Let’s Fly Away

5 Aug

You are a bubble of latent excitement, waiting to break free like the sun escaping darkness and bursting across the night sky. You sit waiting, a wry smile creeping across your face, your palms are sweaty, and you do not know what to really think or feel, butterfly’s traipsing their way across your stomach.

Do you know this feeling? Recognise it in all its profound beauty? It is a feeling I remember clearly, the first time I left on my own to travel the world, whilst this wasn’t my first overseas holiday, it was my first independent of my parents and family. I remember clearly the excitement and the bubbling over of emotions as I waited for the plane to leave the tarmac.

But, you may ask how in the world did I keep in contact? How did I tell the world what I was doing each and every moment? Well, that part was easy with the proliferation of social media. Social media is an institution in 2013; it is in some ways far easier to ask who doesn’t have Facebook than who does. Think about the people in your own life, I am sure you will find very few don’t connect in some way. Social networking sites allow people to create profiles, connect to a group of friends and allow people to traverse through those connections (Boyd and Ellison, 2008).

These connections are built on the road, somewhat unknown; full of adventure; you leave with the sense that you will meet a thousand people and create lifelong friendships. In some ways you do meet lots of new people but very few of these become lifelong friends. However, and in some ways quite obviously, they have now become your new Instagram and Facebook friends. Boyd and Ellison (2008) state that networking emphasizes relationship initiation between strangers but whilst at times people connect with strangers this is not commonplace. Look through your friends list, how many people are on there that you met on your travels? They are not exactly friends but this network of people is probably still there, now look again, how many people are you connected to that are complete strangers? A handful, maybe? No, not really, I thought so!

Donath and Boyd (2004) suggest that these “public displays of connection serve as important identity signals that help people navigate the networked social world” thus enabling individuals to validate the information they present of themselves online. We all have a personal and public image and representation of ourselves, somehow we find it easier to espouse particular information online, our social networking sites allows us to portray whatever version of ourselves we want, whether completely truthful or not. This image provides a justification of our ‘networking’ habits and in some ways how we present this information ‘publicly’ can impact the information we present in our personal lives offline.

It leaves us begging one question how private are our innermost thoughts? Our photos of that sunset, do corporations have the right to use our images? Well simply, I believe not, but by posting online, how safe is our information? There is a plethora of research to suggest all of the implicit dangers of social network sites; Barnes (2006) notes the “privacy paradox” which occurs when users are not aware of the dangers of the public nature of the internet, most notably in teens. Dwyer, Hiltz and Passerini (2007) go further to suggest that ‘sharing’ of information is dependent on trust, if we trust the site we are more willing to share more information. Is it safe to assume that the incessant posting of images and information of our travels is because we implicitly trust that the information we present will not be exploited? Perhaps, it is something to think about next time we post that picture of ourselves in some glorious setting.

Social media has grown from its modest beginnings of sites such as sixdegrees.com, AIM and ICQ buddy lists to the more recent Snapchat and Instagram (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). Ten years ago our travels were not documented in images plastered on our Facebook feed but rather captured in a few choice words on a postcard. Who needs a clichéd image on a postcard when you can take a sneaky ‘selfie’ in front of the Eiffel Tower? The cliché is still there but the illumination of you being there somehow masks the cliché of the tourist. Well at least you think so, and that is all that matters, right?

What may seem trivial and banal to some is the most amazing meal or sunset to others, these snapshots of days spent travelling are then posted to sites like Instagram, which allows multi-platform ‘sharing’, thus enabling users to simultaneously post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the aforementioned all at once. Have we all become just a little bit more narcissistic? Do people really care about that meal we ate in Italy? Well, simply the answer is no, they don’t but, we will post it anyway.

So, let me indulge in my own narcissism for a short while with a beautiful sunset I encountered in Zadar, Croatia, posted initially to my Instagram and Facebook, amazing right?




Barnes, S (2006) A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United states. First Monday 11(9) in ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.

Boyd, D M & Ellison, N B 2007, ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.

Donath, J & Boyd, d 2004, ‘Public displays of connection’, BT Technology Journal, vol. 22, no.4, pp. 71–82.

Dwyer, C, Hiltz, S.R  Passerini, K (2007) Trust and privacy concern within social networking sites: A comparison of Facebook and Myspace. Proceedings of AMCIS 2007, Keystone, Co in ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.


One Response to “Let’s Fly Away”

  1. thomas apperley August 18, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Well done.

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