaction, and objectification. The presentation speaks to Grindr’s potential as a space with alternative boundaries and regimes, but also alternative possibilities.



From Self-representation To Self-repression: The Silent WeChat Users

Jiaxun Li

University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Individuals increasingly inhabit a digital society where their self-representations take place in a highly networked and mediated landscape. Understandings of how digital environments shape and transform self-representation practices are based on dominant western platforms. Yet, other widely used platforms, such as WeChat, may transform self-representation in different ways. WeChat is an all-inclusive app which offers users integrated and wide-ranging services, including instant messaging and social sharing, payment and entertainment, transportation and food delivery. The characteristics of WeChat necessitate questioning assumptions and assertions about self-representation on digital platforms that have dominated academic debates to date.

Challenging what is assumed in Western media sociology about self-representation and social media in the ‘platform society’ (van Dijck, Poell and Waal, 2018), this paper focuses on the role of WeChat in mediating the way we interpret our self-representations and in shaping the way we perceive connectedness. Drawing on ethnographic interviews (and linked diaries) with 41 WeChat users, I highlight how users of this platform are reluctant to engage and connect with others on WeChat, especially within WeChat groups (similar to WhatsApp groups) and in Moments (known as friend circle, equivalent to Facebook news feeds). Such ‘reluctance to share’ ranges from feeling disinclined to express oneself in individual chats to being passive within WeChat groups, from rarely posting on friend circle to not commenting on or liking posts. I argue that as the platform currently operates, WeChat constrains people’s willingness to self-represent, and so in place of self-representation we see self-repression.



Personal Time Capital in the Digital Society: An Alternative Look at Social Stratification Among Three Generations of Highly Skilled Professionals in Estonia

Signe Opermann, Veronika Kalmus

University of Tartu, Estonia

Waves of social transformation and technological innovation have entailed profound changes in various dimensions of society, including new demands put on labour (e.g. Allmer, 2018 discusses structural transformation in the academia). As proposed by Rosa et al. (2017), the ‘escalatory logics of capitalist modernity’ and the increasing pace of technological advancements contribute to a climate of ‘social acceleration’, from which different social groups benefit to a different extent. Moreover, individual variation in technological skills, networking capabilities and adaptation to the increasing complexity and pace of life create new forms of social stratification. By using Vihalemm and Lauristin’s (2017) time-bound social stratification model, we aim at analysing how highly educated professionals, often among the first labour market segments to experience rapid technological changes (e.g. digitalization), cope with social acceleration. The model is based on two dimensions of agency: 1) the capability of converting ‘individual time capital’ into other types of capital, as conceptualised by Preda (2013); 2) the capability of coping with societal changes and social acceleration. Empirically, our study is based on the data from a representative survey conducted in 2014 among the Estonian population aged 15–79 (N=1,503) and focus groups conducted in 2017–2018 among three generations of academic professionals (n=24). Our findings confirm the assumed importance of age-related factors: the youngest professionals (born 1989–1994) tend to be most flexible, and the middle-aged (born 1969–1974) most efficient, in developing time-use strategies to cope with social acceleration, while the oldest (born 1949–1954) win the least from rapid developments.