Sociological Imagination: Western’s Undergraduate Sociology Student Journal

Article Title

The Social Media Paradox: An Examination of the Illusion Versus the Reality of Social Media


This paper questions the belief that current social networking platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) offer total creative agency in the user's representation of their identity online. The author chooses to criticize the claim through applying Michel Foucault's knowledge on power/knowledge relations and Judith Butler's work on postmodernism to highlight the illusion of agency prevalent in social media. In specific, the inherent corporate and rational structure that underlies current social mediums is not as conducive to customization as prior mediums like MySpace. Butler's claims to the illusion of agency in social media rest in the construction of universal formats and design, thus reproducing positions of hegemony. Furthermore, Butler's concept of the ever-presiding "I" concept is defined within the contexts of the social medium, further limiting user capacities to act. Issues of true agency are also examined in Butler's work on performative gender identity as suppressed by universal labels. The author also draws parallels with Butler's own examples of the US War against Iraq and the smart-bomb to explain Facebook's repressive identity-developing structure that is void of user autonomy.

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