"Are words in Phatic Communion used primarily to convey meaning, the meaning which is symbolically theirs? Certainly not! They fulfil a social function, and that is their principal aim, but they are neither the result of intellectual reflection, nor do they necessarily arouse reflection in the listener. Once again we may say that language does not function here as a means of transmission of thought." (Malinowski 1923)
Although I had to admit I played “poke wars” with my friends on Facebook so many times in the past when I had more freedom and time to spend on social media, I always wondered what actually its communicational purpose was. I think the reading about phatic culture and communication helped me to understand better how communications and contact with people works in the context of social media networking sites.
There are 2 main ideas that go around the concept of phatic communication that caught my attention:
a) The fact that today the number of your friends is far more important than what you actually say or post. This phenomenon it is explained as a result of network sociality where the database it is more important than the narrative. This is an idea that actually challenged the notion of friendship as the author of the reading mentioned.
b) As a consequence of the importance of the quantity of the database the result is the lack of dialogue or a more profound interaction. It is more important to exhibit the number of your friends. Actually, that might also boost your level of self-confidence or make you look more popular, almost like a celebrity. It is more about accumulating the greatest amount of friends rather than the quality of regular connection you might have with the majority of them. Moreover, according to this concept it might be more significant just to post something irrelevant or with less text as possible in order to reaffirm your presence and sort of saying “I’m here, look at me”. An article I found define a way in which people might conceive their social networks profiles’: “People used to have a portrait painted but now we can more or less design our own picture online. It's like being the star of your own reality TV show that you create and put out to the world”.
After all this analysis I think I found an answer to my complaints of high school friends writing posts like “Good morning”, “hello” or things like that. An interesting paper also provides an explanation for this apparently “non-sense” writing: "This apparently “nonsense writing” has an intimate purpose in what has been written, but keeping in contact and reinforcing relationship” (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012).
People also care about fast and short information. “Less” seems to be “more” those days. People want the facts, just quick highlights of things that might keep them updated with the greatest amount of information as possible. As we read in a previous post, more people are looking for the “highlights of the highlights”
This video, although funny and trying to mock the future of the next big social network "Flutter", might not be that far away from our reality in a few years…
Harris, S. (2011, July 30). Facebook and Twitter are creating a vain generation of self-obsessed people with child-like need for feedback, warns top scientist. Daily Mail UK. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2020378/Facebook-Twitter-creating-vain-generation-self-obsessed-people.html
Piotrowska, H. (2009, October 10). “I’ve had the best breakfast ever” – say it using 14, 140 and 1400 symbols. In Masters of Media - New Media & Digital Culture M.A. - University of Amsterdam (Blog). Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/2009/10/10/ive-had-the-best-breakfast-ever-say-it-using-14-140-and-1400-symbols/
Radovanovic, D., & Ragnedda, M. (2012). Small talk in the Digital Age: Making Sense of Phatic Posts. 2nd Workshop on Making Sense of Microposts. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from http://www2012.wwwconference.org/proceedings/nocompanion/MSM2012_paper_18.pdf