Why We Post: Social media around the world

What do you get if you mix…

  • nine anthropologists,
  • eight countries,
  • 15 months
  • and social media?

If you answered University College London (UCL)’s Why We Post, you’re absolutely spot on.

This intriguing project looked at social media use in various countries, learning how it was part of local people’s lives. During the 15 months, the researchers lived in England, China, Turkey, Chile, Trinidad, India, Brazil and Italy – all at the same time. Each one shared and compared findings from their community with the others during that time.

To explain more, here is an introduction from the anthropologists themselves:

There were two topics that I found particularly interesting: selfies, and gender roles.

footie
A “footie” from northern Chile, showing relaxation, from the UCL Why We Post website.

Selfies were used in a variety of ways across the research sites and the different types were fascinating. Some I was already aware of, such as aspiration selfies and “groupies” (group selfies). However the concept of “footies” in Chile was new and interesting to me, especially when compared to the faces featured in other types of selfie.

Of course, living in England, I was particularly curious about the English research site. Selfie types in this region included”uglies” – deliberately bad selfies designed to be shared only with close friends.

Daniel Miller also presented a very different type of selfie in England- an example of end of life care shared through social media. This was a touching case, and made me think of the #DeathPositive movement on Twitter.

The different ways that gender played a part in how and why people post were also fascinating. In some highly conservative regions, it was common for people to have fake accounts so that they felt less restricted by cultural expectations. In other areas, couples shared the same social media accounts. These examples make it clear that different ideas about what genders mean, and the relationships between them, have become as much part of social media, as our offline lives.

Why We Post also looks at how people use different platforms, and how much or how little we share on them. In this way, social media becomes something that increases people’s privacy, which is different to how it is usually seen in many regions.

To find out more, check out the:

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